Wisconsin Butterflies: Pictures and Butterfly Identification Help

picture of an American Lady butterfly

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.
picture of a Painted Lady 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. They fit into the brush-footed category outlined below.

The list of Wisconsin butterflies is presented here divides according to families. The lady butterflies fit into the largest family, the brush-footed, outlined below.

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 additional butterfly identification questions.

Butterflies: Whites and Yellows

picture of a little yellow butterfly, part of the Wisconsin butterflies section
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.

picture of a Cabbage White butterfly on flowers
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 caterpillars feed on plants in the cabbage family and they are probably the most common white butterflies seen in residential areas.

Falcate Orangetip
Olympia Marble
Mustard White
West Virginia White
Cabbage White
Checkered White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Pink-edged Sulphur
Southern Dogface
Cloudless Sulphur
Large Orange Sulphur
Orange-barred Sulphur
Mexican Yellow
Little Yellow
Sleepy Orange
Dainty Sulphur

Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers

picture of a Melissa Blue Butterfly top view
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.
picture of an American Copper Butterfly top view
Wisconsin is also a great destination for copper butterfly viewing, especially in the north. The picture shows an American Copper. Orange wings with bold dark marks defines the American Copper butterfly. It’s a very common eastern species. With the exception of the border areas along Lake Michigan, it’s fairly common late spring through early fall.
picture of a 'striped Hairstreak
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.

Marine Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Western Tailed-Blue
Spring Azure
Northern Azure
Summer Azure
Dusky Azure
Silvery Blue
Reakirt’s Blue
Northern Blue
Melissa Blue
Greenish Blue
Juniper Hairstreak
Brown Elfin
Hoary Elfin
Frosted Elfin
Henry’s Elfin
Eastern Pine Elfin
Coral Hairstreak
Acadian Hairstreak
Hickory Hairstreak
Edwards’ Hairstreak
Banded Hairstreak
Striped Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak
White-M Hairstreak
Early Hairstreak
American Copper
Gray Copper
Bronze Copper
Bog Copper
Purplish Copper
Dorcas Copper

Brush Footed Butterflies

picture of a side view of a Goatweed Leafwing butterfly, the most common Leafwing species in the United States.
Along with the Lady butterflies already mentioned, Wisconsin also hosts a wide variety of brush-footed butterflies. The picture 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.

picture of an American Snout butterfly in Wisconsin
Medium to large size, along with orange patterned wings often serve as good identification tips for brush-footed butterflies. The long nose like appendage on the American Snout serves as another good identification clue. While they are common in the south parts of the United States, they reaches the northern part of its range in southern Wisconsin.

picture of a Regal Fritillary butterfly, top view
Previously common in it’s tallgrass prairie habitat, it’s endangered in Wisconsin and found in the prairie habitat.of a string of south-central counties. The enlarged black mark on the wings serves as a good identification clue.

Brush footed
American Snout
Gulf Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary
Aphrodite Fritillary
Regal Fritillary
Atlantis Fritillary
Bog Fritillary
Silver-bordered Fritillary
Meadow Fritillary
Frigga Fritillary
Freija Fritillary
Red-spotted Purple
arthemis White Admiral
Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple
Hackberry Emperor
Tawny Emperor
Silvery Checkerspot
Gorgone Checkerspot
California Patch
Harris’ Checkerspot
Brush footed
Pearl Crescent
Northern Crescent
Tawny Crescent
Baltimore Checkerspot
Common Buckeye
Question Mark
Eastern Comma
Satyr Comma
Green Comma
Hoary Comma
Gray Comma
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
Compton Tortoiseshell
Mourning Cloak
Red Admiral
Painted Lady
American Lady
Goatweed Leafwing
Northern Pearly-eye
Eyed Brown
Appalachian Brown
Common Ringlet
Little Wood-Satyr
Red-disked Alpine
Jutta Arctic
Chryxus Arctic
Common Wood-Nymph

Wisconsin Butterflies: Swallowtails

picture of a side view of a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly
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

Butterflies: Metalmarks

picture of a Swamp Metalmark butterfly
  • Swamp Metalmark