21 Most Common Types of Butterflies in Hawaii
Butterflies are commonly seen fluttering around the Hawaiian Islands. In fact, more than 1,000 species have been recorded in Hawaii in the past few decades. However, the islands are home to only two endemic butterfly species, which happen to be on the decline. Still, these butterflies can be found living on most of the islands.
In addition, several butterfly species migrate to and from Hawaii throughout the year and are often seen in nature, parks, and even cities throughout the state. Here are 21 of the most common types of butterflies that can be found in Hawaii.
The 21 Most Common Types of Butterflies in Hawaii
The Kamehameha butterfly is endemic to Hawaii and can’t be found living anywhere else in the world. However, it is related to a common species, the Painted Lady butterfly. This is a fast-flying butterfly species that is rarely photographed due to their speed.
2. Koa/Blackburn’s Blue
Best known as the Blackburn’s Blue, the Koa butterfly is one of the two endemic butterfly species in Hawaii. This is a small butterfly, only being about 1 inch long when fully grown. They live on most of the major islands, but they are rare, so it’s tough to find one flying around where humans frequent.
3. Western Pygmy Blue
This tiny butterfly is about the size of a pinky nail, making it hard to spot in nature. Those lucky enough to find one will note that they have brown and copper wings that glisten in the sun. They are the smallest butterfly in North America, and they forage on pigweed as caterpillars and flower nectar as adults.
4. Gram Blue
These beautiful butterflies are brown and slender, but they have deep bluish/purplish markings along the base of their bodies. They originated in India but can be found in Australia and many South Island locations, including Hawaii. However, they are rare in this state, so count yourself lucky if you ever spot one.
5. Asian Swallowtail
The Asian Swallowtail can be found in China, Myanmar, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and the Hawaiian Islands. These butterflies have wide wingspans and pronounced tails. They have black-and-white striped bodies and wings with greyish-blue markings on the base.
6. Sleepy Orange
This is a bright yellow butterfly that is quite active and quick despite their name. Their hindwings turn a shade of red during the winter months. Although widespread in many places throughout the United States, these butterflies are not that abundant in Hawaii. However, you may still see them while taking a hike or spending time at the beach.
7. Painted Lady
This butterfly species migrates from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East each year and goes far and wide, even to places like Hawaii. They are most commonly seen on the islands where they can frequent gardens, farms, and community parks during the summer months.
8. American Lady
American Ladies are easy to spot due to the dark edges and white spots on the edges of their wings. They are most commonly seen in North America, but they have been introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, where they are sometimes seen fluttering around in national parks.
9. Cabbage White
Cabbage White butterflies are most commonly found in gardens where fresh vegetables like corn and cauliflower are growing. They aren’t typically found in parks or near beaches where tourists tend to frequent. However, residents with gardens are accustomed to their presence.
10. Large Orange Sulphur
These butterflies have bright yellow wings with thin black borders and sometimes, small spots that are white or orange. These butterflies prefer to feed on alfalfa, which is why they are commonly seen on farms and in open fields. However, they do eat other things, like clovers, so they can sometimes be found flying around parks and in public areas where clovers are part of the landscape.
11. Red Admiral
This is a unique-looking butterfly species that has black wings with bright red stripes and white markings. Largely found in Britain and Ireland, Red Admiral butterflies have found their way to the Hawaiian Islands. They love the nectar from rotting fruit, of which there is no shortage in Hawaii, as fruit trees regularly drop mangoes and other fruits in the forests.
Possibly the best-known type of butterfly, the Monarch has made a name for themselves due to their distinctive black-and-orange wings. They can travel thousands of miles during migration time to find the right climate for their needs until things warm back up in the United States. They live year-round in Hawaii nowadays; due to the constant balmy weather, there is no reason for them to migrate anywhere else.
13. California Tortoiseshell
This type of butterfly is sometimes mistaken for the Monarch because they have similar colors and markings. However, they tend to have less black on their wings. California Tortoiseshell butterflies don’t migrate as far as Monarchs, but they somehow found their way to Hawaii, where they live permanently today.
14. Amyntor Greenstreak
This brightly colored butterfly is most commonly found in tropical climates throughout Mexico, Brazil, and surrounding countries. They have also been recorded living in Hawaii, although they are extremely rare to find. They have lime-green wings that can easily blend in with Hawaii’s foliage.
15. Lantana Hairstreak Butterfly
Lantana Hairstreak butterflies were intentionally introduced to Hawaii in 1902 to help control the growth of lantana plants. Even though the results were poor, the butterflies flourished and still live on the islands today. They’re small yet bold in color, which makes them relatively easy to spot.
16. Spring Azure
These little butterflies are blue in color, so they tend to stand out while fluttering around gardens and parks. This is a migratory butterfly that likes to find warm places to live during the fall and winter months. It’s not known exactly how they got to Hawaii, but once they did, they decided to stay and make the islands their home.
17. Long-Winged Greenstreak
This butterfly species is a relative of the Amyntor Greenstreak, but they are larger and have longer wings, which is where the species’ name was derived. Both types of butterflies can be found living alongside each other.
18. Fiery Skipper
These golden butterflies are identifiable by the small brownish spots located on their hindwings. Females may be browner in color than their male counterparts. They are rarely seen in Hawaii but have been spotted in public settings. They’re more common in private fields and gardens.
19. Banana Skipper
Banana Skippers love banana plants, which is one reason that they enjoy living in Hawaii. The problem is that they leave their larvae on the banana plants, which harms the plants. Fortunately, this butterfly species does not live in Hawaii in abundance, so they have not caused enough destruction to make them a serious threat.
20. Sandhill Skipper
This butterfly species is most abundant on the west side of the United States and Mexico. They have been introduced to the Hawaii ecosystem, though it is not clear when this happened. Today, these golden and yellow-colored butterflies can be found in gardens, parks, and open fields.
21. Gulf Fritillary
The gorgeous Gulf Fritillary has bright orange wings with black or white markings that make them look like they are sparkling. They are mostly seen in the southern parts of the United States, but they can also be found living in Hawaii in small groups. They have also found a home in the central valley of California.
These butterflies are all beautiful in their own way. Some have amazing wing colors and markings, while others are more muted but still stunning. No matter their looks, butterflies play an important role in Hawaii’s ecosystem by working as pollinators, and most farmers and homeowners welcome their presence. Spending time in nature and paying attention to what’s going on in the environment are the best ways to spot a butterfly in Hawaii.
Featured Image Credit: Deep Desert Photography, Shutterstock