Thanks for visiting Washington Butterflies.
Despite being a northern state, Washington enjoys a wide diversity in butterflies. The large size of the state and the presence of different species East and West of the Cascade mountains because of different habitats explains much of the diversity.
And now for a double despite. Despite the diversity, fifteen butterfly and moth species make the Washington state endangered or species of concern list. Like all species, habitat loss accounts for most of the population stress.
The more common names such as the Taylor’s Checkerspot and Oregon Silverspot that are also listed as Federally Threatened or Endangered fall into this category.
The top picture shows a Golden Hairstreak. The Washington subspecies named Chinquapin hairstreak is found in only one county along the Columbia River.
It’s secure in California and Oregon. However, there are concerns about the population stability of the small subspecies population that made the trip across the Columbia and established colonies in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
The Island Marble Butterfly, a subspecies of the Large Marble also follows this pattern. It was rediscovered on a few Islands in the Puget Sound and the stability of the population is questioned.
This introduction to Washington butterflies provides a list of the species divided into families. A handful of butterfly pictures are included.
Visitors looking for more pictures and butterfly identification help can press the green butterfly button for more information.
Butterflies: Whites and Yellows
Pieridae is the formal name of the family that consists of the butterflies with white wings and yellow wings. Most states have more of the yellow butterfly species. Washington butterflies don’t follow that pattern. The presence of orangetips and marbles provides them with a nice diversity.
The picture shows a Becker’s White butterfly. They are a fairly common species in the Pacific Northwest. Their larvae feed on plants in the mustard family.
Spring Whites are found mostly east of the Cascades.
Of all the Washington yellow butterflies the Dainty Sulphur and Labrador Sulphur are the most difficult to come by. The Dainty Sulphur is a southern species that occasionally can be found in the Southeast part of the state. The Labrador Sulphur is an Arctic species that can be found in the Northern Cascades.
The picture shows a Western Sulphur. It has cleaner wings than the more common Clouded and Orange Sulphurs.
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur
Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers
Washington butterflies also move a bit away from the average state butterfly population with a balanced mixture of blues, hairstreaks and coppers. Western states provide habitat for most of the copper butterflies.
The picture shows a male Purplish Copper.
Blue butterfly and hairstreak butterfly species are fairly similar to the species of surrounding states.
Identifying many of the blue butterflies, such as the Acmon Blue in the picture is a matter of looking at the Orange spots along the wings. Acmon blues have spots along the bottom of the wing. Melissa Blues, on the other hand have orange spots on both the top and bottom wings.
While the list of Hairstreak butterflies in the state is long, they are mostly regionally distributed. Any one area will only have a limited number of species.
The picture shows a Hedgerow Hairsreak. They can be found east and west of the Cascades.
Western Square-dotted Blue
Rocky Mountain Dotted-Blue
Western Green Hairstreak
Coastal Green Hairstreak
Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak
Western Pine Elfin
Sagebrush Sooty Hairstreak
Brush Footed Butterflies
Washington mountains provide the proper habitat for a variety of brushfoots including the Arctics, Alpines and Fritillaries. The picture shows a Great Spangled Fritllary.
Washington’s other brushfoot butterflies are plentiful in most areas of the state.
Each season various numbers of the Vanessa species, the Lady butterflies and the Red Admiral, make their way to the state during their migration.
Most of the brushfoot buterflies have orange wings and these are the species typically desired in back yard butterfly gardens. Local garden clubs and nurseries provide information on the types of nectar plants and larval host plants that are needed for a successful garden.
Great Spangled Fritillary
Great Basin Fritillary
West Coast Lady
Great Basin Wood-Nymph
Washington Butterflies: Swallowtails
The northern climate makes for a hospitable Parnassians environment. The presence of two species translates into Washington hosting a nice diversity of butterflies in the Swallowtail family.
- Clodius Parnassian
- Rocky Mountain Parnassian
- Old World Swallowtail
- Black Swallowtail
- Anise Swallowtail
- Indra Swallowtail
- Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
- Western Tiger Swallowtail
- Pale Swallowtail
- Two-tailed Swallowtail
Like the vast majority of states, the metalmark population is limited in Washington. The picture shows the Mormon Metalmark.
- Mormon Metalmark