Internet Hunts
Puzzles & Projects
Wetlands Study Unit
Plants & People
Problem/Project Based Learning
Water & Watershed Study Unit
Bluebirds Project

monarch butterfly iconBasic Butterfly Facts

There are almost seven hundred (700) species of butterflies found on the North American continent. People who study butterflies are called Lepidopterists. Scientists organize butterflies into families. There are ten families in North America.

You can tell one family from another (differentiate) by characteristics of the body, legs or wings.

Butterflies and moths are all insects. They have 6 jointed legs, two antennae and three body sections or segments.

Butterfly families: Skippers | Sulfurs,Whites | Swallowtails | Brushfooted | Gossamer Wings


compact - resemble moths

hairy body


small triangular wings

color - mostly orange, brown, black, or gray

Example: Silver Spotted Skipper

silver spotted skipper

Skippers - eNaturalist


medium size - 1.25 inches to 2 inches

narrow body

wings have powdery scales

color - white, yellow,or yellowish green

Example: Clouded Sulphur, Cabbage White

clouded sulphur


large - 2 inches to 5.50 inches

narrow body

large wings with long tails

color - yellow and black, white and black, blue and black. all have spots.

Examples: Spicebush Swallowtail, Monarch
Tiger Swallowtail, Zebra Swallowtail

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly


size - 1.50 inches to 3 inches

small forelegs that are useless for walking so they appear to have only 4 legs

large knobs on their antennae

color - orange

Examples: Red Admiral, Red Spotted Purple

Gossamer wings:

size small - 7/8 inches to 2 inches

tiny string tails on wings.

color - blue, copper, brown or orange

chrysalis produces a faint sound believed to ward off predators

Examples: American Copper, Eastern Tailed Blues

American Copper


Fields and Meadows: Habitat | Mammals | Birds | Butterflies | Trees & Plants | Milkweed & Monarch Butterfly Mania

Internet Hunts / Nature / Civics / Pennsylvania Projects / Computer / Habitat Garden / Plants & People / Educational links

Updated 9/2007 by Cynthia J. O'Hora