TABLE OF CONTENTS

HELPFUL HINTS………………………………………………2
SWALLOWTAILS (Papilionidae)……………………………...3
WHITES and SULPHURS (Pieridae)…………………………..4
HAIRSTREAKS (Lycaenidae)………………………………….4
BLUES (Lycaenidae)……………………………………………5
HELICONIANS and FRITTILARIES (Nymphalidae)…………5
SNOUTS (Lycaenidae)………………………………………….6
COPPERS (Lycaenidae)………………………………………...6
TRUE BRUSH-FOOTS (Nymphalidae)……………………...6-7
ADMIRALS and RELATIVES (Nymphalidae)………………..8
MILKWEED BUTTERFLIES (Nymphalidae)…………………8
EMPERORS (Nymphalidae)……………………………………9
SATYRS (Nymphalidae)………………………………………..9
A Beginner’s Guide to

Butterfly Identification in
Northern Virginia and
Washington, D.C.



Book sources used to compile this guide:

A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies, Opler, Paul A. and Vichai Malikul, Houghton Mifflin
Company: Boston, 1992.

Butterflies through Binoculars: The East, Glassberg, Jeffrey, Oxford University Press, Inc.:
New York, 1999.


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Inches
Helpful Hints:
Butterfly Anatomy and Size:
Forewing
Hindwing
Upperside
Underside
Useful Online Sources:

http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/
http://www.virginia.edu/blandy/ClarkeCountyLandUseSurvey/ccmapping.htm
http://www.carolinanature.com/butterflies/
Small
(<2 in wingspan)
Medium
(2-3 in wingspan)
Large
(3-6 in wingspan)
2


Pipevine Swallowtail
Color(s): Black
Key Features: One row large orange spots on iridescent blue
on underside. Upperside black with iridescent dark green,
very little white
Adult Habitat: Glades in woods; wooded clearings
WARNING! Similar in flight to Black, Spicebush, and dark
female E. Tiger Swallowtails. Note one row of orange spots
and blue on underside of hindwing.
SWALLOWTAILS
Zebra Swallowtail
Color(s): White with black stripes
Key Features: Very long tails; zebra striped
Adult Habitat: Moist woods along rivers, woods
swamps, pine flatwoods
Black Swallowtail
Color(s): Black, yellow
Key Features: Very dark black; 2 rows of orange spots
Adult Habitat: Open areas—fields, gardens, waste areas,
marshes, meadows
WARNING! Spicebush, Pipevine, and dark female E.
Tiger Swallowtails look similar in flight. Note two rows
of orange spots on hindwing and habitat.
Spicebush Swallowtail
Color(s): Black, blue
Key Features: Spoon-shaped tails
Adult Habitat: Deciduous forests, second growth woods,
edges, wooded swamps, pine barrens
WARNING! Black, Pipevine, and dark female E. Tiger
Swallowtails look similar in flight. Note two rows of orange
spots on hindwing and habitat.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Color(s): Yellow, black stripes; some females are black
Key Features: Tiger-striped
Adult Habitat: Deciduous broadleaf forests, edges, and
river valleys
WARNING! Some females look similar to Pipevine, but
without iridescent blue on underside of hindwing.
3



Red-Banded Hairstreak
Color(s): Gray-brown; red/orange stripe
Key Features: Hair-like tails on wings; red stripe
Adult Habitat: Fields, coastal hammocks, edges
WHITES and SULPHURS
Cabbage White
Color(s): White
Key Features: Extremely common and wide-spread
Adult Habitat: Open, weedy areas in urban and rural
settings: gardens, powerlines, marshes, road edges.
Clouded (Common) Sulfur
Color(s): Yellow
Key Features: Males have dark margins on all wings
Adult Habitat: Open; fields, lawns, road edges, clover
WARNING! Similar to orange sulphur. Common
sulphur does not have orange on forewing.
Orange (Alfalfa) Sulfur
Color(s): Yellow, some orange
Key Features: Orange patches in center of forewing;
Dark edges on males
Adult Habitat: Open; fields, lawns, road edges
WARNING! Similar to common sulphur. Orange
sulphur does not have orange on forewing.
HAIRSTREAKS
© N American Butterfly Association
© www.discoverlife.org
Gray Hairstreak
Color(s): Gray-blue; large red spot near tail
Key Features: Hair-like tails; red spot on hindwing
Adult Habitat: Open sites; often disturbed, weedy areas
DC AREA ONLY!
4



Meadow Fritillary
Color(s): Orange
Key Features: Dull orange with brown/black dashes;
medium-sized
Adult Habitat: Low, moist grassy fields
BLUES
Eastern Tailed Blue
Color(s): Light blue; orange spots on underside
Key Features: Small tails and tiny orange spots on
hindwing; dark outline around upperwings
Adult Habitat: Open, sunny, weedy fields and meadows
WARNING! Female upperwings are grey/brown with
little blue. Common Blue is similar, but without orange
spots and tiny tails. Note habitat difference.
Common Blue (Summer Azure)
Color(s): Light blue; females have black outline
Key Features: Very small, moth-like, often very pale blue
Adult Habitat: Deciduous woods and wooded edges
WARNING! Eastern Tailed Blue is similar, but with
orange spots and tiny tails. Note habitat difference.
HELICONIANS and FRITILLARIES
Great Spangled Fritillary
Color(s): Orange
Key Features: Bright orange with silver spots; large
Adult Habitat: Moist; open fields, meadows, roadsides
© www.birdsofoklahoma.net
Variegated Fritillary
Color(s): Orange
Key Features: Upper side orange with thick dark veins and
markings; black spots near margin. Underside of hind-
wing has mottled pattern, no silver spots.
Adult Habitat: Open sunny areas such as fields, pastures,
road edges, and landfills.
DC AREA ONLY!
5


Eastern Comma
Color(s): Orange
Key Features: Wing edges deeply cut; looks tattered;
Upper wings have dark margin
Adult Habitat: Damp forests, marshes, swamps, rivers
WARNING! Similar to Question Mark, but upper
wing edges darker and appear more tattered.
TRUE BRUSH-FOOTS: Anglewings
© Samford University
SNOUTS
American Snout
Color(s): Brown and orange
Key Features: Distinct protrusion from head (snout);
angular wings with dark margins; orange near body
Adult Habitat: Forested rivers & marshes, fields, edges
Question Mark
Color(s): Orange
Key Features: Upper hindwings dark; black speckles on
forewings; frilly, angular wing margins
Adult Habitat: Woodlands and nearby open areas
WARNING! Similar to Eastern Comma, but upper wing
edges lighter and appear less tattered.
COPPERS
American Copper
Color(s): Orange
Key Features: Forewings orange with black spots; flies
close to the ground; bright orange flash
Adult Habitat: Meadows, old fields, roadsides, landfills
6


Pearl Crescent
Color(s): Orange
Key Features: Orange with dark markings; brown smudge
on hindwing; low flight
Adult Habitat: Meadows and old fields
Mourning Cloak
Color(s): Black
Key Features: Pale yellow/white margin on outside of
upper wings
Adult Habitat: Streams, wooded clearings, urban parks,
damp woods
© www.monctonnaturalistsclub.org
MORE TRUE BRUSH-FOOTS
American Lady
Color(s): Orange
Key Features: Underside has cobweb-like pattern and pink
patch on forewing. Two large eyespots on hind wings.
Adult Habitat: Open spaces like fields and roadsides
DC AREA ONLY!
© www.wisconsinbutterflies.org
Painted Lady
Color(s): Orange-pink
Key Features: Underside has cobweb-like pattern and pink
patch on forewing. Four small eyespots on hind wings.
Adult Habitat: Open spaces of all kinds
DC AREA ONLY!
7


Monarch
Color(s): Orange, black
Key Features: Bright orange, black veins
Adult Habitat: Meadows, weedy fields, moist areas
WARNING! Similar to Viceroy, but larger and does not
have a black band crossing hindwings. Glides in a “V”
shape, while Viceroy glides with flat wings.
ADMIRALS and RELATIVES
MILKWEED BUTTERFLIES
Red Spotted Purple
Color(s): Greenish blue
Key Features: Hindwings with black stripe lining margin;
Red spots at tip of upper forewing & edges of outer wings
Adult Habitat: Broadleaf deciduous forests
WARNING! Similar to Pipevine Swallowtail (p 3), but
has red spots on forewings and no tails on hindwings.
Common Buckeye
Color(s): Brown with brightly colored orange spots
Key Features: Eyespots on upper wings are large and
brightly colored
Adult Habitat: Exposed areas: meadows, road edges
Viceroy
Color(s): Orange, black
Key Features: Bright orange, black veins, and black band
cutting across hindwings.
Adult Habitat: Open areas near water or marshes with willow
WARNING! Mimic of Monarch. Viceroy is smaller, has
black band across hindwings, and glides with flat wings.
Monarch glides in a “V” shape.
Black band unique to viceroy
Red Admiral
Color(s): Black, red, orange
Key Features: Reddish-orange bands on both forewings
and hindwings; rapid flight
Adult Habitat: Open areas with flowers
© www.birdsofoklahoma.net
8



Northern Pearly Eye
Color(s): Pale grey
Key Features: Pale color; row of dark spots on underside
Adult Habitat: Damp deciduous woods near streams or
marshes
Common Wood Nymph
Color(s): Brown
Key Features: Dark spots on underside and upperside
wing margins
Adult Habitat: Prairies, fields, pine woods, bogs, meadows
SATYRS
EMPERORS
Hackberry Emperor
Color(s): Dark brown
Key Features: Upperside of forewing dark brown with
white spots; very friendly, will land on you
Adult Habitat: Forested streams and clearings; edges
WARNING! Similar to Tawny Emperor, but usually
less colorful.
Tawny Emperor
Color(s): Brown with colorful hindwings
Key Features: Hindwings darker than forewings
Adult Habitat: Heavily wooded areas near rivers, dry
woods, cities
WARNING! Similar to Hackberry Emperor, but
usually more colorful.
Little Wood-Satyr
Color(s): Brown
Key Features: Two eye spots on forewing and hindwing
Adult Habitat: Edge habitat between fields and forests
DC AREA ONLY!
9