15 Types of Butterflies

Butterflies are some of the most beautiful animals, and with over 200 species divided into more than 40 families, the diversity is immeasurable. 

Some of these insects can be grouped, and in this article, we’ll be exploring 15 types of butterflies you can find all around the world.

  • American Moth-butterflies
  • Skippers
  • Swallowtails
  • Whites
  • Blues and Coppers
  • Metalmarks
  • Snout Butterflies
  • Danaids
  • Glasswings
  • Nymphs
  • Browns
  • Morphos and Owls
  • Preponas and Leaf Butterflies
  • The Biblidinaes
  • Tropical Longwings

1. American Moth-butterflies

Scientific name (superfamily): Hedyloidea

As the name suggests, these butterflies can be found in North, Central, and South America, but they also occur in Cuba, Trinidad, and Jamaica. 

They can be recognized easily, as they resemble geometer moths with their long and slim abdomen.

This common type of butterfly in the USA doesn’t have hearing organs at the base of the abdomen. Instead, hearing organs are located on the wings. 

There are currently at least 35 recognized species, and they’re often found around hibiscus plants and balsa trees.

2. Skippers

Scientific name (family): Hesperiidae

Named after their sudden movements and quick, short flights – skippers are very similar to moths in their appearance. There are more than 3,500 species within this family, and they can be found on all continents except for Antarctica.

You can recognize them by the types of butterfly antennae, which are hooked backward. 

They also have tipped forewings, which are usually rounded. Their colors aren’t as exciting as those of other butterflies, though. Skippers are mostly yellow, brown, or grey, which is quite bland when it comes to butterflies

3. Swallowtails

Scientific name (family): Papilionidae

These types of butterflies in Asia aren’t that common in other places around the world, as they prefer temperate and tropical climates. There are only 40 species in the US (out of 552) and 12 species in Europe.

Interestingly, the Siberian Apollo can be found in the Arctic Circle, which is incredibly cold for a butterfly. 

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On top of having livelier coloring than skippers, swallowtails have an anal vein extending up to the wing margin, which doesn’t happen in other butterfly families.

They also have a forked osmeterium (an organ found in caterpillars) coming out of their mouths as caterpillars, which they use for defense.

4. Whites

Scientific name (family): Pieridae

With over 1,000 species of butterflies in the family, these types of butterflies are common in tropical Africa and Asia, with only a minority of species coming to Europe and North America.

They’re very easy to recognize, as they’re either white, yellow, or orange (with a few possible black spots). 

There are quite a few pest species among these types of butterflies in Europe, such as the cabbage white or the orange sulfur butterfly. Most African species don’t pose a problem as pests.

5. Blues and Coppers

Scientific name: Lycaenidae

Also known as the ‘gossamer-winged butterflies’, this is one of the largest butterfly families. With over 6,000 species spread all over the world, they make up just about 30% of all known butterfly species.

Most of them are less than 2 inches wide, which makes them difficult to spot. 

However, they have a beautiful metallic shine, which makes them beautiful. Taking the large blue as an example, the metallic blue shine will definitely draw attention.

Not only are they common all around the world, but they’re also some of the most beautiful butterflies in the world.

6. Metalmarks

Scientific name (family): Riodinidae

Metalmark males have shortened forelegs, while females have normal forelegs, which is why telling the difference between sexes is easy. They sometimes have characteristic metallic stripes and spots on their wings.

Barring Antarctica, they’re found all over the world, with the South American rainforests being their favorite habitat (which is why most species live there). 

These types of butterflies in South America are found in every part of the Amazon basin, and they’re not considered a pest.

7. Snout Butterflies

Scientific name (family): Libytheinae

These types of rare butterflies only have about ten species in the family, and they were named after the short appendages that grow atop their heads, making them look like they have snouts.

Snout butterflies are migratory and we can find them all across South and North America, as well as the surrounding islands. There are a few species that can only be found in the Caribbean.

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8. Danaids

Scientific name (family): Danainae

Butterflies found in Asia and Africa, with only some of them found in Australia, and only four species found in North America, danaids are a relatively small family. 

There are over 300 species of these butterflies, with the most famous one being the monarch butterfly (one of four species found in North America).

They’re recognized by round nodules that outgrow their body, while they’re often vividly colored, which serves as a warning sign to predators. Interestingly, they’re often threatened by tachinid fly parasites!

9. Glasswings

Scientific name (family): Ithomiini

Sometimes called clearwing butterflies, they’re easily recognized because their wings are completely transparent. This means that they can easily camouflage themselves, taking on the color of whatever surface they’re standing on.

There’s an abundance of them in Amazonia, and their northernmost habitat is in Mexico. There are about 370 species of these transparent butterflies, with some living at heights of 3000 meters.

10. Nymphs

Scientific name (family): Nymphalinae

Caterpillars of these butterflies can sometimes develop protective spines, which makes them easier to recognize than other caterpillars. They’re tropical for the most part, with only a few species living outside of South America.

They often develop vivid coloring with distinct patterns, with the Amazon beauty serving as the best example, with blue and black on top and white and black stripes on the bottom.

One of the species that moved away from South America and is now found in India and South Asia is called the wizard. This is a strikingly orange butterfly, resembling a leaf. There are more than 50 genera of this type of butterfly.

11. Browns

Scientific name (family): Satyrinae

With over 2,400 species of butterflies, browns are one of the biggest butterfly families. They’re called brown because they’re, as the name suggests, mostly brown. 

Unlike other butterflies, they’re not good fliers and they prefer wooded habitats in partial shade.

Even though it’s presumed that they only inhabit Eurasia and North Africa, not enough research has been conducted and there is much we don’t know about this butterfly family.

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12. Morphos and Owls

Scientific name (family): Morphinae

These absolutely stunning types of butterflies are mostly Neotropical – living in South America, with some of them migrating to close areas. 

There are three tribes with more than 35 genera, so they’re still unexplored because of their sheer number.

Morphos are known for a very slow and bouncy flight pattern – their wings are far too large for their body, making them clumsy. When talking about size, we have to mention owl butterflies, which are some of the largest butterflies in the world.

They can measure up to 8 inches, making it very difficult for them to fly. They can only fly a few meters at a time. They’re called owl butterflies because they prefer to move in the nighttime when predators are less active and can’t see.

13. Preponas and Leaf Butterflies

Scientific name (family): Charaxinae

Also called leafwings, these butterflies usually inhabit the tropics, with only a handful of species inhabiting North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. 

They’re called leaf butterflies because they developed an impressive technique for avoiding predators.

When resting, their wings make them look like a dead leaf – they’re mostly brown or bleak orange, while their wings have jagged edges.

When they have to run, they’re quick fliers, often flying towards the scent of rotting carcasses and fruits.

14. The Biblidinae

Scientific name (family): Biblidinae

The vast majority of these butterflies inhabit the subtropical and tropical forests of South America. There are a few species, like the angled castor, that live in Asia and North America.

There are 340 butterfly species in the family, and most types of butterflies in South America within this family are medium-sized, with contrasting patterns on their wings.

15. Tropical Longwings

Scientific name (family): Heliconiinae

You can easily recognize these butterflies with their predominantly red and black coloring. Additionally, their wings are elongated towards the tip and make a characteristic oblong shape.

These types of red and black butterflies are found in South America, often feeding on poisonous plants and becoming poisonous themselves as larvae. The red and black coloring is here to ward off predators, implying that they’re toxic.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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