House Grail is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

15 Most Common Types of Butterflies in North Carolina (With Pictures)

Danaus plexippus or Monarch Butterfly

North Carolina is home to more than 175 butterfly species with varying characteristics and colors. The state’s wide range of habitats makes it a hotspot for butterflies. Whether you visit coastal dunes or forests, you’re likely to encounter one or more species.

North Carolina’s wetlands, sandhills, and mountain ranges are covered with flowering vegetation, and that’s no less than heaven for butterflies. If you’re planning to visit North Carolina and look for colorful butterflies, you should know their identification signs and behavior. For your ease, this guide lists 15 common types of butterflies in North Carolina. So, let’s explore them!

garden flower divider

The Most Common Types of Butterflies in North Carolina

1. Little Yellow

Eurema lisa, also known as little yellow or little sulphur butterfly
Image By: JamesDeMers, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Eurema lisa
Wingspan: 1 to 1.5 inches
Lifespan: 3 to 11 months

As evident from their name, Little Yellow butterflies are yellow with dark spots on their wings. They are found across the state but rarely in the central and western regions. Some butterflies may also have dark borders on their wings.

To spot Little Yellow butterflies in North Carolina, you should visit dry, open habitats, especially sandy or abandoned areas. In their caterpillar stage, these species feed on the wild plants included in the Pea family. As they turn into adults, they sit on flowering plants from the Aster family.

2. Common Buckeye

a Common Buckeye butterfly perched on leaves
Image Credit: Joshua J. Cotten, Unsplash
Scientific Name: Junonia coenia
Wingspan: 1.6 to 2.75 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

The Common Buckeye is a brown-colored butterfly species with beautiful patterns on its wings. You’ll find around six eyespots and multiple orange bars on these butterflies. Out of six, four eyespots are large and colorful.

To meet the Common Buckeye, you’ll have to visit North Carolina’s sunny, open fields and suburban backyards. They like staying on bare ground with low vegetation.

Common Buckeyes prefer plants belonging to the Snapdragon and Plantain families in the caterpillar stage. As they grow older, they love feeding on the nectar of aster, dogbane, gumweed, tickseed sunflower, peppermint, and chicory flowers.

3. Cabbage White

Pieris Rapae or cabbage white butterfly
Image Credit: NIL-Foto, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Pieris rapae
Wingspan: 1.75 to 2.25 inches
Lifespan: 1 to 3 weeks

Cabbage White is a common white butterfly species in North Carolina. You’re likely to see these butterflies in every part of the state. This beautiful species is white with distinctive grayish-green and yellowish-green undersides.

You may also find dark spots on the Cabbage White’s wings. Their caterpillars are thin and green and love to feed on plants from the Caper and Mustard families. In the adult stage, these butterflies feed on the nectar of different flowers, including mustards, dandelions, red clovers, mints, and asters.

4. Orange Sulphur

Orange Sulphur Butterfly
Image Credit: Paul Sparks, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Colias eurytheme
Wingspan: 1.35 to 2.75 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

The name of Orange Sulphur may deceive you! These butterflies are not entirely orange but have various colors like yellow, white, and black. Their wings have yellow veins with orange overlaps and black borders.

These multi-colored butterflies are available across the state wherever they have accessible food sources, particularly in meadows and fields. Orange Sulphur caterpillars prefer feeding on plants from the Pea family, while adults feed on the nectar of dandelion, goldenrod, aster, and milkweed flowers.

5. Red-Banded Hairstreak

Calycopis cecrops or Red-Banded Hairstreak butterfly
Image Credit: Perlick Laura, Pixnio
Scientific Name: Calycopis cecrops
Wingspan: 0.87 to 1.25 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

The Red-banded Hairstreaks are reddish-orange butterflies with brown or bluish wings. They are relatively smaller butterflies found throughout North Carolina. The distinctive characteristic of Red-banded Hairstreaks is that they are migratory between April and October.

These butterflies prefer living in overgrown fields, forests, and coastal hammocks. When Red-banded Hairstreaks are caterpillars, they feed on fallen leaves of wax myrtle and oak trees. As they become adults, they look for nectar flowers, such as the tickseed sunflower, wild cherry, yarrow, sumac, common milkweed, and sweet pepperbush.

6. American Lady

American Painted Lady butterfly
Image Credit: Leena Robinson, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Vanessa virginiensis
Wingspan: 1.75 to 2.62 inches
Lifespan: 2 weeks

American Lady butterflies in warmer states are bigger and more colorful in summer than in winter. They have brown, yellow, and orange patterns on their bodies, with two eyespots on the hindwings. These distinctive butterflies are everywhere in the state where there is low vegetation.

The caterpillar American Lady feeds on plants belonging to the Sunflower family. However, the adults enjoy the nectar of dogbane, marigold, selfheal, aster, common milkweed, and goldenrod.

7. American Snout

American Snout Butterfly
Image Credit: Paul Sparks, Shutterstock
Scientific Name: Libytheana carinenta
Wingspan: 1.37 to 2 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

The American Snout is a brown and dull-orange butterfly species. They have distinctive white patterns on their wings. They’re named after their elongated mouth, called labial palpi, which looks like a snout.

These butterflies are everywhere in the state, from far western, southern, and central regions. To find American Snouts, you can look in clearings and forest edges. In their early stages, they feed on hackberry species, while adults feed on nectar flowers, including dogwood, dogbane, goldenrod, sweet pepperbush, and aster.

8. Silver-spotted Skipper

a Silver-Spotted Skipper butterfly
Image Credit: Joshua J. Cotten, Unsplash
Scientific Name: Epargyreus clarus
Wingspan: 1.75 to 2.62 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

The Skippers family consists of 68 butterfly species in North Carolina. One of them is the Silver-spotted Skipper. These butterflies are found across the state, identified by their distinctive brownish-black wings having gold spots and silver bands.

You’ll likely see Silver-spotted Skippers in their caterpillar stage in woody and herbaceous habitats. As adults, they feed on red, purple, blue, and pink flowers but never on yellow ones. The favorite flowers of Silver-spotted Skippers are everlasting peas, red clovers, blazing stars, thistles, and buttonbush.

9. Horace’s Duskywing

Erynnis horatius or Horace’s Duskywing butterfly
Image Credit: lueleng, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Erynnis horatius
Wingspan: 1.4 to 1.9 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

Like Silver-spotted Skippers, Horace’s Duskywings also belong to the Skippers family. These are dark brown butterflies with light brown shades on the wings. They are present throughout North Carolina, excluding many central-eastern counties and the border areas.

If you visit North Carolina between April and September, you may find Horace’s Duskywings in open fields and woodlands. As caterpillars, they feed on white and red oaks, while as adults, they feed on the nectar of flowers about 4.5 feet tall. These include buttonbush, boneset, peppermint, goldenrod, winter cress, and sneezewood.

10. Falcate Orangetip

Anthocharis midea or Falcate Orangetip butterfly
Image Credit: anita_peter, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Anthocharis midea
Wingspan: 1.37 to 1.75 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

Not all Falcate Orangetip butterflies have an orange tip! They are white with a hooked tip that is orange only in males. Falcate Orangtips are present in every corner of North Carolina, from the mountains to the coast.

When caterpillars, these butterflies feed on plants (e.g., winter cress) belonging to the Mustard family. As they grow older, they shift to nectar flowers, such as mustards and violets.

11. Monarch Butterfly

monarch butterfly on a flower
Image Credit: bbarlow, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus
Wingspan: 3.37 to 4.87 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

Monarch Butterflies inhabit North Carolina’s open habitats across the state. Not only North Carolina, but Monarch Butterflies are one of the most common species in North America.

These butterflies have a distinctive bright orange color adorned with black veins and borders. They are famous for their lengthy migration.

In both caterpillar and adult stages, Monarch Butterflies feed on milkweeds, which makes them poisonous. That’s one reason predators stay away from hunting these butterflies. Adult Monarch Butterflies also feed on the nectar of flowers, including lilac, dogbane, red clover, thistles, tickseed sunflowers, and blazing stars.

12. Summer Azure

Celastrina neglecta or Summer Azure butterfly
Image Credit: Joran Quinten, Unsplash
Scientific Name: Celastrina neglecta
Wingspan: 0.9 to 1.1 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

Summer Azure is one of the five Azure species in the US. These are beautiful powdery-blue butterflies found across the state in different habitats, commonly in stream valleys and gardens.

Summer Azures are relatively small butterflies with a short lifespan. Between June and October, adults may live for only a few weeks. These butterflies feed on New Jersey tea and racemose plants in their caterpillar stage. As they become adults, they prefer the nectar of dills, clematis, buttercups, and bunch flowers.

13. Red-spotted Purple Admiral

Limenitis arthemis or Red-spotted Purple Admiral butterfly
Image Credit: Chris F, Pexels
Scientific Name: Limenitis arthemis
Wingspan: 1.25 to 4 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

Many people confuse Red-spotted Purple Admiral with White Admirals. However, both have a few differences, especially in color. The Red-spotted purple butterflies have bluish-green and dark-brown wings with red-orange pots and bars.

These butterflies are present across the state. Whether you visit forests, moist uplands, valley bottoms, or coastal plains, you will likely see them flying everywhere.

When Red-spotted Purple Admirals are caterpillars, they feed on shrubs and trees, such as willows, oaks, and cottonwood. As they grow older, they prefer feeding on tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, and nectar of small white flowers.

14. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Image Credit By: Valoxioma, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Papilio glaucus
Wingspan: 3.6 to 6.5 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail gets its name after the “tails” present on the back of its wings that look like the tails of swallows. You can identify the males from the dark stripes and yellow wings, resembling a tiger. Females, on the other hand, are bluish-black with dark-colored stripes.

These butterflies are one of the common Swallowtails in North Carolina. The caterpillars feed on different leaves, including wild cherries, birches, tulip trees, cottonwoods, and sweet bays. The adults like the nectar of flowers, such as wild cherry and lilac.

15. Carolina Satyr

Scientific Name: Hermeuptychia sosybius
Wingspan: 1.25 to 1.5 inches
Lifespan: 2 to 4 weeks

North Carolina has many Satyr species, including the Carolina Satyr. These butterflies are seen across the state, primarily in grassy and woodland areas. Their upper body is plain brown, while the underbody has small eyespots.

If you want to observe Carolina Satyrs, it’s better to take your binoculars to a nearby woodland or forest area. You’ll see caterpillars feeding on different types of grass, including Kentucky bluegrass and carpet grass. Meanwhile, adults prefer fruit rots and sap for their nourishment.

garden flower divider


North Carolina is home to several unique butterfly species. Whether you’re a resident in the state or planning to visit soon, you should witness the greatness of the Monarch, Falcate Orangetip, Silver-spotted Skipper, and Little Yellow butterflies.

Remember the distinctive characteristics of the most prominent butterflies in North Carolina, so you can quickly identify them. All the species mentioned in this list are unique, colorful, and unforgettable.

Featured Image Credit: veronikasz, Pixabay


Related posts

OUR categories

Project ideas

Hand & power tools