North Carolina Butterflies: Pictures and Butterfly Identification Help

picture of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, state butterfly of North Carolina and part of the North Carolina butterflies collection

North Carolina hosts about one hundred and seventy five butterfly species, including the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, the official state butterfly.

Many people might not know that trees are the key to inviting Eastern Tiger Swallowtails to a North Carolina back yard. North Carolina extension suggests White Ash, Yellow Poplar and Carolina Willow as host plants for the species.

Butterflies: Swallowtails

picture of a Black Swallowtail butterfly
The Black Swallowtail identification using the top of the wings starts by noting that males have two lines of yellow dots. Blue dots between the yellow dots may be absent. Females show a less definite inner line of yellow with separate spot near tip of wing.

They are very common across North Carolina because the larval host plant is the very common parsley.

The Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail and Palamades Swallowtail have the least distribution in the state. Otherwise, North Carolina butterflies means swallowtails. Most of the species have a state wide distribution.

  • Pipevine Swallowtail
  • Zebra Swallowtail
  • Black Swallowtail
  • Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Palamedes Swallowtail
  • Giant Swallowtail
Spicebush attracts Spicebush Swallowtails and Palamedes Swallowtail. Pawpaw attracts the Zebra Swallowtail.

See your local garden club or nursery for native plants suited for your particular garden.

Butterfly identification usually begins with color. The list of North Carolina butterflies presented here is divided into families with color as a key family trail.

The one page introduction is not sufficient to provide all the butterfly pictures. Please press the green butterflies button for additional pictures and information.

Butterflies: Whites and Yellows

picture of a Cloudless Sulphur
Most North Carolina butterfly enthusiasts spend a lifetime trying to differentiate between the Clouded Sulphur, Orange Sulphur and Cloudless Sulphur. First, the only real difference between the Clouded and Orange Sulphur is the presence of more orange on the top of the wing for Orange Sulphurs. In instances where a butterfly is old and has lost wing color that can be difficult.

The Cloudless Sulphur pictured has a more busy pattern on the side wing.

Here’s a list of the rest of the white butterflies and yellow butterflies documented in the state. In the white butterflies category, the Falcate White and Cabbage White are the only two common species throughout the state.

Falcate Orangetip
Olympia Marble
West Virginia White
Cabbage White
Checkered White
Great Southern White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Southern Dogface
Cloudless Sulphur
Large Orange Sulphur
Orange-barred Sulphur
Barred Yellow
Little Yellow
Sleepy Orange
Dainty Sulphur

Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers

picture of an Eastern-tailed Blue butterfly
No differentiation of the Gossamer Wing butterflies is perfect. The Eastern-tailed blue, pictured, for example, has a hair like appendage at the bottom of the wing similar to hairstreaks. North Carolina’s Coral Hairstreak does not have that hair like appendage.

Keeping those caveats in mind, the state does support a nice and diverse population of blues, coppers and hairstreaks that are listed below.

Most of the Hairstreaks have only a limited distribution. The Gray, Red-banded and White-M are probably the most widely distributed species in the state.

Eastern-tailed Blues and Summer Azures are the most common of the North Carolina blue butterflies.

Eastern Tailed-Blue
Spring Azure
Summer Azure
Dusky Azure
Appalachian Azure
Holly Azure
Silvery Blue
Ceraunus Blue
Great Purple Hairstreak
Hessel’s Hairstreak
Juniper Hairstreak
Brown Elfin
Frosted Elfin
Henry’s Elfin
Eastern Pine Elfin
Oak Hairstreak
Coral Hairstreak
Hickory Hairstreak
Edwards’ Hairstreak
Banded Hairstreak
King’s Hairstreak
Striped Hairstreak
Red-banded Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak
White-M Hairstreak
Early Hairstreak
American Copper

Brush Footed Butterflies

picture of a Hackberry Emperor butterfly
Like many Southern states, North Carolina has a very diverse Brush Footed butterfly population. Many of the species easily take to back yard butterfly gardens. Hackberry Emperors, for example, can be found wherever the caterpillar host plant, Hackberry, grows.
Brush footed
American Snout
Gulf Fritillary
Zebra Heliconian
Erato Heliconian
Variegated Fritillary
Diana Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary
Aphrodite Fritillary
Regal Fritillary
Meadow Fritillary
Red-spotted Purple
Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple
Hackberry Emperor
Tawny Emperor
Silvery Checkerspot
Gorgone Checkerspot
Phaon Crescent
Pearl Crescent
Northern Crescent
Mimic Crescent
Tawny Crescent
Texan Crescent
Brush footed
Baltimore Checkerspot
Common Buckeye
White Peacock
Question Mark
Eastern Comma
Green Comma
Gray Comma
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
Compton Tortoiseshell
Mourning Cloak
Red Admiral
Painted Lady
American Lady
Goatweed Leafwing
Southern Pearly-eye
Northern Pearly-eye
Creole Pearly-eye
Appalachian Brown
Gemmed Satyr
Georgia Satyr
Helicta Satyr
Mitchell’s Satyr
Little Wood-Satyr
Carolina Satyr
Common Wood-Nymph

Butterflies: Metalmarks

The Little Metalmark is the state’s only metalmark species.