Different types of butterflies are classified into families and subfamilies based on physical characteristics shared my the species in the group. Below you can read about six different families common in the United States.
The Hesperiids or Skippers and Darts butterflies are small to medium sized, mostly coloured in modest grey, brown, orange or black colors with cream white or yellowish strokes. These butterflies have large eyes. Another very peculiar feature is that they close their wings at rest, unlike most other types of butterflies. Butterflies of this type got their name for hopping from flower to flower. Spreadwing skippers are the most general exception to that rule. There are some other names used for skippers: flats, longtails, cloudywings, flashers, cloudywings, sootywings, skipperlings and duskywings. Butterflies of this type are often taken for moths because of their closed wings and coloring.
The Lycaenidae type belong to the Superfamily Papilionoidea (also called the true butterflies). The gossamer-wing butterflies are relatively small but very beautiful butterflies. Subfamilies of this type are among the most difficult to identify types of butterflies becuase of similiarities in color pattern and size. Most of them have blue color. Typical colors include iridescent blues, oranges and bright reds. Subfamilies of the Lycaenidae family include the hairstreaks, coppers and elfins. Coppers are prevalent in north temperate regions, blues mostly inhabit the Old World tropics and north temperate zones, and hairstreaks are mostly founds in New World tropics.
The Nymphalidae is a butterfly family of about 5000 species. Nymphalidae are known to be the largest family of butterflies that includes multiple subfamilies, genera and species. The butterflies from the Nymphalidae family are aslo frequently called the Brush-Footed butterflies because the hairy forelegs in adults species. The legs resemble tiny brushes and Nymphalida butterflies never use them for walking becuase they are very short. Brush-footed butterflies are also known under the following names: checkerspots, fritillaries, crescents, ladies, tortoiseshells and commas. The appearance and coloring of Nymphalidae vary significantly and determining the specific subfamily requires very close examination of wing color pattern. Many species have orange color on thier wings. Nymphalidaes have the following peculiarities that help identify them from other types of butterflies:
The 'Papilionidae' butterfly family unites over 500 species worldwide, 30 of them occcur North America. These butterflies are large in size and can be easliy recognized for their flying technique: they tend to glide rather than making rapid beating movements with their wings. The swallowtail butterflies are the major and probably best known butterflies from the Papilionidae type. They are distinguished for their beautiful extended tails (apendages) at the bottom of their hindwings that, in fact, gave the name to the subfamily. However, Most Swallowtail butterflies that live in Brisbane have no tails at all! The Papilionidae family are predominantly large and brilliantly coloured butterflies.
The well-known white and sulphur (yellow) butterflies are very widespread and are easily identified by thier color. Thier caterpillars feed on plants of the mustard family and Cruciferae. Cabbage White butterfly form the Pieridae family is sometimes a serious treat to cabbage in the gardens. Pieridae adults are medium to small in size, yellow, white or orange, with some black or red spots. Some of them have hidden ultraviolet patterns on the wings that help attact the mate during courtship. Pieridae catepillars are oftem found on vegetables in the gardens. Orangetips, marbles, yellows and dogfaces are the most well-known specimen from the family.
This family mpstly inhabits Rio Grande valley and the Southwest. The butterflies are usually, orange or brown colored. The biggest subfamily is Metal-marks consisting of at least 1250 species. Metal-marks are lavishly colored and patterned. Most of them prevail in Neotropical region, and just one species is typical for California. Many metal-marks are myrmecophilous. The pipulation of northern metal-marks has dramatically decreased because of habitat destruction and fragmentation due to development, fire and other human activities (for example, spraying chemicals for gypsy moth control or neglect that leads to metal-marks hostplants being crowded overcome by other invasive plants).
We regularly update our website and add new information on various types of butterflies.