Thanks for visiting Kansas butterflies.
Kansas hosts close to two hundred butterfly species, however almost one-third of them arrive accidentally. When storms roll across the state during the season, they bring in stray species from neighboring areas.
The video at the top of the page, for example, shows the colorful Bordered patch. They reach their northern natural range in Kansas and have established small populations. The top view of the wings shows a thick orange-yellow band, helping identifying it. The side view also shows colorful bands. It’s one of the more distinct looking brush-footed butterflies, making it easy to identify.
Those two step identification suggestions help to identify many butterflies to the species level.
A quick glance at the Kansas butterfly list shows quite an impressive diversity. Skippers, not listed on this guide, constitute about one-third of the total Kansas butterflies population.
This introduction to Kansas butterflies provides some pictures and identification tips, arranged according to four very common butterfly families because the association of wing color and family provides and easy identification path.
Visitors seeking additional butterfly identification help can press the green butterfly button for video, pictures and tips.
Kansas Butterflies – Brush-footed
Kansas is ideally situated to host a variety of Southern and Eastern brush-footed butterflies.
Like the Bordered Patch, the Ruddy Daggerwing (pictured) reaches its northern range limit in the state. Identification is straightforward. The bright orange wing color along with extended appendages at the bottom of the wings, helps it stand out.
The more common brush-footed species such as the commas, snouts, monarchs and fritillaries also have orange shaded wing colors. Comparing and contrasting wing shapes and patterns improves identification in instances where similar looking species overlap.
Long time disagreements on identification of greater fritillary genus (Speyeria), exist because of their similar physical appearances. The Regal fritillary, a long time Kansas butterfly, might be the exception to that rule due to the presence of distinct dark wing color on the wings. Population decline remains a concern because of their association with prairie habitat.
Satyrs and wood-nymphs tend to have shades of brown wing colors with various eye-spot patterns. The picture shows a side view of the Northern pearly-eye with multiple eye-spots running down the edge of both wings.
Their larvae feed on native grasses and can be fairly common in the state, making it possible for at least one species to be among the garden butterflies.
Banded Orange Heliconian
Great Spangled Fritillary
astyanax Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple
West Coast Lady
Butterflies: Whites and Yellows
Kansas butterflies include many in the family with white wings and yellow wings. The picture shows a Western White Butterfly. Here’s a list of the rest of the white butterflies and yellow butterflies documented in the state.
Size, wing color and patterns help with yellow butterfly identification. The sulphur butterflies tend to be the largest species, and their presence in Kansas can cause some identification challenges.
More common species such as the Orange sulphur and the clouded sulphur have very similar wing color and patterns when seen from a size view. The extra orange color on the top wing of the butterfly in the picture suggests it’s the Orange sulphur. Because it’s easier to get a side view than a top view of yellow butterfly wings, close attention to the patterns and colors in a side view picture greatly aid identification.
Smaller yellows such as the Dainty sulphur and Little yellow have more distinct patterns on their wings.
Great Southern White
Large Orange Sulphur
Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers
There’s a nice balance of blues, hairstreaks and coppers in the state. Small protruding hairs on the bottom wings separates the hairstreaks from the other two genera. Wing color varies with some species such as the Juniper hairstreak showing shades green wings.
The picture, a Dusky Blue Groundstreak, another of the less common Kansas butterflies, shows two tails on the bottom of the wing. The blue in the name refers to the top wing color.
Many of the hairstreaks show a brown wing color with patterns in a side view picture. The next picture shows a Hickory hair streak with a brown wing color and it’s own distinct wing pattern and colors at the edge of the bottom wing.
Gray Hairstreaks rank as one of approximately thirty common garden butterflies in the Kansas City area.
Here’s the side view of the Gray Hairstreaks.
Some similarities and differences appear when one compares the side view of both the Gray hairstreak and the Eastern-tailed blue. The picture of the Eastern-tailed blue shows the protruding hairs at the end of the bottom wing, much like the hairstreaks. It’s an anomaly in the blue butterfly category.
The different pattern on the wings also helps differentiate between the two. For example, the arrow on the butterfly in the picture points to a region on the bottom wing between two dark spots that are not present on the Gray hairstreak.
In the field, Eastern-tailed blues might be initially identified by size. They tend to be smaller than the more common hairstreaks.
Great Purple Hairstreak
Kansas Butterflies: Swallowtails
The picture shows a Pipevine Swallowtail. Identifying it starts by noticing the single row of large orange spots on the under hindwing. Similar swallowtail species with dark wings have either two rows and/or additional spots near the body.
- Pipevine Swallowtail
- Zebra Swallowtail
- Old World Swallowtail
- Black Swallowtail
- Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
- Two-tailed Swallowtail
- Spicebush Swallowtail
- Thoas Swallowtail
- Giant Swallowtail
- Ornythion Swallowtail
- Ruby-spotted Swallowtail