There are hundreds of butterfly species that live in Ohio. We are not going to mention them all, but we have compiled a list of the most common butterflies you may encounter.
Continue reading to find out about the butterflies in Ohio and how to identify them.
The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly that belongs to the Danainae subfamily.
It is an excellent pollinator and they are easily recognized with their black, orange, and white wings.
This butterfly grows to 10.2cm in wing span.
This butterfly covers thousands of miles. They were reared on the International Space Station in 2009 and were successful at emerging from pupae. You will often encounter the Monarch butterfly on elms, locust oaks, mulberries, willows, and cottonwoods. When breeding they make their way to pastures, fields, prairies, and suburban areas.
2. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is native to eastern North America. It is a very common butterfly in Ohio that flies in the spring, producing two to three broods. As an adult, they feed on the nectar of several different flower species.
This butterfly grows to 14cm in wing span. The males are yellow with four black stripes on each fore wing. The females can be yellow or black. They lay green eggs on plants and emerge as brown and white caterpillars, which turn green with two back, yellow, and blue spots on the thorax.
3. Pearl Crescent
The Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) is found throughout Ohio in open areas, which include road edges, pastures, fields, open pine woods, and vacant lots. The males have black knobs on their antennae with an orange underside with black borders.
These butterflies grow to 45mm in wing span. The males spend their time patrolling open areas for females, who lay eggs in small batches under the leaf of a host plant. The caterpillar eats the leaves.
As adults, they feed on the nectar of milkweed, dogbane, shepherd’s needle, winter cress, and asters.
4. Silver-spotted Skipper
The Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) has brown-black hind wings and transparent fore wings with gold spots. They can grow to 6.7cm in wing span. You may see one of these butterflies sitting upside down under a leaf, shying away from the heat or rain.
As caterpillars, they feed on woody legumes, such as black locust, false indigo, and some selected herbaceous legumes. As adults, they feed on the nectar of flowers, but interestingly they never visit yellow flowers. They are often encountered in foothill steam courses, prairie waterways, and open woods.
5. Black Swallowtail
The Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) is mostly black on the upper surface with a black spot inside an orange spot on the edge of their hind wing. The males have a yellow band on the edge of the wings, while the female has yellow spots. These are large butterflies that can grow to 11cm in wing span.
As caterpillars, they feed on parsley family plants, which include celery and dill. As adults, they feed on nectar from milkweed, thistles, and red clovers. They can be encountered in a number of areas including suburbs, marshes, roadsides, fields, and deserts.
6. Zabulon Skipper
The Zabulon Skipper (Lon zabulon) is a small butterfly, growing to 4.2cm in wing span. The male has black borders on their wings with a yellow underside, while the female is purple-brown on the upperside with yellow spots and brown under her hind wing, and purple-gray with white edges on the costal margin.
You will often see the males sitting in openings or on the edge of leaves, where they defend their territory. They can sit her for up to a week waiting for a willing female. The female lays single eggs under the leaf of a host plant, which the caterpillar then eats.
As caterpillars, they feed on love grass, purple top, bluegrass, wheat grass, and wild rye. As adults, they feed on the nectar of a range of flowers, which includes red clover, blackberry, and Japanese honeysuckle. You will usually encounter the Zabulon skipper in brushy openings, close to streams and moist forests.
7. Cabbage White
The Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) can grow to 5.9cm in wing span and has a white wing with a black tip. The females have two black spots, while the males have one. Under the wings are yellow-green or gray-green, which are evenly spaced.
As caterpillars, they feed on mustard plants and sometimes plants in the caper family. As adults, they feed on nectar from dandelions, mustards, mint, red clover, and asters. You will find them in just about any open space, including gardens, suburbs, cities, roadsides, and weeded areas.
8. Peck’s Skipper
The male Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius) is brown with red-orange patches on the top of his wings. Females are darker in color. Under the hind wing, both sexes have large yellow spots that are bordered by dark brown. They can grow to 3.2cm in wing span.
It’s not uncommon to see the male Peck’s skipper sitting in an open sunny area waiting for a female. Females then lay a single egg and caterpillars eat and live in the leaves. Caterpillars mostly eat rice-cut grass and bluegrass, while as adults, they feed on the nectar of red clover, thistles, ironweed, milkweed, and New Jersey tea.
You are likely to see this butterfly in open grassy habitats, which include lawns, landfills, vacant lots, marshes, and meadows.
9. Red Admiral
The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) is black with white spots on the upper side and red median bands on their fore wings. The hind wing has a red marginal band. They grow to 7.6cm in wing span. They are fast flyers and very erratic in their flight.
The females lay single eggs on the top of the host plant, which becomes food and shelter for the young caterpillar. The caterpillars all feed on plants from the nettle family, while adults prefer sap flows on trees and fermenting fruits. They also feed on bird droppings.
You will encounter the red admiral in Ohio in moist woods, parks, moist fields, yards, and marshes.
10. Red-spotted Admiral
The Red-spotted Admiral (Limenitis arthemis) is dark brown on the underside with two red-orange bars on their fore wings. The hind wings have three red-orange spots near the base, they grow to 10.1cm in wing span and are decent-sized butterflies.
As adults, they feed on sap flows, rotting fruit, and dung. Sometimes they will sip the nectar of small white flowers. As caterpillars, they feed on the leaves of numerous shrubs and trees. They can be seen in mixed forests, valley bottoms, and coastal plains.
11. Eastern Tailed-Blue
The Eastern Tailed-blue butterfly (Cupido comyntas) has a narrow tail on the hind wing. The males are indecent blue on the upper side, while females are brown, with blue on the wing base during the spring. These butterflies are pale gray on the underside of the hind wing, with a black bar and black spots. There are three large orange spots on the outer margin closest to the tail.
This small butterfly grows to 2.9cm in wing span. The male is seen near host plants during the day waiting for a willing female. The female will lay eggs on flower buds and the caterpillars will then use the buds as food. The caterpillar will hibernate and pupate the following spring.
The eastern tailed-blue butterfly will often rest with their wings held at a forty-five degree angle. As caterpillars, they feed on plants in the pea family, which includes yellow sweet clover, wild pea, and alfalfa. As adults, they have low flight, which means you will see them feeding on flowers close to the ground. This includes winter cress, sweet clover, and wild strawberries.
You will find the eastern tailed-blue butterfly in open and sunny habitats, which includes disturbed habitats and weeded areas.
The Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) is orange and black, very similar to the Monarch in appearance. The difference is that the viceroy has a black line crossing the hind wing with white dots in a single row, which are set in a black margin.
This butterfly can grow to 8.6cm in wing span. You will often see the males perching on vegetation and around the host plants in search of a female. The female lays eggs on the tip of the leaves of the host plant. She will only deposit up to three eggs on a plant.
The caterpillars feed on trees in the willow family, along with cottonwoods. The adults, on the other hand, feed on flowers, which include honeydew. They also feed on dung and decaying fungi. This butterfly is common in open and shrubby areas, including willow thickets, valley bottoms, roadsides, swamp edges, and wet meadows.
13. Spicebush Swallowtail
The Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio troilus) is mostly black with ivory spots, which are seen along the margin. The hind wing has an orange spot on the coastal margin and a blue sheen. Under the hind wing, there are pale green spots. They can grow to 10cm in wing span.
The adults feed on nectar from jewelweed, thistles, azalea, mimosa, Japanese honeysuckle, and milkweed. The caterpillars eat spicebush, prickly ash, tulip trees, and camphor. You will see this beautiful butterfly in fields, yards, wooded swamps, and parks.
14. Eastern Comma
Eastern Comma butterflies (Polygonia comma) are small butterflies with short hind wings. The fore wing is brown-orange with dark spots. The hind wing has two patterns. In summer they are mostly black, but in winter they are orange with black spots. Undersides are brown and they can grow to 6.4cm in wing span.
You will often see a male perching on a tree trunk or leaves watching for a female. They are aggressive flyers and will chase other insects and birds. The female lays a single egg under the leaf or on the stem of the host plant.
The host plants include elm and nettle families, which the caterpillars then use as food. As adults, they feed on tree sap and rotting fruit. They are common in woods, always close to rivers, swamps, marches, and other water sources.
15. Great Spangled Fritillary
The Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) is a large butterfly that can grow to 10.1cm in wing span. The male is tan to orange on the upper side with black scales on the fore wings. Females are darker than males. The hind wings have a wide submarginal band with silver spots on the underside.
The males will fly and perch in open areas looking for a female. The female lays her eggs in late summer, where she deposits them on or close to host violets. The new caterpillars do not feed, they overwinter until spring, then they eat the young violet leaves.
As adults, they feed on several different flower species, including thistles, ironweed, milkweed, bergamot, red clover, purple coneflower, and many more. If you have spent some time in fields, pastures, meadows, valleys, prairies, or woodlands, then chances are you have seen one of these butterflies.
16. Common Buckeye
The Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) is a brown and orange butterfly. The upperside is brown, while the fore wings have two orange bars with two eye spots. The hind wings also have two eye spots with a magenta crescent. Below the hind wing, you will see brown or tan in wet seasons and beautiful rose-red in the fall.
These butterflies grow to 7cm in wing span. The male sits and waits for females during the day, sometimes taking off to chase a flying insect. Caterpillars feed on the snapdragon family, while as adults, they feed on nectar from gumweed, aster, chicory, knapweed, and tick-seed sunflowers. They are common in open and sunny areas with plenty of bare ground and low vegetation.
17. Summer Azure
The Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta) is powder blue with an ill-defined white patch on the hind wing. Females have more white scaling on their wings. Under the hind wing, you will see a white or pale gray with black dogs and a dark zigzag line. They are small butterflies that grow to 2.9cm in wing span.
You will encounter this butterfly in a range of habitats in Ohio, including gardens and stream valleys where adults feed on flower nectar and caterpillars feed on New Jersey Tea and Racemose dogwood.
18. Hackberry Emperor
The Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis) is variable in color, based on its location. They are red-brown with an eye spot on the fore wing and a row of white spots. They can grow to 6.3cm in wing span.
They are fast fliers and very erratic in their flight. They also rest upside down on a tree trunk. Females lay their eggs in clusters and once they become caterpillars, they will feed communally before overwintering in groups.
Adults feed on sap, dung, and rotting fruit, while caterpillars feed on blackberries and sugar berries. They are commonly seen in forest glades, river edges, towns, roadsides, and wooded streams.
19. Orange Sulphur
The Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) is variable in color with males being yellow with an orange overlay and a black border on the upper side. Females are yellow or white with a black border, which surrounds lighter-colored spots. They can grow to 7cm in wing span.
The female will lay a single egg on top of a host plant leaf. The young caterpillars chew holes in the top of the leaves, while older caterpillars will eat half of the leaf. As adults, they feed on nectar from a range of different flowers, including goldenrods and dandelions. You will find them in open sites, clover and alfalfa fields, and vacant lots.
20. Question Mark
The Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) has a hooked fore wing that is red-orange with black spots. The hind wing is mostly black during the summer months and has a short tail. In winter the hind wing becomes more orange with a violet-tipped tail. This butterfly grows to 7.6cm in wing span.
Adults fly and lay eggs in the spring until the end of May. The adult feeds on rotting fruit, dung, and tree sap. If they are unable to find these food sources, they will visit some flowers, including milkweed, sweet pepper bush, and aster. You will see them in wooden areas, suburbs, fence rows, and city parks.
21. Painted Lady
The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is orange-brown with a dark wing base. The fore wing has a black apex and white bar on the leading edge. The hind wing has a row of five small black spots. Undersides are black, brown, and gray with four eye spots.
This butterfly can grow to 7.6cm in wing span. The caterpillar will feed on more than one hundred different host plants, including legumes, thistles, and hollyhock. As adults, they prefer nectar from composites that are at least three feet in height.
This is a common species that is found just about anywhere, they are more common in open and disturbed areas.
22. Clouded Sulphur
The Clouded Sulphur butterfly (Colias philodice) can grow to 7cm in wing span. The male is bright yellow with black edging on the fore wings. The female has two forms, yellow with uneven black edging and yellow spots or white form, which is a green-white color.
They prefer open areas, which includes clover fields, alfalfa field, road edges, fields, meadows, and lawns. The caterpillar feeds on plants in the pea family, while the adults feed on nectar from numerous flower species.
23. Least Skipper
The Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor) has short antennae and orange fore wings with a black border. The hind wing is yellow-orange with a black margin. This small butterfly grows to 2.9cm in wing span.
The males will be seen flying low through grassy areas. The female lays a single egg on a grass blade, when the caterpillar hatches it feeds on the leaves. The caterpillars feed on a variety of grasses, while adults feed on flower nectar from low-growing plants.
Their preferred habitat is wet open spaces with plenty of tall grasses, such as slow streams, old fields, or marshes.
24. Little Wood Satyr
The Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela) is a light brown butterfly that grows to 4.9cm in wing span. The fore wing has two yellow-rimmed black eye spots., and the hind wing has two eye spots. on the upper side.
You will often spot these butterflies in the early morning or late afternoon as they bask with their wings open on tree leaves or leaf litter. They fly in a slow bouncing movement but can fly high to the top of a tall tree.
As adults, they feed on sap, and in some rare instances, they will feed on flower nectar. Caterpillars host on orchard grass and centipede grass. You will find them in old fields and grassy woods.
The upper side of the male Sachem (Atalopedes campestris) is yellow-orange with a brown border and large black stigma. Females vary from dark brown to yellow-brown with a square transparent spot at the end f the fore wing. They can grow to 4.2cm in wing span.
The male spends most of the day perched on or near the ground. Females will lay single eggs on dry grass blades, which the caterpillars use as food once they hatch. Caterpillars will feed on a range of different grasses including Bermuda grass and crabgrass.
As adults, they feed on flower nectar, which includes milkweed, dogbane, peppermint, sunflowers, marigolds, and asters. They are often seen on roadsides, landfills, meadows, yards, lawns, parks, and pastures.
26. Northern Pearly-Eye
The Northern Pearly-eye butterfly (Lethe anthedon) is brown with a dark eye spot. They can grow to 6.7cm in wing span. You are likely to see a male sitting on a tree trunk waiting for a female. The female lays single eggs on host plants, which is a range of grasses, including white grass, plume grass, and bottle brush.
As adults, they feed on fungi, and sap from willows, and dung. They are found in deciduous woods, always near marshes or waterways.
27. Wild Indigo Duskywing
The Wild Indigo butterfly (Erynnis baptisiae) is dark in color with an orange-brown patch at the end of the cell. Males have a costal fold which has yellow scales. They can grow to 4.1cm in wing span and are often seen in open areas with low shrubs.
As adults, they feed on blackberry, white sweet clover, sunflower, and crimson clover nectar. As caterpillars, they feed on wild indigo, false lupine, lupine, and crown vetch. You will find them near highways, upland fields, and railroad beds.
28. Meadow Fritillary
The Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona) has a squared fore wing in orange-red with black markings. They grow to 5.1cm in wing span and males are seen patrolling meadows searching for females during the day.
They fly low during the day and will have two to three broods each year from April to mid-October. Caterpillars host on violets, while adults feed on nectar from composites, which include black-eyed Susans, dandelions, and ox-eyed daisies. You will find this butterfly in wet areas, including marshes and Aspen grows.
29. Silvery Checkerspot
The Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis) is a pale yellow-orange with dark markings and borders. The hind wing has some white submarginal spots. They grow to 5.1cm in wing span.
The female lays eggs in batches on the underside of a host plant leaf. The young caterpillars move in groups, feeding on the leaves. The caterpillar host includes black-eyed Susan, sunflowers, and wingstem. As adults, they feed on nectar from common milkweed, dogbane, and red clover.
You will often see these butterflies in meadows, forest openings, and stream sides.
30. Fiery Skipper
The Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) has short antennae and can grow to 3.8cm in wing span. The male has a wide black stigma with small black spots under the hind wing. Females are dark brown with an irregular orange band and pale brown under the hind wing.
The caterpillars host on Bermuda grass, crabgrass, St Augustine grass, and other grasses. The adults feed on nectar from a range of flowers, including ironweed, thistles, swamp milkweed, asters, and sweet pepper bush. You will find them in open and sunny areas, including gardens, lawns, fields, and roadsides.
31. Common Checkered-Skipper
The male Common Checkered-skipper (Burnsius communis) is blue-gray, while the female is black. They both have large white spots forming median bands on both wings. They grow to 3.8cm in wing span.
The male is mostly active in the afternoon when they patrol for a female. The female will lay a single egg on a leaf bud at the top of the leaves. As caterpillars, they make folded-leaf nests which they live in and feed on. The fully grown caterpillar will hibernate.
Caterpillars feed on a variety of plants in the mallow family, while adults feed on wild flowered composites nectar. They can be found in open and sunny areas with low vegetation and bare soil. They are common on roadsides, meadows, prairies, fields, gardens, pastures, and trails in woods.
32. Zebra Swallowtail
The Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) is pale white-green with black stripes. The hind wings have long tails. They are smaller and lighter in color from early spring but can grow to 10.4cm.
Males are often seen flying near host plants searching for a mate. Females lay single green eggs on the lower leaf of host plants, which the caterpillars then use to feed on, before pupating and hibernating.
The caterpillar hosts are shrubs in the pawpaw family, while adults feed on nectar from flowers and moisture from the sand. Their preferred habitat is low woodlands, close to rivers and swamps. Adults fly close to nectar plants in brushy areas and open fields.
33. Common Wood-Nymph
The Common Wood-nymph butterfly (Cercyonis pegala) is varied based on location. They have brown wings with the upper side of the fore wing having two yellow-ringed eye spots. Under the hind wing, you will see numerous smaller eye spots. They can grow to 7.6cm with some having yellow or yellow-orange on their fore wings.
They have a dipping flight, which they do through vegetation. Caterpillar hosts include purple top and other grasses, while adults feed on flower nectar and rotting fruits. You will find these butterflies in sunny grassed areas, including open meadows, old fields, bogs, and prairies.
34. Eastern Giant Swallowtail
This butterfly (Papilio cresphontes) has a diagonal band of yellow spots on the fore wing and a tail that is edged with black and yellow. They are large butterflies and can grow to 16cm in wing span.
The female will lay a single egg on twigs and leaves of host plants, which include herbs and trees in the citrus family. The caterpillars look like bird droppings and rely on the leaves and young shoots for food.
As adults, their diet comprises nectar from bougainvillea, bouncing Bet, goldenrod, swamp milkweed, and Japanese honeysuckle. They are often found on sandy and rocky hillsides, not too far from fresh water.
35. Bronze Copper
The Bronze Copper butterfly (Tharsalea hyllus) is copper-brown with females having yellow-orange fore wings with black spots. Under the fore wing, you will see orange with black spots, while under the hind wing is white-gray with black spots and a large orange margin. They grow to 4.6cm in wing span.
Adults visit flowers and are seen taking nectar from red clovers and blackberries. The caterpillar hosts include herbs from the buckwheat family. They are often seen in low and wet areas, such as wet meadows, ponds, bogs, and marshes.
36. Little Glassywing
The Little Grassywing butterfly (Vernia verna) is black or black-brown with a large white spot below the end of a black stigma. Females have a transparent square spot at the end of the cell. They can grow to 3.9cm in wing span with males often sighted sitting on low vegetation in sunny areas.
The caterpillar host includes a purple top, while adults feed on nectar from purple, pink, and white flowers. They are often seen in moist areas near shaded wood edges.
37. Banded Hairstreak
The Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus) has one long and one short tail on the hind wing. Both sexes are dark brown, while the underside of the hind wing is dark brown with dark dashes, which are edged in white. There is a blue tail spot. They grow to 3.8cm in wing span.
Males are seen waiting on low shrubs and tree branches during the day. Females lay their eggs on twigs on oak, walnut, and hickory trees.
As adults, they feed on the nectar of flowers, including common milkweed, small flowering dogwood, dogbane, and sweet clover. They prefer forested areas and open fields and edges.