35 Butterflies in Minnesota (Pictures And Identification)

Hundreds of butterfly species live in Minnesota, including the common Monarch butterfly. Monarchs are the official state butterfly in Minnesota.

Multiple species of butterflies adapted to Northern US temperature transit or live in the state.

The following species are found in high numbers across the state.

1. Monarch

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are highly common in Minnesota. The species migrates from the state for warmer overwintering conditions.

Monarch butterflies are commonly found overwintering in Mexico.


The species is known for its orange and black coloring. The orange colors of the butterfly have red nuances.

Black veins and black margins with white dots contrast the bright color of the species.

Male Monarchs are large than females. This species commonly grows to a wingspan of around 4 inches.

2. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Red and pink asters across the state attract Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus). While they mostly feed on these flowers, butterflies of the family can also feed on mud.

These butterflies can drink puddling water asides from relying on plant nectar.

Yellow and black colors dominate the species.

Black bands and margins contrast the mostly bright yellow color of the species.

Mostly solitary, this diurnal species is rarely seen in groups. Exceptions apply to mating periods and mud-feeding habits.

These butterflies have brown caterpillars which resemble bird droppings. They go through 5 instars before emerging as adult butterflies.

3. Red-spotted Admiral

Red-spotted Admiral

This colorful butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) is seen flying for at least 6 days.

Some Red-spotted Admirals have longer lives, being seen around the state for up to 14 days.

Blue and black by nature, the species of butterflies have a varied diet that includes tree sap, plant nectar, rotting fruit, and dung.

Host species for its caterpillars include large trees such as willows, aspens, and oak trees.

This species overwinters in its caterpillar stage, at various instars.

It completes its caterpillar growth stage as soon as the weather warms up, typically by May with a flight season that expands to October.

4. Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio polyxenes) are a complex black, yellow, and blue species common across the state.

This butterfly has a long lifecycle.

It can spend up to 30 days in its caterpillar stage, mainly depending on the weather.

The pupal stage is also long, lasting up to 18 days before the butterfly emerges.

The caterpillar is black at first, slowly turning to a mostly green-grown caterpillar.

While it takes a long time for this species to go from egg to adult butterfly, Black Swallowtails also live longer than most other butterflies in the state.

A low number of predators also allows them to have longer lives.

5. Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Cirsium asters are among the preferred hosts of the Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui).

This is a species with a long-distance migration capacity. However, Painted Lady butterflies only migrate when they need to find new food sources.

Cross-continental migration is seen with these butterflies.

The species may skip some years for migration within North America.

Orange and black colors are specific to this species.

Varying patterns on the wings of the species help it increase its camouflaging capacity.

The species is known to see a few colors, but not red. This means they cannot favor red flowers.

6. Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) move towards Minnesota in the spring. They then move towards the state again in the fall as it prefers to live in warmer climates in the cold months.

A base black color is specific to the species.

The underwings of Red Admirals show camouflaging adaptations which help it appear like a dead tree leaves when its wings are closed.

Food abundance is also one of the reasons the species may move into the state twice per year.

Stinging nettle is the preferred host of the species.

Red Admiral butterfly migration isn’t visible as the butterflies move high above the ground, taking advantage of strong winds.

Further Reading:

7. Mourning Cloak

Mourning Cloak

A North American Native, Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis antiopa) have expansive distribution. They are found across multiple states including Alaska.

The weeping willow is among the most common hosts of Mourning Cloaks.

A common sight across deciduous woodlands, the adult butterfly is a species that feeds on oaks.

It extracts tree sap from oaks.

As Monarchs, Mourning Cloak butterflies can be a species that migrates long distances for food.

While small examples of the species are found, most Mourning Cloaks can grow to a size of up to 4 inches, similar to Monarch butterflies.

8. Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary

Pastures and open fields are common habitats for the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele).

These butterflies rely on violets as caterpillars as they’re rarely seen on other hosts.

Adults feed on nectar with a preference for plants such as milkweed and dogbane.

Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillars overwinter on their hosts before resuming development in the spring.

Seen until early fall, these butterflies are characterized by various combinations of brown and black.

The wide margins of the wings are gradient yellow.

Adult butterflies have a varying wingspan between 2 and 4 inches.

9. Peck’s Skipper

Peck’s Skipper

Peck’s Skippers (Polites peckius) are a common sight in the summer around many open areas with low to medium-height vegetation.

This brown and yellow butterfly is diurnal with a feeding preference that allows it to soak up the warmth of direct sunlight.

White caterpillars grow on various types of grass, adults prefer to feed on plant nectar from other plants.

Thistles and ironweeds are among the preferred nectar sources for adult Peck’s Skipper.

Butterflies of this genus might also be seen on other common nectar sources such as milkweed and dogbane.

The species is one of the common small butterflies of the state. Adults don’t measure more than 1 inch in wingspan in general.

10. Eastern Tailed-Blue

Eastern Tailed-Blue

Blue and black colors are characteristic of male and female Eastern Tailed-Blue butterflies (Cupido comyntas).

This common species has coloring differences between the sexes but similar wingspans.

A size of up to 1.4 inches is specific to the species.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterflies are seen across various habitats, including on crops and in gardens.

Clover fields are a common attraction for the species, as are other plants such as vetches.

Eastern Tailed-Blue caterpillars are known for feeding on various legumes.

11. Small White

Small White

Small White butterflies (Pieris rapae) go through considerable color changes in their lifespan.

The eggs of the species are yellow while the caterpillars are green.

These green caterpillars bore into cabbages and other crucifers as important pests.

Small White lifecycles complete with the emergence of the mostly white adult.

This species started its Eastwards expansion from Asia to Europe, eventually reaching North America.

Mostly white with pale green underwings, Small White butterflies have a reduced size with a typical wingspan shorter or equal to 1.4 inches.

These bright butterflies attract plenty of predators. Small fast birds are among the most important Small White predator species.

12. Northern Crescent

Northern Crescent

Particularly common in Northern US states, this species (Phyciodes cocyta) has orange and black coloring.

Butterflies of this family are expanding their territory to central and Southern US.

The butterfly is part of a small group of butterflies in the North as its wingspan rarely measures more than 1.5 inches.

You can find this butterfly begins to be active in June each summer.

It prefers all types of asters as a host for its eggs and caterpillars.

Tens of eggs are laid by the female butterfly on the leaves of various asters.

Adults make their way to sunny fields of dogbane as a nectar source.

13. Hackberry Emperor

Hackberry Emperor

Hackberry Emperors (Asterocampa celtis) are a species of butterflies native to Northern and Central America.

Many butterflies of the family live in Southern US states.

Identification is based on a combination of brown and black colors across the dorsal wings.

The species is known for laying eggs that hatch into green and yellow caterpillars on hackberry leaves.

You can sometimes find Hackberry Emperor butterflies around the garden where they can feed on fallen rotting fruit.

Hackberry trees typically show significant health impacts whenever this species chooses to lay a large number of eggs.

14. Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper

This type of skipper butterfly (Thymelicus lineola) has brown and black coloring. Black is only seen on the margins of its forewings and hindwings.

Butterflies of this genus are native to Europe. They populate habitats across the United Kingdom from where they were introduced to North America.

The species is mostly seen across Northern US states where it migrated from Canada.

Essex Skippers lay eggs on grasses. These eggs overwinter and only continue their life cycle in the spring.

Various types of grass such as cock’s foot are the preferred host for these overwintering eggs.

The species can be both diurnal and nocturnal, depending on food availability.

15. Northern Pearly-Eye

Northern Pearly-Eye

 These brown butterflies (Lethe anthedon) are found across various US states, particularly on the Eastern half of the continent.

Butterflies of the family are described as a mainly brown species and many consider it a representative species for butterflies with eyespots.

Both dorsal and ventral wings are decorated with larger and small eyespots.

Female butterflies lay eggs on grasses. Caterpillars of the species feed on these grasses until pupation.

Adults prefer other food sources and they’re frequently seen feeding on dung and rotting fruits.

The species is mostly small but it can grow to a wingspan of over 2 inches.

16. Hobomok Skipper

Hobomok Skipper

Hobomok Skippers (Lon hobomok) are native to US and Canadian territories.

They are seen on the sides of the road as these butterflies lay eggs on grasses.

Early season start also means the season of these butterflies ends mid-summer.

You can only see Hobomok Skippers up to the second part of July.

Butterflies of the family are a common sight next to woodlands and in open areas in prairies and fields, but only in direct sunlight.

Peak summertime temperatures mark the end of the Hobomok Skipper season as this species is only seen in a single summer brood.

17. Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma

Brown and orange nuances are specific to the dorsal coloring of this butterfly (Polygonia comma). These colors vary with the season but they’re always contrasted by black margins.

Butterflies of the Eastern Comma genus are seen across the Eastern half of North America.

It uses all types of hosts such as nettle to protect its adaptive caterpillars.

Eastern Comma butterflies rarely feed on plants as adults.

A diet based on fruit and dung is more specific to these variable orange-brown butterflies.

You can find them in all habitats, particularly in humid areas such as next to water sources.

18. Viceroy


Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) are marked by various orange nuances across the dorsal and ventral wings.

Black veins and black margins are also specific to this species.

Viceroy caterpillars are some of the most common caterpillars in the US as they’re seen on some of the most common hardwood trees.

This includes cottonwoods, poplar, and willows.

Its caterpillars have completely different coloring as they’re white and brown. It’s believed its caterpillars mimic bird droppings to signal a potential bad taste to predators.

These butterflies are also known as a species with geographical polymorphism which involves small coloring variations depending on their region.

19. Orange Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

Orange Sulphurs (Colias eurytheme) live secretive lives as nocturnal butterflies.

Contrasting dorsal and ventral coloring is specific to this species. Brown and dark brown is specific to the dorsal wings while yellow is specific to the ventral wings.

Orange Sulphur butterflies rely on pea family plants as food.

These butterflies may or may not be pests, depending on the availability of these plants. They have the capacity of invading alfalfa fields if needed.

Insecticide use isn’t always the best solution against Orange Sulphur butterflies damaging crops.

Black Cotesia parasitic wasps can exterminate these butterflies instead.

20. Least Skipper

Least Skipper

Swamps and wet North American territories are a common habitat for Least Skippers (Ancyloxypha numitor).

Like many other skippers, this family is dominated by yellow and dark brown colors.

Various short types of grass are commonly chosen by the butterfly as hosts for its eggs and caterpillars.

Marsh millet, grass specific to marshes is among its favorites. A wet habitat preference also means Least Skipper butterflies can also populate rice cultivars.

Swamp verbena is one of the preferred nectar sources for adult Least Skippers. These butterflies can sometimes be seen feeding on clovers as well.

The species rarely measures more than 1 in wingspan.

21. Silver-spotted Skipper

Silver-spotted Skipper

Silver-spotted Skippers (Epargyreus clarus) represent one of the largest skipper butterflies.

The name of the species is inspired by the white band seen on the ventral side of the wings.

As a skipper, this butterfly has very specific erratic flying patterns.

It starts life as a differently-colored green caterpillar to become a mostly dark brown butterfly.

These caterpillars have defense mechanisms such as vomiting. Once it senses a potential predator nearby it regurgitates green secretions.

Vines are among the most common hosts of Silver-spotted Skippers.

Soybean and other types of bean crops are common habitats for the species. It’s rarely a considerable pest due to low reproduction rates.

22. Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

The Canadian counterpart of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) is smaller.

Yellow and black are the dominant colors of these butterflies. While smaller, it still grows to a wingspan of up to 80mm.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail butterflies have green caterpillars which turn into brown maturing caterpillars.

The capacity to mimic bird droppings is what makes these caterpillars safer than others.

Birch, aspen, poplar, and Eastern cottonwoods are all common host trees for the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail.

Adults move on to other plants for nectar.

Some Canadian Tiger Swallowtails can also consume nutrients from the soil, as Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.

23. Common Wood-Nymph

Common Wood-Nymph

Common Wood-Nymphs (Cercyonis pegala) are native to US territories and Southern Canada habitats.

This species is marked by brown coloring with light brown patches that contrast with dark brown eyespots.

Larger than skippers, these types of brown butterflies may sometimes reach a wingspan of 2.9 inches.

Common in woodlands, the species mainly feeds on plants.

Thistles are among its common nectar sources in Canada.

Wild carrots, mint, and butterfly weed are also common food sources for the adult Common Wood-Nymph.

This black butterfly (ventral coloring) is seen laying eggs on grasses such as beard grass.

24. Clouded Sulphur

Clouded Sulphur

This butterfly (Colias philodice) has off-white to yellow coloring.

It can be found in almost all North American territories. Its range expands from Texas to Alaska.

Clouded Sulphur butterflies are seen feeding on various wild plants as well as on cultivated plants with a risk of becoming a mild pest.

You can find it using all types of small bushes as hosts for its eggs.

Clovers and soybean are also common hosts for the species.

Similar to Orange Sulphurs, this butterfly is a small to medium-sized species.

Most adults grow to a varying wingspan measuring anywhere between 32 and 54mm.

25. Compton Tortoiseshell

Compton Tortoiseshell

Compton Tortoiseshell butterflies (Nymphalis l-album) are found across Northern parts of North America. They live in habitat between Alaska and Northern US states.

These butterflies can migrate, on occasion. While rare, migration of Compton Toirtoiseshells is still possible.

Butterflies can arrive in Florida from Northern US states.

Willows tend to be the preferred host and food source for the species. Its caterpillars grow on willow while adults can feed on willow nectar.

Rotting fruits are also part of the Compton Tortoiseshell’s diet.

26. American Lady

American Lady

American Lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis) are mostly seen in a couple of broods per year.

Small identification differences are noted between the early and late broods of the species.

American Lady butterflies measure anywhere between 1.7 and 2.4 inches.

They have brown colors with black sections across the forewings.

Coloring nuances vary as this species moves from one brood to another. Darker colors are specific to butterflies seen later in the season.

Size comparisons show American Lady butterflies emerging in the spring or early summer months may also be larger than the same butterflies emerging later in the season.

27. Eastern Giant Swallowtail

Eastern Giant Swallowtail

Eastern Giant Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio cresphontes) are some of the largest in the state.

Male butterflies average a 5-inch wingspan but they can grow past the 7-inch mark with the right sources of nectar.

These butterflies are a detrimental species in the US, as a pest of citruses. This is mostly the case in Florida.

The species feeds on local plants and flowers in Minnesota as it abandons some of its favorite hosts and feeds plants outside of Southern regions.

Lantana and Japanese honeysuckle are common nectar sources for adults.

These butterflies consume animal dung.

You can identify them by their dark brown to black color with a row of yellow marks forming horizontal bands across the dorsal wings.

28. Silvery Checkerspot

Silvery Checkerspot

Silvery Checkerspot butterflies (Chlosyne nycteis) have a yellow to orange color with black patterns covering forewings and hindwings.

The species that grows on asters are a caterpillar. Overwintering a caterpillar stage is common.

Caterpillar growth resumes in the spring, from the third instar.

Once emerged as an adult, this butterfly moves to dogbane, milkweed, and clovers for food.

You can see this species in open sunny areas where asters grow. Silvery Checkerspots may also be seen next to water sources.

29. Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) have similar diets to Silvery Checkerspot butterflies.

Dogbane and milkweed are among the nectar sources these butterflies rely on.

You can see Pearl Crescent butterflies from April until early November across the state.

Dark and pale orange colors are specific to the species. Black checkered patterns and white bands further distinguish the species.

30. Summer Azure

Summer Azure

Similar to Spring Azures, Summer Azure butterflies (Celastrina neglecta) are a bright species of butterflies in the state.

A light blue color is specific to this species and has a varying wingspan.

They are a small butterfly species with a wingspan that measures at least 0.9 inches.

Summer Azure butterflies have varying blue nuances. These summertime butterflies can be seen from June to October.

31. Banded Hairstreak

Banded Hairstreak

This dark butterfly (Satyrium calanus) can be seen across multiple woodlands. Its caterpillars feed on oak and walnut.

Banded Hairstreak caterpillars also grow on hickory.

Adults only feed on nectar-rich plants such as dogbane.

Dark brown coloring is specific to this species.

Black, white, and orange marks of a reduced size contrast its darker wings.

Banded Hairstreak butterflies are small, with a wingspan of up to 1.2 inches.

32. Atlantis Fritillary

Atlantis Fritillary

This declining species of butterflies (Speyeria atlantis) has orange base coloring with black patterns across the wings.

Lighter orange nuances with large white dots are visible on the underside of its wings.

It grows to 2.5 inches with the smallest Atlantis Fritillary butterflies measuring 2 inches in wingspan.

Its caterpillars may sometimes be seen on violets across the state.

Adults feed on common flowers and herbs such as milkweed and mint.

33. Meadow Fritillary

Meadow Fritillary

Orange, brown, and yellow nuances are specific to this butterfly (Boloria bellona), together with black patterns across the wings.

Meadow Fritillary butterflies have varying wingspans which can measure a maximum of 2 inches.

Multiple broods are seen each year. This species can have up to 3 yearly broods.

You can see Meadow Fritillary butterflies across the state starting in April. Unlike other species, it can remain active until October.

Marshes and wet habitats are among the favorites of the species.

Meadow Fritillary butterflies begin life as a species of caterpillars on various violets across the state.

Adults feed on plant nectar and are seen on daisies and dandelions among other species.

34. Long Dash

Long Dash

Long Dash butterflies (Polites mystic) are a common skipper found in most humid areas across the state.

These butterflies can fold their forewings up in a triangular shape.

You can identify Long Dash butterflies by their dark brown dorsal wings coloring. Dark yellow spots are seen in the central area of the dorsal wings.

Ventral wing coloring is lighter. Light brown and yellow colors dominate the ventral wings of the species.

Bluegrasses are the main host species of caterpillars.

Adults feed on plant nectar from milkweed and other common plants.

You can see Long Dash butterflies in a limited period as they only appear in one brood. They only remain active until August.

35. Little Wood Satyr

Little Wood Satyr

Brown coloring is specific both to adult and caterpillar stages of the Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela).

These butterflies are a common sight across the edges of woodlands, areas known for having multiple types of grasses.

Short and tall grasses are used by the species to lay eggs on and as food for the emerging caterpillar

Species such as St. Augustine grass and orchardgrass are among the common host plants of its caterpillars.

You can identify this species by its dark brown color and wingspan which measures a maximum of 48mm.

Dark brown, light brown, and black eyespots are specific to the dorsal wings of the butterfly.