Montana Butterflies: Pictures and Butterfly Identification Help

Thanks for visiting Montana butterflies.

Big Sky country has a sufficient land mass to host an incredible two hundred butterfly species. That’s quite a large number for a northern state. Finding places to butterfly in Montana is as easy as finding a good fishing hole. Ask around, everyone knows a local butterfly hotspot. With close to three dozen National Wildlife Refugees and National Parks and about four dozen Montana State Parks, there’s always an opportunity to take a hike and see the butterflies.

Check ahead to see if the park has a butterfly checklist.

Identifying Montana butterflies can range from fairly easy to slightly difficult. Fortunately the fairly easy to identify species account for the majority of species. The introduction provides pictures and tips for the ID task.

Visitors interested in additional butterfly video, pictures and identification tips are encourages to press the green butterfly button.

Brush-footed Butterflies

picture of a Western Meadow fritillary, Montana butterflies
With close to two dozen fritillary species, Montana remains a fritillary hot spot. The Fritillary species will be the most difficult to identify. For example, much of the current academic literature mimics the thoughts of one recent researcher.

The pronounced morphological variability exhibited by Speyeria butterflies can hinder the identification of these taxa

We scored 159 specimens for 11 morphological characters, and complimented this data by sequencing the barcode region of the COI gene for 15 of these specimens. Our results indicate a high level of intraspecific variability in several characters, and the COI gene revealed that initial morphological identifications were incorrect.

Source: Identification “by eye”: integrative character assessment informs regional field identification of greater fritillary butterflies (Nymphalidae: Speyeria) Journal of Insect Conservation volume 24, pages 259–267 (2020)

The video at the top of the page shows a Speyeria species. Keeping in mind the researcher’s conclusions, it remains species unspecified.

The picture at the top of this section shows a Western meadow fritillary. Smaller in size than the greater fritillaries, the wing pattern is usually sufficient for ID purposes.

picture of a Mourning Cloak, the official state Butterfly of Montana and part of the Montana butterflies series
Mourning cloaks, on the other hand, fit in the easily to identify brush-footed species. On a simpler identification. It’s also the official Montana butterfly.

picture of a Field crescent butterfly
Small size with orange wing shades identifies the Crescent butterflies. The picture shows the Field crescent.

picture of a Mead's wood-nymph butterfly, Montana butterflies
A look at Montana brush-footed butterflies would not be complete without mentioning all the Alpine and Arctic butterflies documented in the state. Compared to the orange wing colors of many brush-footed butterflies, shades of brown wing colors initially identifies the Alpines, Arctics, Wood-nymphs and Satyrs. Eye spots on the wings help clarify the identification.

Because these species usually inhabit northern most areas of the United States, they are a must see for all visitors. Only the Uhler’s Arctic has a state wide distribution. The picture shows a Mead’s Wood-nymph.

Brush footed
Aphrodite Fritillary
Edwards’ Fritillary
Coronis Fritillary
Zerene Fritillary
Great Basin Fritillary
Atlantis Fritillary
Mormon Fritillary
Callippe Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary
Hydaspe Fritillary
Northwestern Fritillary
Pacific Fritillary
Regal Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary
Bog Fritillary
Silver-bordered Fritillary
Meadow Fritillary
Frigga Fritillary
Relict Fritillary
Freija Fritillary
Alberta Fritillary
Astarte Fritillary
Arctic Fritillary
Red-spotted Purple
Lorquin’s Admiral
Weidemeyer’s Admiral
arthemis White Admiral
Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple
Silvery Checkerspot
Gorgone Checkerspot
Rockslide Checkerspot
Sagebrush Checkerspot
Polixenes Arctic
Jutta Arctic
Melissa Arctic
White-veined Arctic
Chryxus Arctic
Alberta Arctic
Uhler’s Arctic
Brush footed
Common Buckeye
Pale Crescent
Mylitta Crescent
Pearl Crescent
Field Crescent
Gillette’s Checkerspot
Edith’s Checkerspot
Chalcedon Checkerspot
Anicia Checkerspot
Colon Checkerspot
Green Comma
Satyr Comma
Question Mark
Eastern Comma
Hoary Comma
Gray Comma
Oreas Comma
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
Compton Tortoiseshell
Mourning Cloak
California Tortoiseshell
Red Admiral
Painted Lady
West Coast Lady
American Lady
Eyed Brown
Hayden’s Ringlet
Little Wood-Satyr
Magdalena Alpine
Common Alpine
Red-disked Alpine
Yellow-dotted Alpine
Colorado Alpine
Ridings’ Satyr
Wyoming Satyr
Common Ringlet
Mead’s Wood-Nymph
Small Wood-Nymph
Common Wood Nymph
Great Basin Wood Nymph

Butterflies: Whites and Yellows

picture of a Becker's White butterfly, credit, Bob Danley Flickr
Many states in the north, including Montana, have a balanced diversity of butterfly species in the family Pieridae. They are easy to initially identify by their mostly white or yellow wings.

The picture shows a Becker’s White. Here’s a list of the rest of the white butterflies and yellow butterflies documented in the state.

Stella Orangetip
Large Marble
Olympia Marble
Desert Marble
Northern Marble
Pine White
Margined White
Cabbage White
Becker’s White
Checkered White
Western White
Spring White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Western Sulphur
Christina Sulphur
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur
Mead’s Sulphur
Labrador Sulphur
Giant Sulphur
Pelidne Sulphur
Pink-edged Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur
Sleepy Orange
Dainty Sulphur

Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers

picture of a Ruddy Copper butterfly, Montana butterflies
Montana’s large geographical area, coupled with its diverse habitats makes it a great place for the Gossamer Wing butterflies. Blues, hairstreaks and coppers abound.

All tourists, especially those in the area for fly fishing need do little more than look at the grass and brush that surround the streams they visit and they will easily find a handful of different species. The first picture shows a Ruddy Copper butterfly. They have a state wide range.

The picture shows a Ruddy Copper butterfly.

picture of an Arrowhead Blue butterfly
With approximately twenty different blue butterfly species recorded state wide, there’s always at least six species in most areas of the state. The picture shows an Arrowhead Blue. It’s more common in the mountains and the populations fall off as one heads east.

picture of a Thicket Hairstreak Butterfly.
Thicket Hairstreaks are a western species and a great get for anyone from the East looking to add to their life list. They are also a common Mountain species.

Coral Hairstreaks and Gray Hairstreaks also have a statewide distribution.

Marine Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Western Tailed-Blue
Spring Azure
Northern Azure
Summer Azure
Echo Azure
Hops Azure
Arrowhead Blue
Silvery Blue
Western Square-dotted Blue
Rocky Mountain Dotted-Blue
Reakirt’s Blue
Northern Blue
Melissa Blue
Greenish Blue
Boisduval’s Blue
Shasta Blue
Acmon Blue
Lupine Blue
Arctic Blue
Cassiope Blue
Western Green Hairstreak
Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak
Nelson’s Hairstreak
Juniper Hairstreak
Thicket Hairstreak
Brown Elfin
Moss’ Elfin
Hoary Elfin
Western Pine Elfin
Coral Hairstreak
Acadian Hairstreak
California Hairstreak
Sylvan Hairstreak
Banded Hairstreak
Striped Hairstreak
Hedgerow Hairstreak
Sooty Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak
American Copper
Lustrous Copper
Gray Copper
Edith’s Copper
Bronze Copper
Ruddy Copper
Blue Copper
Purplish Copper
Lilac-bordered Copper
Mariposa Copper

Montana Butterflies: Swallowtails

picture of an Indra Swallowtail
Close to one dozen swallowtail butterflies have been documented in Montana. Many of the northern species such as the Clodius Parnassian and Canadian Tiger Swallowtail are must see species for tourists from the south.

Old World Swallowtails, Two-tailed Swallowtails and Anise Swallowtails also have a state wide distribution, although their population levels differ according to region.

The picture shows and Indra Swallowtail, another Northwest specialty. It can be found in the southwest corner of the state and close to Montana’s area of Yellowstone National Park.

  • Clodius Parnassian
  • Rocky Mountain Parnassian
  • Old World Swallowtail
  • Black Swallowtail
  • Anise Swallowtail
  • Indra Swallowtail
  • Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Western Tiger Swallowtail
  • Pale Swallowtail
  • Two-tailed Swallowtail

Montana Butterflies: Metalmarks

picture of a Mormon Metalmark butterfly
Montana host one Metalmark species, the Mormon Metalmark.