Welcome to Kentucky butterflies.
The state’s approximately one hundred and sixty butterfly species are well known and documented by county. About fifteen percent of the population has only a handful of sightings associated with them.
The top picture shows a Viceroy Butterfly the state’s official butterfly. The name suggests it belongs in a group with the other royalty named butterflies such as monarchs and queens. However, it belongs in the same group as the admiral butterflies.
This presentation provides a list of the butterflies arranged according to family. It includes pictures of some representative species. Visitors seeing additional butterfly pictures and butterfly identification help can press the green butterfly button for more information.
Butterflies: Whites and Yellows
Butterflies with white wings and yellow wings belong to the same family. The list shows that Kentucky butterflies lean to the yellow wing category for diversity. Four of the species, Orange Barred, Large Orange, Lyside and Mexican Yellow are very rare.
The picture shows a Lyside sulphur butterfly. It’s a southern species and a great find for the state.
With the exception of the Olympia Marble, the white butterflies are widely distributed in the state.
It’s difficult to not see the Cabbage White butterfly in the neighborhood. Their caterpillars consume leaves in the cabbage family, popular back yard garden vegetables.
Males have one spot per wing. Females have two spots per wing.
West Virginia White
Large Orange Sulphur
Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers
Kentucky’s hairstreak population is the most interesting of the Gossamer Wing butterflies in the state. The picture shows a Red-banded Hairstreak, common throughout the South.
Marine Blues are probably the least common of the blue butterflies. They are found in only a few western counties.
The picture shows an Azure butterfly. They are best identified by the presence of chevrons on the under side of the wings.
Summer and Spring Azures have an almost state wide distribution.
Great Purple Hairstreak
Eastern Pine Elfin
Northern’ Southern Hairstreak
Brush Footed Butterflies
Kentucky gardens are filled with species from the Brush Footed family. Ten of the species listed have very few documented records and are probably strays from neighboring southern states.
Zebra longwings and White Peacocks, for example, are a subtropical species with only a few records for the state.
While four Comma butterflies are listed, only the Question Mark and Eastern Comma are common Kentucky butterfly species.
The picture shows a Red-spotted Purple, a member of the Admirals. It has a distinctively non-orange wing color. Have you seen this butterfly? It is very rare in the state.
Fritillary species are very common in the state. Many of them such as the pictured Varigated Fritillary have almost a state wide range.
The orange wings are typical no only for the Fritillaries but also for many of the other brushfoot butterflies. The Wood Nymphs Satyrs and Pearly Eyes are the exception with brown wings. Look for them near forested areas.
Great Spangled Fritillary
arthemis White Admiral
The large size of the average Swallowtail butterfly means that visitors to Kentucky cannot possibly miss them as they fly around residential areas and gardens. Because of the state’s geographic situation, it also hosts most of the southern species along with some mountain species.
Three of the nine listed species are accidential tourists, Polydamas, Ozark and Palamedes.
Regardless, Kentucky is certainly a great place to catch up on Swallowtail butterfly watching. The picture shows a Giant Swallowtail. They are fairly common around the state.
- Pipevine Swallowtail
- Polydamas Swallowtail
- Zebra Swallowtail
- Ozark Swallowtail
- Black Swallowtail
- Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail
- Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
- Spicebush Swallowtail
- Palamedes Swallowtail
- Giant Swallowtail
- Northern Metalmark
- Swamp Metalmark