17 Most Common Types of Butterflies in Arkansas (With Pictures)
Butterflies are some of the most beautiful insects that help Arkansas continue to be the Natural State. These important pollinators are a perennial favorite, and depending on the species, you may see them anywhere between spring and fall.
If you’re interested in attracting pollinators, or you just have curiosity about insects, you’ll want to know what some of the most common butterflies you’ll spot in Arkansas are.
The 17 Most Common Types of Butterflies in Arkansas
1. Pearl Crescent
|3.2 – 4.5 centimeters
|Orange, black markings
The Pearl Crescent is a North American butterfly that you may spot in Arkansas, especially in areas where asters grow in large quantities. This is because asters are the primary host plant for the Pearl Crescent caterpillar, but the adults also may consume nectar from dogbane and milkweed.
This butterfly is one of the most common butterflies in the Eastern US, and they are one of the most widespread. They are primarily orange, but they have distinct black markings decorating the wings.
2. Orange Sulphur
|4.1 – 6 centimeters
The Orange Sulphur is a beautiful butterfly with a wingspan of up to 6 centimeters, and a pale coloration that is punctuated by darker orange, black, or tan. They are attracted to plants with a lot of nectar, and alfalfa and clovers are considered host plants to their caterpillars, Alfalfa caterpillars.
To attract adults, you can offer alfalfa and clovers, but they are also very attracted to coneflowers. They are typically found in open plains, so you’re unlikely to spot these butterflies in wooded areas.
3. Common Buckeye
|4.5 – 7 centimeters
|Brown with eye-like markings
The Common Buckeye is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of up to 7 centimeters. These butterflies are primarily brown, but they have distinctive eyespots on the wings. They have a variety of colors, including orange, tan, black, and grey.
The Common Buckeye is one of the most common butterflies in the entire United States. Their caterpillars are hosted by a wide variety of plants, including snapdragons, hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, and zinnias.
This butterfly is a true brush-footed butterfly, which means they have hairy, brush-like front limbs. They are also sometimes called four-footed butterflies, which refers to the fact that they only have four functional walking limbs.
4. Goatweed Leafwing
|4.5 – 6.3 centimeters
|Orange and brown
|Goatweed, prairie tea
The Goatweed Leafwing is a butterfly that is named for its leaf-mimicking wings, as well as its preference for its host plant, the goatweed. Goatweed plants are also referred to as crotons, and they account for multiple species of plant.
These butterflies are orange above and brown below, and between this coloration and their leaf-shaped wings, they have excellent camouflage. They are often founded in wooded areas, which makes their camouflage even more understandable.
5. Silver-Spotted Skipper
|4.3 – 6 centimeters
|Brown, tan, white
|Black locust, tick trefoil
The Silver-Spotted Skipper is one of the most commonly seen Skipper butterfly species, and their range is spread across the entire contiguous US. Their name is a misnomer, though, because the spot they are known for is actually white.
This medium-sized butterfly species prefers the black locust plant over all others, and this is the primary host plant for their young, but they are sometimes spotted on other locust plants, as well as the tick trefoil and others.
6. Barred Yellow
|3.2 – 4.1 centimeters
|Yellow with black markings
|Pea species, shepherd’s needle
The Barred Yellow butterfly is a petite butterfly, only coming in with a maximum wingspan of 4.1 centimeters. Their appearance varies between the sexes and changes between seasons, so they may look different throughout the year.
While this butterfly can be found in tropical and subtropical dunes, it can also be found in pine woods and pastures, both of which are something that Arkansas has no shortage of. They tend to fly low, so you’ve likely encountered these butterflies. Their favorite plants are those in the pea family, and these serve as the primary host plants for their young.
7. Mexican Yellow
|4.4 – 6.3 centimeters
|Yellow, brown, and black
|Pea species, acacia
The Mexican Yellow is also sometimes called the Wolf-Faced Sulphur butterfly. These butterflies are found in North and South America, so they’re not unusual to spot in Arkansas. They are pale yellow in color with uneven forewing margins, creating a wolf-face appearance.
Like the Barred Yellow, the Mexican Yellow prefers pea plant species as its host plant, but they are considerably larger than the Barred Yellow and have distinctly different markings.
8. Red-Banded Hairstreak
|Grey, orange, tan, black
|Asters, milkweeDwarf sumac, oak species
The Red-Banded Hairstreak is a butterfly species that is hard to miss, except for its small size. These butterflies feature beautiful orange streaks across their grey wings, and they have multiple appendages on the back portion of the wings, giving a false head appearance, and helping to protect them from predators.
While they are sometimes found in coastal areas, they lay their eggs among leaf litter, and leaf litter is the primary food source for their caterpillars.
9. Striped Hairstreak
|Tan, grey, black, and orange
|Oak species, hickory species
The Striped Hairstreak is easily distinguishable from its Red-Banded Hairstreak cousin. These butterflies have grey or tan wings with white stripes. They do have a small amount of orange and black toward the back of the wings, and many of them have small “tails” that come off the back of the wings.
These butterflies may be spotted near other butterflies of the same family, but they can also be found in heavily wooded areas away from other species. A variety of tree species serve as host plants to Red-Banded Hairstreak caterpillars, but in Arkansas, you’re most likely to spot them on oak and hickories, as well as ash and birch trees.
|7 – 10 centimeters
|Black and orange
The Monarch is one of the best-studied and most recognizable butterflies on the entire planet, and they’ve endeared themselves to people with their annual migration south to Central and South America for the winter.
Milkweed plant species are essential for the survival of Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars, and they serve as the only food source for the caterpillars.
Although extremely distinguishable, these butterflies were listed as endangered in January of 2022, so providing safe and welcoming ecosystems to them is necessary to preserve this species.
11. Painted Lady
|5 – 6 centimeters
The Painted Lady is a butterfly that may be confused with the Monarch due to the similar colorations, but the Painted Lady and Monarch have extremely distinct patterns that differentiate them, not to mention how much larger the Monarch butterfly gets compared to the Painted Lady.
While thistles and mallows are the primary host plants for their young, adults prefer asters, especially those that are 3–6 feet tall. These butterflies can be found in Mexico, the US, and most of Canada, so you’re almost certain to encounter them in Arkansas.
12. Eastern Comma
|4.5 – 6.4 centimeters
|Brown, orange, black, and white
|Stinging nettles, hops
The Eastern Comma is an eye-catching butterfly, thanks to its orange coloration, black markings, and delicate wing margins. When seen with their wings up, it’s easy to see that the underside of their wings is designed to look like dead leaves.
Their most frequently used host plant for their young is stinging nettles, but they may also be spotted on hops and even the American elm tree. Their preference toward hop plants has given them the alternate name of “hop merchants.” Their caterpillars are unmistakable, due to their dark black color, white markings, and white and yellow spikes.
13. Zebra Swallowtail
|6 – 8.9 centimeters
|Black and white
The Zebra Swallowtail is a relatively large butterfly, and it’s easily identified by its black and white zebra-like stripes, as well as its red dots on the wings and the tails from its wings.
The common pawpaw is the exclusive host plant for Zebra Swallowtail caterpillars, so it’s important to retain these plants when you have them on your property. While they are not endangered, their restrictive larval diet could create this risk with poor land management.
14. Ozark Swallowtail
|8.2 – 10.2 centimeters
|Meadow parsnip, rose verbena
The Ozark Swallowtail is a relatively rare butterfly, so it’s far from common, but it is exclusively found in the Ozarks, which are partially located in the Northern parts of Arkansas.
These large butterflies can be found in the deep parts of the Ozark forests. While the adults enjoy feasting on a variety of nectars, the host plants for the caterpillars are primarily wild plants belonging to the carrot family, like the meadow parsnip, yellow parsnip, and golden Alexander. Responsible land management attempts in the Ozarks are the only chance of survival for this species.
15. Giant Swallowtail
|11.7 – 17.5 centimeters
|Citrus plants, prickly ash
The Giant Swallowtail is, as its name implies, an exceptionally large butterfly with a wingspan reaching up to 17.5 centimeters. In fact, this butterfly is the largest butterfly in North America. They are located throughout the Southeastern United States, commonly being spotted around gardens and orchards.
Their caterpillars are known for their excellent camouflage abilities, taking on an appearance similar to that of bird droppings. Understandably, this is confusing for predators.
While not overly fussy with its host plants, the Giant Swallowtail has a notable preference for citrus plants.
16. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
|7.9 – 14 centimeters
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a large butterfly species, with a wingspan of up to 14 centimeters. These butterflies are primarily located east of the Mississippi, but they are spotted in Arkansas regularly, especially along the Mississippi River.
They are not picky butterflies, although the adults do show a preference for milkweed, lilac, and wild cherry, while the caterpillars’ host plants include cottonwood, sweet bay, willow, and white ash trees.
These yellow butterflies are accented with black outlines and markings, and like all swallowtails, they have short “tails” coming from the ends of the wings.
17. Diana Fritillary
|8.7 – 11.3 centimeters
|Violets, red clover
No Arkansas butterfly list would be complete without mentioning the state butterfly of Arkansas, the Diana Fritillary. This butterfly does have decreasing populations but seems to have a stronghold in Arkansas and Missouri, especially near the shared border and the Appalachians.
Both the adults and caterpillars show a strong preference for violets and other viola plant species, but the adults will also eat nectar from swamp milkweeds and red clover, and they also consume animal dung.
Regardless of their populations, butterflies are all extremely important pollinators that are responsible for the continuation of many types of plant species. It’s up to us to provide butterfly-friendly gardens and practice appropriate land management on our own properties to better support butterfly populations throughout the state of Arkansas.
Featured Image Credit: Leena Robinson, Shutterstock