Arizona is one of the states where butterflies are seen most months of the year. Multiple species remain active until November-December here.
Desert scrub is one of the preferred habitats for butterflies in the state.
Many of the species seen here are even known to settle in the state when migrating from Northern territories to escape cold winters.
With some of the longest-living butterflies in the US, Arizona is home to colorful butterfly species like the ones below.
Queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus) are dominated by orange or brown colors. They have wide thick black bands with tiny white dots across.
White spots are also distinguished on the inner wings of Queen butterflies.
These species are seen around their host plants during the day.
Male Queen butterflies are commonly seen during the day as they seek a female mate once they reach adulthood.
Male Queen butterflies may mate up to a few times per day and they rely on pheromones to attract more females to mate multiple times per day.
2. American Snout
American Snouts (Libytheana carinenta) are a common butterfly species across Arizona and other Southern states.
The species has orange and dark brown coloring with white spots across the wings. Its ventral wings look similar to dry leaves.
American Snout butterflies are one of the multiple migratory species across the state.
It’s now known what triggers their migration as these butterflies don’t migrate every year.
Most theories attribute American Snout Arizona migrations to periods of heavy rain after long droughts.
3. Pipevine Swallowtail
This is one of the most mimicked species of butterflies in the state given they are highly distasteful to predators.
Butterflies of the species are normally avoided by species that eat butterflies given they have very bad taste.
You can find Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies (Battus philenor) across the state in areas rich in thistle and Ironweed.
The species grows up to a maximum wingspan of 5.1 inches.
4. Marine Blue
Marine Blue butterflies (Leptotes marina) live in deserts across the world.
This species has light brown and white ventral wings which contrast black eyespots with yellow borders.
Butterflies such as Marine Blue use eyespots to appear a larger species and to keep predators away.
They also rely on eyespots to make predators that attack them first bite the less important margins of the wings.
This species is classified as a small butterfly in the state.
Most butterflies of the species never reach the maximum wingspan of 29mm.
5. Painted Lady
Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) have similar ventral wings coloring to Marine Blue butterflies.
They also have light brown sections mixed with white sections while also displaying eyespots.
Unlike Marine Blue butterflies, Painted Lady butterflies have smaller eyespots.
This species of butterfly is also known for having orange and black coloring across the dorsal wings.
White spots are seen on the black areas of the wings while black marks are characteristic of the orange areas of the wings.
6. Empress Leilia
Orange to brown or brown colors is specific to the dorsal wings of Empress Leilia butterflies (Asterocampa leilia).
The species is predominant across states in the Southern US.
It has black eyespots, white marks, and a gray-to-brown body.
Empress Leilia butterflies feed on dung and rotten fruit, unlike most other species in the state which are known for eating pollen.
Empress Leilia butterflies grow to a maximum wingspan of 2 inches.
7. Sleepy Orange
Desert scrub is one of the favorite habitats of Sleepy Orange butterflies (Abaeis nicippe).
These colorful butterflies have yellow dorsal wings which make them look like the yellow plant leaves in the fall.
They have a wingspan that can reach 2.3 inches and are known to live almost throughout the year in the Southern regions of the state.
Cassia flowers are among the favorite host plants for the caterpillars of the species.
Adult Sleepy Orange butterflies feed on nectar.
8. Echo Azure
Light blue to gray coloring is specific to Echo Azure butterflies (Celastrina echo).
This species is seen across the state and elsewhere around The Rocky Mountains up to Canada.
Echo Azures are among the most common species to begin life as a white egg and then a green caterpillar.
They are seen across various host plants with a preference for wild lilacs.
They are most active from late February. You might see Echo Azures fly until October across the state.
You can differentiate males from females by the amount of blue coloring seen across the dorsal wings.
9. Arizona Sister
This species (Adelpha eulalia) of butterfly has mostly dark brown to black colors.
It has a V-shaped row of white dots across the wings plus brown spots on the forewings.
You can find Arizona Sister butterflies across riparian areas in valleys and canyons. These are areas with plenty of vegetation just next to the water.
The butterfly is also a common sight across oak woodlands.
With some blue overlays across the wings, Arizona Siste butterflies tend to stand out.
They also stand out due to their size as they have a wingspan that measures anywhere between 3 and 5 inches.
10. Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak butterflies (Strymon melinus) are a common sight across the state given they can consume the nectar of various native plants.
These plants include dogbane, clover, and mint.
Adult Gray Hairstreak butterflies feed on the nectar of these plants while the caterpillars of the species feed on plants and fruits.
The species has blue to gray dorsal wings and mostly gray ventral wings.
2 small orange dots and 2 short black tails further distinguish Gray Hairstreak butterflies.
11. Dainty Sulphur
Dainty Sulphur butterflies (Nathalis iole) are identified by their yellow to orange forewings and gray to white ventral wings.
This species has a considerable presence across the state in areas with low vegetation.
Its plants such as asters that the species use for its caterpillars as well as food for its adults.
It can also be seen on other plants rich in nectar such as marigolds.
This species sometimes makes it across the border into Mexico and further South to Nicaragua.
12. Checkered White
The Checkered White butterfly (Pontia protodice) has mostly white colors. The species has small coloring differences between males and females.
Off-white coloring is specific to males who also exhibit gray-charcoal spots on the edges of the wings.
Females have a darker shade of off-white coloring with darker gray-charcoal marks on the forewings and the hindwings.
Almost all-white coloring is specific to the ventral side of the species.
This butterfly begins life as a yellow egg with visible ridges. It then turns into a black and yellow caterpillar before emerging as a white and charcoal adult butterfly.
13. Reakirt’s Blue
Pea plants are some of the most common species to host Reakirt’s Blue (Echinargus isola) caterpillars. These types of butterflies use peas to lay eggs.
Adult Reakirt’s Blue butterflies are normally seen nearby, feeding on plants such as sweet clover.
This type of butterfly is named after its dominant blue color.
Blue is seen covering the dorsal wings of the species with dark gray to black margins and black visible veins.
This species has a widespread presence across the state and through much of North America, except the Northwest.
The species is small as its wingspan barely measures more than 2 inches.
14. Ceraunus Blue
Ceranus Blue butterflies (Hemiargus ceraunus) are a common sight across the state and other Southern states.
This species has a light blue color with black and white borders across the forewings and the hindwings.
Its common appearance is doubled by host plants and also used by other species.
This butterfly uses legumes as host species. Adults are known for feeding on short plant nectar.
Ceraunus Blue butterflies inhabit territories next to woodlands, crops, gardens, parks, and other sunny areas.
The species is fully adapted to survive in desert scrub as well.
15. Texan Crescent
Texan Crescent butterflies (Anthanassa texana) have a very long season across the state.
These butterflies can be seen up until November.
Identification is based on the orange to brown color of the forewings and the black hindwings.
White spots are seen across the forewings and the hindwings.
This species only lives in the South where it makes the most of desert scrub, arid land, and other habitats low in humidity.
Jacobina plants in these areas are one of the most common hosts for their eggs and caterpillars.
16. Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skippers (Hylephila phyleus) in the state are found in the most central region of their habitat as the life in Northern parts of North America and down to the Southern parts of South America.
This species has yellow and black, brown and black, or orange and black coloring under different nuances.
Yellow tends to be the uniform dominant color of the underside for the species.
These butterflies tend to have higher nuanced variations in the South compared to Fiery Skippers in Northern territories.
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), one of the most common North American species, are also found across the state.
This species of butterfly is found all across the country. The 2 large groups of Monarchs are divided by The Rocky Mountains themselves.
These mountains separate Western Monarchs from Eastern Monarchs.
Western populations migrate to California while Eastern populations migrate long distances to overwinter.
Populations across Arizona are seen throughout the year in various overwintering locations.
Arizona milkweed is one of the state-exclusive host plants for Monarchs.
18. Gray Buckeye
This species (Junonia grisea) of butterfly has a dark brown color on the forewings and a light brown gradient color towards the lower hindwings.
Butterflies of this genus have orange coloring on the hindwings as well as large black and orange eyespots.
This species is one of the most abundant butterflies with eyespots across the state. These eyespots are used to keep predators away.
Gray buckeye butterflies have gray to brown body coloring.
19. Western Pygmy-Blue
The Western Pygmy-Blue butterfly (Brephidium exilis) has dark brown coloring with blue nuances towards the body.
As one of the smallest butterflies in the United States, Western Pygmy-Blue only grows to 15-20mm.
Western Pygmy-Blue butterflies are also native to small regions of Asia.
The species is highly common across dry areas of the state.
You can find it on pigweed and other similar plants.
20. Cloudless Sulphur
Red morning glories and other tubular flower plants are among the most common hosts for Clouded Sulphur butterflies (Phoebis sennae).
The species has elongated tongues which allow them to reach the nectar of these flowers.
Clouded Sulphur butterflies are further known for having a yellow-green color. Females have a narrow black margin across the forewings and the hindwings.
This species is seen until late November although it can survive throughout the year in the Southern regions of the state, as it those in Southern Texas and Southern Florida.
21. Gulf Fritillary
This species (Dione vanillae) of butterfly is found all around the state where passiflora plants are found.
The group of plants is the ideal host for the migratory species.
Gulf Fritillary butterflies end up in the state from Northern habitats. They migrate to Arizona and other Southern states to escape the cold winters in the North.
A strong survival instinct is characteristic of the species.
This can also be seen in the mating process where the male also transfers nutrients to the female for the survival of the species.
22. Variegated Fritillary
Asters, legumes, and milkweed are some of the most common plants the Variegated Fritillary butterfly (Euptoieta claudia) is seen around.
This species of orange-brown and black butterflies are also seen on clovers and Ironweed.
Its flight season starts in April and lasts until October.
23. Tiny Checkerspot
Orange-brown and black are typical color combinations for Tiny Checkerspot butterflies (Dymasia dymas).
This species has orange, white, and black color combinations on the ventral wings.
With a wingspan of up to 1.3 inches, Tiny Checkerspot butterflies are most abundant in areas with desert scrub.
24. Funereal Duskywing
New Mexican locusts and clovers are among the most common hosts for Funeral Duskywing butterflies (Erynnis funerals).
You can easily identify this species by its dark brown wings. Its forewings are pointed and characterized by white margins.
This species appears in March. It remains active until December.
25. Mexican Yellow
Desert grasslands are the habitats most likely to host the Mexican Yellow (Abaeis mexicana).
This butterfly species has distinct bright yellow coloring. Males exhibit dark brown margins across the wings while females have bright brown margins.
Mexican Yellow butterflies are a common sight in the state throughout the year.
26. Orange Skipperling
Orange Skipperling butterflies (Copaeodes aurantiaca) have a base orange-yellow color with brown margins.
Its body is mostly brown.
This skipper butterfly can fold its forewings up in a triangular shape.
27. Two-tailed Swallowtail
Arizona rosewood is one of the most common host species of Two-tailed Swallowtails (Papilio multicaudata).
These butterflies are often seen around roadsides.
Two-tailed Swallowtail butterflies have mostly yellow wings with black stripes and black margins.
Black tails and blue-orange marks are also seen on the hindwings of the species.
28. Fatal Metalmark
Sipwillows are a common host for the Fatal Metalmark (Calephelis nemesis).
This species has contrasting dorsal and ventral colors. It has dark brown almost uniform coloring on the dorsal wings.
Orange ventral wings are seen on the Fetal Metalmark.
You may see this species in ditches and marshes throughout the state.
29. Western Giant Swallowtail
Western Giant Swallowtails (Papilio rumiko) are among the largest butterflies in the state.
This species has a wingspan that can reach up to 50mm.
Black and yellow colors are specific to Western Giant Swallowtails. Black dominates dorsal coloring with just a few yellow areas. Yellow dominates the ventral wings.
30. Bordered Patch
A median band is a type of colored band that runs across the central section of the wings of butterflies.
Bordered Patch butterflies (Chlosyne lacinia) are famous for having a gradient color median band.
This band is cream on top and orange on the bottom.
The dominant color of the dorsal wings is dark brown. Yellow is the primary color of its ventral wings.
31. Southern Dogface
Alfafa and verbena are among the most common host plants of the Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia).
This species begins life as a dark green caterpillar to then turns into a light green-yellow butterfly.
With a wingspan that can reach 3 inches, Southern Dogface butterflies are mostly found in dry habitats across Arizona.
32. Orange Sulphur
Orange, brown, and yellow colors are most common on Orange Sulphur butterflies (Colias eurytheme).
This is a common pest across the state, particularly to alfalfa which adults eat.
Orange Sulphur caterpillars feed on pea family plants they live on. These caterpillars are only active at night.
33. Tailed Orange
While it appears late in the season (August), the Tailed Orange butterfly (Pyrisitia proterpia) remains active until December.
This species is tied to pea family plants as a caterpillar and to a wide range of desert scrub plants for nectar as an adult.
Tailed Orange is a rare sight in North America as they’re mostly known for living in tropical and subtropical climates.
34. Arizona Checkerspot
Orange, black, and white are the main colors of the Arizona Checkerspot (Texola perse).
This is a species of butterfly that feeds on various flowers.
It has a main orange color with black patterns and black margins on the dorsal wings.
Its ventral coloring has white or off-white sections, orange, and black colors. The body of the Arizona Checkerspot is orange and it exhibits parallel black bands.
35. Leda Ministreak
You can find Leda Ministreak butterflies (Ministrymon leda) across scrubland and woodlands of the state.
This species has gray to white colors with black and orange ventral stripes.
It feeds on various mesquites and it’s one of the smaller species in the state. Its caterpillars feed on plants and flowers.
Leda Ministreak is commonly seen in a wingspan shorter than 1 inch.
36. Mourning Cloak
Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis antiopa) have a dark brown color with yellow and blue being secondary colors.
This species is mostly specific to temperate climates of the Northern hemisphere.
Across Arizona, it lives at least 11 months, being one of the long-life butterflies of the state.
This species doesn’t migrate or it only rarely migrates from the state as its migratory habits are more specific elsewhere.
37. Red-spotted Admiral
Red-spotted Admiral butterflies (Limenitis arthemis) in Arizona mimic Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies.
Black and blue colors are specific to the dorsal wings of the species, with orange sections on the forewings. These colors are also specific to the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies.
Red-spotted Admirals have different colors in the Northern state.
They have a black color with a V-shaped white band across the dorsal wings North of Arizona.
38. Red Satyr
Red Satyr butterflies (Cissia rubricata) have both dorsal and ventral eyespots. This species has brown and orange dorsal coloring with black eyespots.
The dorsal eyespots are considerably smaller than the ventral eyespots.
Red Satyr butterflies have gray to brown ventral coloring with larger black, blue, and yellow eyespots.
The body of the species is brown with white marks on the head.
39. Golden-headed Scallopwing
This brown to black butterfly is one of the smaller species only seen in Southern US states and Mexico.
This species (Staphylus ceos) often has a wingspan of 0.9 inches and is seen in desert valleys and canyons.
Fremont’s goosefoot is the main plant host for Golden-headed Scallowping caterpillars.
40. Palmer’s Metalmark
Seen in desert scrub, Palmer’s Metalmark (Apodemia palmerii) is one of the rarer types of metalmark butterflies in the state.
This species is identified by its brown coloring with a copper tinge. White spots with black margins are also characteristic of the forewings and the hindwings of the species.
Palmer’s Metalmark butterflies are active most months, with broods appearing up to November across the state.