Thanks for visiting the Minnesota butterflies page. A larger than average land mass and varied geography provides the state with sufficient factors to host a fairly diverse butterfly population, especially for a state that borders the northern edge of the United States.
The picture at the top of the top picture shows the Minnesota state butterfly, the Monarch Butterfly.
Like many states, Minnesota began experiencing declines in their Monarch butterfly populations due in part to changing agricultural practices and the removal of the larval host plant, milkweed, from agricultural areas.
Efforts to restore the population by promoting Monarch butterfly gardens continues. Year to year Monarch butterfly population counts continue to show progress.
Stressed out Minnesota butterflies does not start and end with Monarchs. In fact, including skippers, there are nineteen butterfly species on Minnesota’s Endangered, Rare and Threatened Species List.
Three of them, the .Dakota skipper, the Karner’s Blue and Poweshiek skipper are proposed for, or already on, the Federal Endangered Species list. Minnesota runs special programs for all of its population stressed species.
Large population centers such as the Twin Cities can also celebrate butterfly season with back yard butterfly gardens. According to the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) multiple species that are common to the area can be invited into the yard by plants the right types of trees and plants.
For example, planting a black cherry or aspen tree in the yard is good for Canadian Tiger Swallowtails and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails because their larvae feed on the leaves. Planting members of the aster family (native daisies) provides host plants for Pearl Crescents, Northern Crescents.
Nectar flowers in the garden are also a great way to invite adult butterflies on a season to season basis. Again, according to NABA, choosing the right nectar plants is a matter of learning over time. They give a thumbs down to Black-eyed Susans and Butterfly weed saying,
We have hundreds of these flowers and rarely to they attract any butterflies. Butterfly bush (Buddleia) This is not at all the draw here that books lead you to believe; only late in season do some butterflies visit these blossoms.
This brief introduction to Minnesota butterflies provides a list of the species arranged by family. Space limitations mean that only a handful of butterfly pictures are included. Please press the green butterfly button for additional butterfly pictures and information.
Butterflies: Whites and Yellows
Residents and tourists can enjoy a bit of diversity in the family Pieridae. The butterflies with yellow and white wing fly in residential areas and gardens and fields around the state.
The picture shows a Clouded Sulphur butterfly. Here’s a list of the rest of the white butterflies and yellow butterflies documented in the state.
Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers
Minnesota, the land of one thousand, lakes hosts a great variety of blues, hairstreaks and coppers in the fields around those lakes. All the species tend to either puddle on the ground or perch on branches close to the ground.
The picture shows a side view of an Eastern Tailed-blue, the blue butterfly with a hair-like appendage at the bottom of the wings similar to the haristreaks.
The tail like appendage is rare for blue butterflies because it is the defining characteristic of the Hairstreak butterflies. Of note, Minnesota also hosts the Coral Hairstreak. It’s the only hairstreak butterfly in the state that lacks the tail like appendage.
Most of the Hairstreak butterflies have regional placements.
The Gray Hairstreak in the picture is the most common of all the native Hairstreak butterflies, due in part to its flexible diet. The caterpillars feed on plants in the pea family. The picture shows an adult on a perennial pea flower.
They look a bit similar to the Eastern-tailed Blues, although they are larger in size and the pattern on the underwing is slightly different. Most of the hairstreaks do no have blue bodies.
Minnestoa Butterflies: Brushfoots
Nothing says diversity in the Minnesota brushfoot category like the number of southern species such as the Gulf Fritillary and Hackberry Emperor making their way to the northern most areas of the country. The picture shows a side view of the Hackberry Emperor.
The presence of almost a dozen Wood Nymphs and Satyrs many specifically northern species also adds to the state’s butterfly diversity.
Tourists will often see swallowtail butterflies around their hotels and outdoor spots. They are common anywhere trees and flowers are present. The picture shows a Spicebush Swallowtail.
Pawpaw trees, the larval hosts for Zebra Swallowtails might grow in some areas of south Minnesota. So the chance of finding any Zebra Swallowtails in the state are slim.
- Pipevine Swallowtail
- Zebra Swallowtail
- Black Swallowtail
- Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
- Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
- Spicebush Swallowtail
- Giant Swallowtail