20 Most Common Types of Butterflies in Arizona (With Pictures)
Butterflies are amazing creatures that children and adults like to observe and chase around. Many people even add plants to their gardens to attract colorful insects. If you live or are planning to visit Arizona and want to know what butterflies exist in this area, you’ve come to the right place. This list goes over several different butterfly species and describes their habitats to help you find them out in the wild.
The 20 Most Common Types of Butterflies in Arizona
1. Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly
- Wingspan: 2.5–5 inches
The pipevine swallowtail is also called the blue swallowtail. It has a black body with iridescent blue highlights on the wings that give it its name. The caterpillars are usually black with orange spikes. It can grow to have a 5-inch wingspan. Look for these butterflies near nectar flowers, like thistles, lilacs, and more.
2. Monarch Butterfly
- Wingspan: 3.25–5 inches
The monarch is one of the most popular butterflies in the United States. The wings have a recognizable orange and black pattern with white highlights. It likes open habitats, and its main food is the milkweed, which is becoming rare due to heavy pesticide use, causing a decline in the overall monarch population. Other plants that this butterfly likes to visit are thick-seed sunflowers, lilacs, and blazing stars.
3. Spring White Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1.25–3.75 inches
The spring white butterfly is a light-colored butterfly with olive-colored veins and telltale spots on the wings that you can see from above. It’s small in size, but you see find it throughout Arizona, so it should be an easy find. Look for them in dry habitats around forget-me-not and black mustard plants.
4. Checkered White Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1.5–2.5 inches
The checkered white butterfly is a light-colored butterfly that is easy to find in Arizona. It has many other names, including the southern cabbage butterfly. It’s smaller than many other varieties, with a wingspan rarely larger than 2.5 inches. Look for these butterflies in the open desert, where they feed on mustard and alfalfa plants.
5. Southwestern Orangetip Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1–1.5 inches
The southwestern orangetip butterfly is a small light-colored butterfly with large orange patches on the front wings. You can find them in Arizona woodlands, hovering around black mustard plants gathering food, and you will find the caterpillars in the same area, as they enjoy the same food.
6. Southern Dogface Butterfly
- Wingspan: 2–3 inches
The southern dogface butterfly is a yellow butterfly with pointed forewings that have a pattern that resembles a dog’s face, giving the butterfly its name. It can have a wingspan of 3 inches, and you will usually see it in open areas across Arizona, feasting on alfalfa, verbena, houstonia, and other plants.
7. Orange Sulphur Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1.25–2.75 inches
The orange sulfur butterfly can be yellow, orange, white, or even green, and it has a large orange patch on the front wings, giving it its name. It may also have darker eye spots or rings on the wings. Look for these butterflies around dandelions, milkweed, and goldenrod in fields and meadows across Arizona.
8. Mexican Yellow Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1.75–2.5 inches
The Mexican yellow butterfly has a light color with dark brown patches near the edge of the wings. Look for these butterflies in open areas feeding on various plants, like the Mexican sunflower.
9. Great Purple Hairstreak Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1.25–2 inches
The great purple hairstreak is a small butterfly that has black or brown wings with blue and white spots. The body is black and will have red or orange spots. These butterflies prefer wooded and suburban areas where they can feast on goldenrod, wild plum, sweet pepperbush, and more.
10. Brown Elfin Butterfly
- Wingspan: 0.5–1.25 inches
The brown elfin is a tiny butterfly with dark reddish-brown or grey-brown wings. You can find it throughout most of Arizona, except for a few northernmost counties. It likes to hover around willow trees, blueberry bushes, winter cress, wild plum, and other plants as it searches for food.
11. Marine Blue Butterfly
- Wingspan: 0.8–1.25 inches
The marine blue butterfly has wings that are brown with light tan lines that create an intricate pattern on one side and wings that are iridescent blue on the other side, giving the butterfly its name. You will often find it in gardens, waste dumps, and desert areas across Arizona, making it relatively easy to find.
12. Reakirt’s Blue Butterfly
- Wingspan: 0.75–1.25 inches
Reakirt’s blue butterfly is a small butterfly found in Arizona. It has a light-colored body with dark spots and a blue tint in the center of the wings. Look for these butterflies around clover and spearmint.
13. Fatal Metalmark Butterfly
- Wingspan: 0.75–1 inch
The fatal metalmark butterfly has a dark brown color with even darker colors as highlights. The top of the wings will usually have dark stripes extending out from the body, while the underside will have dark spots. Fatal metalmark butterflies prefer tall grass and bushy areas where they can feed on nectar from various plants, including the desert Baccharis.
14. American Snout Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1.3–2 inches
The American snout butterfly has large, prominent mouth parts that extend considerably from the forewings, resembling a dead leaf stem, which helps improve its natural camouflage. The caterpillar also appears to be humpbacked due to its small head and swollen segments. You will usually see this species along the forest edge. It has brown wings with white spots.
15. Sagebrush Checkerspot Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1.5–2 inches
The sagebrush checkerspot has colors similar to those of the monarch butterfly but with a different pattern on the wings. It likes woodlands, and you will also find it in sagebrush as it feeds on local wildflowers.
16. Hackberry Emperor Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1.5–2.5 inches
The Hackberry Emperor is a butterfly that has dark brown wings with black and white patches on the forewing. It gets its name from the hackberry plant that it lays its eggs on, and you will find it anywhere there is rotting fruit or dung, especially near a water source, like a river or stream.
17. Silver Spotted Skipper Butterfly
- Wingspan: 1.75–2.75 inches
The silver spotted skipper is an increasingly rare butterfly. It has brown wings, with a large white patch on the forewings and a metallic silver band on the hindwings, giving it its name.
18. Saltbush Sootywing Butterfly
- Wingspan: 0.75–1.75 inches
The saltbush sootywing is a black or brown butterfly with a mottled pattern. It prefers looking for food in arid canyons and desert areas throughout Arizona and enjoys feeding on the big saltbush, which is how it gets its name.
19. Passion Butterfly Butterfly
- Wingspan: 2.5–3.75 inches
The passion butterfly is a large orange butterfly with black highlights. It has long and narrow wings compared to many other butterflies, and you will usually find it in open areas, near the edge of a forest, and in parks. Many people also report seeing it in the garden.
20. Two-Tailed Swallowtail Butterfly
- Wingspan: 4–5 inches
The two-tailed swallowtail is a large butterfly that you can find in Arizona. It has yellow wings with black stripes running in the same direction as the body. Each hindwing has a pair of black tails that give it its name. You will usually see these butterflies near running water, and they feed on the leaves of several plants.
There are plenty of butterflies to see in Arizona, and most of the ones listed here are easy to find. The large two-tailed swallowtail or passion butterfly can be an exciting find because they are so large. The monarch butterfly can also be fun to search for because they are becoming rarer, but all the varieties offer something unique, making finding one a memorable experience.
Featured Image Credit: Bill Barlow, Pixabay
- 1 The 20 Most Common Types of Butterflies in Arizona
- 1.1 1. Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly
- 1.2 2. Monarch Butterfly
- 1.3 3. Spring White Butterfly
- 1.4 4. Checkered White Butterfly
- 1.5 5. Southwestern Orangetip Butterfly
- 1.6 6. Southern Dogface Butterfly
- 1.7 7. Orange Sulphur Butterfly
- 1.8 8. Mexican Yellow Butterfly
- 1.9 9. Great Purple Hairstreak Butterfly
- 1.10 10. Brown Elfin Butterfly
- 1.11 11. Marine Blue Butterfly
- 1.12 12. Reakirt’s Blue Butterfly
- 1.13 13. Fatal Metalmark Butterfly
- 1.14 14. American Snout Butterfly
- 1.15 15. Sagebrush Checkerspot Butterfly
- 1.16 16. Hackberry Emperor Butterfly
- 1.17 17. Silver Spotted Skipper Butterfly
- 1.18 18. Saltbush Sootywing Butterfly
- 1.19 19. Passion Butterfly Butterfly
- 1.20 20. Two-Tailed Swallowtail Butterfly
- 2 Summary