Thanks for visiting Wisconsin butterflies. Apart from the skipper butterflies, Wisconsin hosts around one hundred different butterfly species. That puts is at an average number in terms of butterfly diversity in US states.
Interestingly enough, Wisconsin is one of the few states that has not designated a state butterfly.
The first two pictures show an American Lady and Painted Lady butterfly. The white dot on the wing is the best field identification clue to distinguish the species.
It’s often feast for famine in Wisconsin Painted Lady and American Lady visits. Originally it was thought that because they were among the first butterflies to appear in spring they overwintered in the state.
Recently people have changed their minds and now consider their presence in Wisconsin a function of migration. When their southern populations are strong, they tend to migrate north in larger numbers.
The list of Wisconsin butterflies is presented below with a few pictures. It divides according to families. It might surprise a few people that the family organization scheme helps greatly with Wisconsin butterfly identification. Common questions such as what Wisconsin white butterfly or what Wisconsin blue butterfly can easily be answered using this set up.
Of course a single page introduction is only a start. Press the green button for a field guide to help with many general butterfly identification questions.
Butterflies: Whites and Yellows
Wisconsin butterflies in the Pieridae family follows a regular pattern of having more yellows butterfly species than white butterfly species. Most of the yellow butterflies or sulphur butterflies are migratory species that fly north during the spring.
The picture shows a Little Yellow butterfly, a common species in most of the eastern areas of the United States. It reaches Wisconsin some time in May and individuals stick around through the end of September.
For Wisconsin butterfly enthusiasts the presence of Olympia White butterflies announces the start of another butterfly season. They are the smallest of the white butterflies and have a short spring season.
Know your Rockcress, the larval host plant, and eventually you will find the Olympia White.
The picture shows a Cabbage White butterfly. Their catepillars feed on plants in the cabbage family and they are probably the most common white butterflies seen in residential areas.
West Virginia White
Large Orange Sulphur
Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers
When it comes to Wisconsin blue butterflies, the Karner Blue, as subspecies of the Melissa Blue, receives most of the attention. It is listed as an endangered species and habitat in central Wisconsin is put aside to insure it’s survival.
The large number of blue butterfly species is a bit misleading. The Eastern Tailed-Blue and the Azures are the most common species. The remainder of the blue butterfly species have limited ranges in the state or are considered as stray visitors.
Wisconsin is also a great destination for Copper Butterfly viewing, especially in the north. The picture shows an American Copper.
When it comes to the hairstreak category, Wisconsin is heavy on the Elfins. They are the small brown butterflies usually associated with woodlands. The Eastern Pine Elfin is the most common in the state.
The picture shows a Striped Hairstreak, the most common of the species with hairstreak in the name.
Eastern Pine Elfin
Brush Footed Butterflies
Along with the Lady butterflies already mentioned, Wisconsin also hosts a wide variety of brushfoot butterflies. The pictrre shows a Goatweed Leafwing, the most common of the Leafwing species in the United States. It could also be captioned, Have you seen this butterfly? There was an old report of its presence in the state. No reports of its presence have been recorded in the past one hundred years. Perhaps a changing climate will change Wisconsin butterfly history.
From the rare to the common is the best way to introduce the Comma butterflies. Including the Question Mark, they might be considered a mainstay of the Wisconsin brushfoot butterfly scene, especially in the north. Orange patterned wings with a comma on the underside are the basic field identification clues.
Great Spangled Fritillary
arthemis White Admiral
Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple
Wisconsin Butterflies: Swallowtails
The list of swallowtail butterflies looks impressive at first glance. However, their populations tell a different story. Black Swallowtails are probably the most widespread of the species. Their flight season starts slowly in April and ends in October.
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the most common species in the south and the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail is the most common species in the north.
The remaining four species are considered occasional visitors. When present, the Giant Swallowtail is the largest butterfly in Wisconsin. The picture shows a Spicebush Swallowtail.
- Pipevine Swallowtail
- Zebra Swallowtail
- Black Swallowtail
- Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
- Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
- Spicebush Swallowtail
- Giant Swallowtail
- Swamp Metalmark