One look down the list might surprise butterfly enthusiasts who never thought of Nevada as a butterfly hot spot. The types of butterflies in Nevada are dependent on Nevada geography. From the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Toiyabe Range in Central Nevada to the deserts and the large metropolitan areas like Las Vegas, butterflies abound.
Estimates of butterfly populations in Las Vegas tend to differ by about ten species plus or minus. Generally about one hundred and twenty species are recorded in all of Clark County.
Areas such as Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston are the most butterfly diverse, and as advertised a quick drive from Las Vegas.
This introduction to Nevada butterflies provides a list of the species in the state arranged according to family. Fortunately for butterfly identification purposes, most of the families are differentiated by wing color.
Limited space means only a few butterfly pictures can be presented here. Visitors looking for additional butterfly pictures, videos and identification help can press the green butterfly button for more information.
Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers
Nevada is one of a handful of states where blue butterfly diversity outpaces hairstreak diversity.
The video at the top of the page shows a Melissa blue. The side view of the wings shows the best field identification clue. The presence of orange spots along the edges of both the top and bottom wings represents a great field ID clue. Beneath the orange bands a pattern of black espots with a white outline helps complete the process.
Notice how the top of the wings are blue with no orange dots. The picture at the top of this section shows a top down view of the female Melissa blue. The brown wings completely edges with orange spots serve as a great field identification clue.
Clark County alone hosts close to two dozen blue butterfly species, including the Melissa Blue. Because of their small size, it’s very helpful to get macro shots of the side view or shots of the underwings of blue butterflies, along with a top view, in order to accurately identify them.
This list of blue butterflies in Clark County that follows this introduction includes a handful of species with Dotted-Blue in the name. They are all very similar looking, making attention to detail an important identification task.
For example, the picture probably shows the Pacific Dotted-blue. Note how the orange dots at the top of the wing do not touch each other. Other Dotted-blue species do have the orange spots touching each other, in many instances.
Adding a bit of complexity to blue butterfly identification, consider the next picture. While the edge of the bottom wing also has orange spots, they appear larger than the spots in the Dotted-blue. They also tend to touch each other in different places. Additionally, there is some blue fluorescence
However, a closer examination shows that the other dark spot patterns on the wings differ. Those are good field identification clues for the Plebjus species. Again, both the Acmon and Lupine blue look very similar.
Given the high number of blue butterfly species in Nevada, it’s always time to get the camera out, visually scan the lower branches of plant life down to ground level, and document a different species.
Leptotes marina Marine Blue
Brephidium exilis Western Pygmy-Blue
Cupido amyntula Western Tailed-Blue
Celastrina ladon Spring Azure
Celastrina echo Echo Azure
Celastrina gozora Mexican Azure
Glaucopsyche lygdamus Silvery Blue
Philotiella speciosa Small Dotted-Blue
Euphilotes bernardino Bernardino Dotted-Blue
Euphilotes ellisi Ellis’ Dotted-Blue
Euphilotes baueri Bauer’s Dotted-Blue
Euphilotes enoptes Pacific Dotted-Blue
Euphilotes ancilla Rocky Mountain Dotted-Blue
Euphilotes mojave Mojave Dotted-Blue
Hemiargus ceraunus Ceraunus Blue
Echinargus isola Reakirt’s Blue
Plebejus melissa Melissa Blue
Plebejus icarioides Boisduval’s Blue
Plebejus shasta Shasta Blue
Plebejus acmon Acmon Blue
Plebejus lupini Lupine Blue
No doubt the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, a subspecies of the more comma Shasta Blue, receives headlines because of its 2013 Endangered Listing.
The good news is that 5,214 acres of land in the Spring Mountains area near Clark County were designated as critical habitat. That makes the entire area a butterfly safe zone and great place checking out all of butterflies.
The remaining list of hairstreak and copper butterflies covers all of Nevada. Hairstreak butterflies can initially be identified by the presence of tails or protruding hairs at the bottom of the wing. Wing color spans the range from green to brown and is accompanied by often more colorful patterns.
The picture shows the Thicket Hairstreak with brown wings complimented by a colorful band at the edge of the hind wing.
The larger butterfly pictures gallery found by pressing the green butterflies button will lead to additional pictures and videos to help with identification questions.
Like many Western states, Nevada also hosts a fair number of copper butterflies. Some such as the blue copper and tailed copper could initially be confused with their blue and hairstreak relatives.
Great Purple Hairstreak
Western Green Hairstreak
Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak
comstocki Desert Green
Western Pine Elfin
Mountain Mahogany Hairstreak
Sagebrush Sooty Hairstreak
Whites and Yellows
Pieridae is the formal name of the family that consists of the butterflies with white wings and yellow wings.
All four or the Orangetips look similar, they have different geographical locations in the state. Look for a white butterfly with orange spots on the top of the wings in early spring in the valleys and early summer in the mountains.
The picture shows a Pine White butterfly. They are common in forest areas and their larvae feed on trees in the pine family. Becker’s Whites and Checkered Whites are more common in the fields and desert areas around Las Vegas.
Identification of yellow butterflies can be equally easy with adequate top and side views of the species. A few species such as the Dainty sulphur tend to be smaller than the average yellow butterfly.
The picture shows a Cloudless sulphur, one of the larger yellow butterflies.
Here’s a list of the rest of the white butterflies and yellow butterflies documented in the state.
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur
Large Orange Sulphur
Brush Footed Butterflies
Generally, species in the brush foot category can be identified by their orange wing color. Satyrs and wood-nymphs tend to have wing colors in the brown range.
Las Vegas visitors, especially those from the East Coast, would do great things for their butterfly life list by keeping their eyes peeled for the Admirals, Sisters and Checkerspots. Many of the species, such as the California Sister in the picture are not native to areas of the East Coast.
Other species, such as snouts, monarch, queens and some of the fritillary are common across the east. The picture shows a Pearl Crescent butterfly, another common species. Crescent butterflies can be initially identified by size. They tend to be the smallest (in size) of the brush footed butterflies with orange wings.
Fritillaries, especially the great fritillaries (the largest species) probably rank as the most difficult butterflies to identify using pictures. A few, such as the Gulf Fritillary and Variegated fritillary have sufficiently different wing patterns to make a more confident species identification using a couple of pictures.
While wing color and patter serve as great identification clues for the common butterfly, a side view of the butterfly shows additional clues. The small comma marking on the wing of the butterfly in the picture is a sure bet for identifying the species to the genus.
Great Spangled Fritillary
Great Basin Fritillary
Great Basin Wood-Nymph
West Coast Lady
Nevada Butterflies: Swallowtails
Nevada also has a nice diversity of swallowtail butterflies. A few species such as the Parnassians, Old World Swallowtail and Indra swallowtail would be the best finds for East Coast visitors because of their absence in the East.
The picture shows a Pale Swallowtail. It looks very similar to the Tiger Swallowtails with and more pale yellow wing color.
- Clodius Parnassian
- Rocky Mountain Parnassian
- Pipevine Swallowtail
- Old World Swallowtail
- Black Swallowtail
- Anise Swallowtail
- Indra Swallowtail
- Western Tiger Swallowtail
- Pale Swallowtail
- Two-tailed Swallowtail
Nevada Butterflies: Metalmarks
Metalmarks species range in size as well as having a variety of wing patterns and behaviors. One quick tip for differentiating between sexes is to look at the legs. Females have three pairs of walking legs, but males have two. Their front legs are reduced. The picture shows a fatal metalmark.
- Fatal Metalmark
- Wright’s Metalmark
- Mormon Metalmark
- Sonoran Metalmark
- Palmer’s Metalmark