Virginia is one of the states that sees an above-average number of butterflies in the US. Many species are found in the Eastern parts of the country and this includes Virginia.
Some of the butterflies found in the state are common in the region. They are found in all sizes and colors across the state.
Some butterflies in Virginia are even known for migrating. Moving South during the winter and coming back North in the summer is specific to some of these species.
Here are the most common types of butterflies likely to be seen in the state.
Table of Contents
1. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) have a widespread distribution across Virginia. This species is adapted to various climates as its presence is signaled both in Eastern US and in Eastern Canada.
Black and yellow coloring are specific to this species. The butterfly has a long wingspan of up to 5.5 inches.
These butterflies are mostly yellow with black stripes and black margins for males. Females have additional blue margins on the lower hindwings.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are commonly seen feeding on dogbane and asters. Adults of the species prefer to eat pollen.
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are some of the most colorful large species of butterflies in Virginia.
The state offers a home both for sedentary and migratory Monarchs. These butterflies migrate long distances but can also overwinter in Virginia.
They need a few conditions to stay in the state during the winter. Water proximity is among them.
Monarchs also need trees such as oak and elms to overwinter on.
You can identify the species by its orange and black color or brown and black color. Its large black veins make for a contrasting dorsal look.
Sachem butterflies (Atalopedes campestris) are a common species across the state and in many other parts of the country.
This species has a brown ventral color of the wings and an almost white ventral body color.
Its dorsal wings have a dark brown color with light brown inner parts while its dorsal body is dark brown and gray.
Sachem butterflies have triangular shape wings as their forewings can fold up.
This species is always seen on various Virginia types of grass as a caterpillar finally moving on to flowers for nectar as an adult butterfly.
4. Pearl Crescent
Pearl Crescents (Phyciodes tharos) are another butterfly species that feed on flowers for nectar. Dogbane is among the flowers you can find the species around most time in the state.
Pearl Crescent butterflies have a base orange color with black checkered marks. All types of black stripes and marks are seen across its wings.
The species isn’t fully black on its body either. Its body is also black and orange.
Some white sections are seen across its dorsal wings. While not actual margins, the white sections of the species follow its margins.
5. Eastern Tailed-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue butterflies (Cupido comyntas) are known for eating vegetables. They can be found in Virginia gardens feeding on other legumes as well.
These butterflies are also commonly known to eat clover.
You can identify this species by its blue to black coloring. It has double black and white margins across its forewings and hindwings.
Female Eastern Tailed-Blue butterflies have an additional orange section on the hindwings.
A similar orange section is also visible on the ventral side of its off-white wings.
6. Common Buckeye
Common Buckeye butterflies (Junonia coenia) are some of the classic pollinators of lantana across the state.
These butterflies look for yellow lantana as a sign they can visit the flowers for nectar.
You can identify the Common Buckeye by a large number of eyespots across its wings.
These eyespots are used defensively.
The brown color is specific to the species. Orange sections are seen on its lower body while white sections are further visible across its upper wings.
These butterflies also have 2 orange spots on the upper side of each forewing.
7. Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skippers (Epargyreus clarus) have 2 broods in Virginia and only 1 brood per year elsewhere in the US.
This butterfly grows to a wingspan between 1.5 and 2.6 inches.
Dark brown coloring is specific to its wings. Its upper forewings also show orange or light brown coloring.
The species also stands out with its hairy body and hairy inner sections of the dorsal wings.
Silver-spotted Skippers are a migratory species mainly running away from wasps such as paper wasps.
These butterflies can be mild to severe pests on bean crops.
8. Red-spotted Admiral
Red-spotted Admiral butterflies (Limenitis arthemis) are among the most common dark or black species in the state.
Seen until late in October, this species has black upper forewings and light blue lower forewings as well as light blue hindwings.
Butterflies of this genus have multiple black margins running along the forewings and the hindwings separated by light blue sections.
Small orange dots are seen just above the first black margin.
Some of these colors are also visible on the ventral side of the wings where orange spots and seen on pale orange areas on a base blue color.
White spots are seen at the margins of the wings.
9. Zabulon Skipper
Zabulon butterflies (Lon zabulon) are known for having light brown dorsal coloring and dark brown ventral coloring.
These species are common in dry habitats across the state. They can be seen in parks and gardens as well as on the edges of woodlands.
Zabulon skipper butterflies have light brown and yellow dorsal coloring with dark brown margins.
The dorsal color of the species is dark brown with white and light brown sections.
Zabulon skippers are highly common across Virginia. Their expansive range includes the entire East Coast and areas of the South.
You can find these butterflies and their caterpillars on grasses.
10. Cabbage White
Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae) get their name from their host plant nappa cabbage. This type of plant is known to change the color absorption in the center so that the butterfly knows when to visit and pollinate.
Cabbage White butterflies are among the largest white butterflies in the state.
These butterflies are almost completely white with very small visible differences between the sexes. Females have more decoration across the wings.
The ventral color of the wings is light green which makes this species resemble leaves and avoid some of its common predators.
11. Spicebush Swallowtail
Spicebush Swallowtails (Papilio troilus) are large dark butterflies native to Virginia.
This species begins life as a yellow caterpillar that turns into a yellow and green caterpillar. Adult butterflies are then known to be mostly black.
The forewings of the species are mostly black with a few white spots across the margins which also continue down the hindwings.
These hindwings of the species have a blue gradient. These blue sections of the butterflies are lighter towards the lower hindwings.
Butterflies of this genus can be seen feeding on honeysuckle and jewelweed.
12. Black Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio polyxenes) are some of the most common dark species in the state. Females of the species mimic Blue Swallowtails known to be distasteful.
This butterfly species has a base black color both on males and females.
Larger yellow spots are seen on the male while the female shows smaller yellow spots.
Males have small blue sections while females have large light blue sections.
These butterflies are known to thermoregulate body temperature by adjusting their flying position.
They do this by moving the abdomen closer to the upper body.
13. Variegated Fritillary
Common on clover and alfalfa crops, the Variegated Fritillary butterfly (Euptoieta claudia) is among the common pests in the state.
Its role on crops can be limited with quick action before the summer.
You can identify this species by its orange base color across the forewings and hindwings.
Brown sections are seen on the inner wings close to the body while orange or light brown sections make up the bulk of its outer wings.
Butterflies of this family have black visible veins and multiple brown colors on their ventral wings which make them similar to a dry or dead leaf.
14. Zebra Swallowtail
This black and white butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) is a common sight across the state as well as on the East Coast where it moves in from tropical areas.
Various species of mango and other fruit trees are its typical host.
You can identify the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly by the triangular shape of its black vertical bands.
This species also has long black and white tails.
Red spots and blue spots are further distinguished on the lower part of the ventral wings.
15. Great Spangled Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele) are among the most common species that feed on local violet plants.
There are many violets these butterflies use as exclusive hosts.
You can identify the species by its brown and yellow or brown and orange coloring.
Black checkered spots are seen across its forewings. Smaller black spots are also seen on its hindwings.
The species has similar dorsal and ventral coloring.
Light brown or orange colors are the base colors of its ventral side. White spots are seen across its wings on the ventral side as camouflage.
16. Silvery Checkerspot
Silvery Checkerspot butterflies (Chlosyne nycteis) are seen across the state and further North to New York.
This species has an orange color with black veins and black wide margins. Small white marks are seen on the black margins as well.
Its body has a combination of orange and black colors.
Clovers and dogbane are among the most common food sources for Silvery Checkerspots.
You can find the female Silvery Checkerspot is interested in asters to lay eggs on.
Outside major urban areas, the Silvery Checkerspot is seen feeding on sunflowers.
17. American Lady
American Lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis) start life as gray, black, and white caterpillars.
Some caterpillars of this genus have yellow bands across the body.
These colors then evolve into the colors of its ventral wings. Brown, white, and black is the base color of the ventral wings of American Lady butterflies.
Dorsal colors are vivid. Orange and dark orange is the main colors seen across the forewings and hindwings.
This species also has black areas, especially on the forewings.
Small and large white spots are seen across the wings of the species. These spots follow the margins of the wings.
18. Red Admiral
Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) are some of the largest migrating butterflies in the state. This species moves South to overwinter and then back North in the spring.
You can identify the Red Admiral butterfly by its large size and base black color. Its wings are almost completely black with either orange or red bands across.
White spots are seen on the edges of the forewings and the hindwings, to a lesser extent.
Red Admirals are some of the most territorial species in the state. The territorial nature of male Red Admirals is a mating strategy.
19. Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper butterflies (Hylephila phyleus) are among the species that roll their eggs in leaves for food and protection.
These butterflies lay eggs in grasses that are close to the flowers adults feed on. Caterpillars eat leaves while adults eat nectar.
Fiery Skipper butterflies are among the species with mostly dark brown bodies. Its dark brown color has gray undertones appearing almost black.
The sections which aren’t brown are normally orange or yellow.
Fiery Skipper butterflies have orange ventral wings with just a few small brown spots.
20. Red-banded Hairstreak
Not all butterflies in Virginia feed on leaves or pollen. Red-banded Hairstreak butterflies (Calycopis cecrops) feed on various dead leaves, particularly on sumac leaves.
This explains why they take the color of a dead leaf.
The species also have a very large red band that inspires its name. This red bed has white margins while the wings have black margins.
A dull brown to a gray color resembling the coloring of a dead sumac leaf is most specific to this species.
Red-banded Hairstreak butterflies are also among the many species that can never reach 1 inch in wingspan across the state.
21. Question Mark
Even as a pupa on American elm, Question Marks (Polygonia interrogationis) start mimicking dead leaves.
This tendency is further seen into adulthood when the ventral coloring of this butterfly mimics dead leaves.
Orange and black are the main dorsal colors of the species. A gradient orange is seen on its forewings which get darker towards the black hindwings.
This species also has a few black marks across the orange sections while its margins have contrasting white coloring.
The butterfly is most camouflaged when showing its ventral wings while resting on elm tree bark.
22. Summer Azure
Summer Azure butterflies (Celastrina neglecta) are a common small species known for high activity during the summer months.
Its ventral wings are white and often overlooked when the species eat nectar from white flowers such as daisies.
This species has light blue coloring with white sections across the wings. Its light coloring is only contrasted by black margins which make its dorsal appearance darker.
Summer Azure butterflies have blue, black, and white body coloring. Its antennae are black and white with long black tips.
23. Pipevine Swallowtail
Virginia snakeroot plants are among the top reasons Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor) are found in the state.
This plant is commonly known as pipevine and it’s banned in some countries around the world.
In other countries, this plant is used to treat snake bites and other critical conditions.
Pipevine Swallowtail absorbs the toxins of the plant to have a bad taste.
This bad taste makes birds and other predators such as lizards spit these butterflies out.
The species expands South as Virginia is among the extreme Northern territories of its range.
24. Eastern Comma
Eastern Comma butterflies (Polygonia comma) are tied to stinging nettle species in the state. This is a type of plant many butterflies migrate for.
Eastern Comma caterpillars are also tied to hemp plants as hosts.
You can identify this species by its orange and brown coloring. Light orange is seen on its forewings while brown makes up a large section of its hindwings.
White veins are seen on the Eastern Comma as opposed to highly common black veins on the species.
This butterfly also has a few black spots across the forewings as decoration.
25. Northern Pearly-Eye
A widespread presence of Virginia cutgrass across the state means there’s a large population of Northern Pearly-Eye butterflies (Lethe anthedon).
These types of butterflies mainly feed on these types of grasses and other short vegetation across dry regions of the state.
You can identify the species by a large number of eyespots across its wings that also inspire the name of the butterfly.
A base brown to a gray color with black spots across the wings makes this one of the most distinct species in Virginia. Its ventral wings show large eyespots meant to keep predators at a safe distance.
26. Hackberry Emperor
Hackberry Emperor caterpillars (Asterocampa celtis) aren’t a good sign for hackberry trees in the state. These types of trees can be killed by the larvae of the species in extreme cases.
Sugarberry is also a common victim of these larvae, but mainly in the Southern states.
Butterflies of this family seem dual-colored by the separation of colors across their wings.
The inner section of the wings is light brown while the outer section is black featuring white patterns.
Black margins are seen across its brown sections. This species also has a hairy brown body.
27. Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak butterflies (Strymon melinus) have a gray to white ventral color and a gray to blue dorsal color.
Black veins are seen across its dorsal wings. White and black margins are specific to this species.
The Gray Hairstreak species is one of the smallest butterflies in the state. It has a varying wingspan that measures anywhere between 20 and 32mm.
This butterfly is normally found in forests and mountains where it feeds on clovers.
Rabbit-foot clovers are among the most common hosts of the species.
28. Orange Sulphur
Orange Sulphur butterflies (Colias eurytheme) are one of the many nocturnal species in Virginia.
This butterfly tries to escape some predators such as wasps by only feeding at night.
Orange Sulphur butterflies are common pests on alfalfa crops. This species is also prevalent in pea family plants.
You can identify it by its bright yellow ventral wings.
This species has orange dorsal wings with thick brown margins. A yellow barrier color sits between the orange and the brown sections on its dorsal wings.
29. Peck’s Skipper
Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius) is some of the most common species on roadsides across the state.
This is not an arbitrary place to find the species as the female Peck’s Skipper lays an egg on grasses such as cutgrass after mating.
This type of grass is the host of the caterpillar until pupation.
Adult Peck’s Skippers feed on various types of clovers.
Peck’s Skipper butterflies have a combination of yellow and brown colors across both the dorsal and the ventral wings.
Brown tends to be prevalent. This species stands out by its triangular bent forewings.
30. Sleepy Orange
Sleepy Orange butterflies (Abaeis nicippe) have a preference for dry habitats such as pine woodlands or dry flat terrains.
This is where it can easily find some of its favorite host plants in the state. These host plants include a wide range of cassia-group flowers.
Just nest to these flowers, adults feed on shepherd’s needle and other similar species.
Sleepy Orange butterflies are differentiated by vivid yellow coloring or vivid green coloring in some morphs.
The ventral side of its wings is almost completely yellow with the exception of a few brown spots.
31. Least Skipper
Least Skippers (Ancyloxypha numitor) are among the fewer species in the state that favor wet habitats. There are many types of wet area plants this species prefers which start with wild rice or cultivated rice.
Cutgrass is one of the common host species of the Least Skipper caterpillar.
This butterfly has a coloring based on yellow and brown nuances. Its dorsal wings are mostly dark brown on the outer sides and yellow closer to the body.
Its ventral coloring is light yellow and light orange on the margins.
Least Skipper butterflies have adapted to a long flight season that lasts until September.
32. Cloudless Sulphur
Pea family plants are the most common species of hosts for Cloudless Sulphurs (Phoebis sennae).
These colorful yellow butterflies are also known as one of the few migratory species in the state. Their migration can be short or long, depending on various factors such as weather.
Cloudless Sulphurs can leave a completely hospitable area to head South and avoid harsh winters. They make their journey back in a second generation in the spring.
Butterflies of this genus have a yellow coloring across the dorsal side. They also come in a yellow-lime color or a bright yellow color.
There are nuance differences in its yellow appearance according to gender as females have a darker nuance.
33. Horace’s Duskywing
Horace’s Duskywing butterflies (Erynnis horatius) are established in the state. They have various food sources among local plants.
There’s a limit to how much this species flies above the ground for nectar. This limit sits around 4 feet.
Goldenrod and peppermint are among the main plants and herbs that serve as food for Horace’s Duskywing.
This species has a dark brown color which makes it difficult for viewers to spot its black spots also present on its wings.
Small white stripes further decorate its dark wings. This species comes in a combination of dark and light brown in rare morphs.
34. Juvenal’s Duskywing
Juvenal’s Duskwying (Erynnis juvenalis) is often confused with Horace’s Duskywing. These butterfly species are very similar in color and size.
One of the quickest ways to tell the difference between the species is to analyze the hosts of their caterpillars.
The Juvenal’s Duskywing caterpillars are seen on local oaks. These caterpillars have a detrimental impact on proper oak tree development.
Adults of the species are known for having a combination of dark brown and light brown coloring across the forewings and the hindwings.
The margins show a dark brown line bordered by light brown sections.
35. Painted Lady
Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) are some of the most common migration species in the state.
These butterflies are responsible for some of the longest intercontinental migrations of butterflies in other areas of the world.
In Virginia, these butterflies are highly interested in asters such as cirisium. These plants are the perfect host for their caterpillars and they don’t have to fly to a high distance to lay eggs.
The species is known for its highly colorful dorsal identity. Orange sections dominate the wings while black sections are mostly seen on the forewings.
The ventral wings of the species are brown and gray with visible dark brown eyespots. Whit veins complete the ventral look of the Painted Lady.
36. Little Glassywing
Red top flowers are the main host of the Little Glassywing caterpillar (Vernia verna). This is a rare host for caterpillars.
Adults of the species rely on more common nectar sources which include milkweed, hemp, and peppermint.
This butterfly species has an almost completely brown coloring. Its dorsal wings have a dark brown to black color.
A few bright spots decorate its forewings.
This butterfly species could be overlooked on brown plants but it stands out with the triangular shape of its folded forewings.
37. Common Checkered-Skipper
Globemallows are among the most common host of the Common Checkered-Skipper caterpillar.
Adults feed on more common plants such as shepherd’s needle.
This widespread species has a wingspan of just over 1 inch.
You can identify this butterfly by the widespread brown patterns across its wings. The dorsal side of the wings has white spots but it can also show blue coloring as well.
The caterpillar of the species looks mostly green with brown sections only specific to its head.
38. American Snout
American Snout butterflies (Libytheana carinenta) are known in popular culture due to their elongated snouts.
Regardless of their body shape, this species remains one of the most successful migratory butterflies in Virginia.
This species is known for moving South towards Arizona and Texas and then back North in the spring.
American Snout butterflies are some of the most efficient species when it comes to mimicry. They mimic dead leaves to avoid predation.
Orange, brown, and white coloring are specific to the dorsal side of its wings.
39. Little Wood Satyr
Little Wood Satyr butterflies (Megisto cymela) are among the few butterflies in the state that don’t heavily rely on plant nectar for food.
These butterflies have adapted to feeding on plant sap.
Even more, Little Wood Satyr butterflies are also interested in eating aphid sap, together with common ants in the state.
You can identify this species by its long wingspan which reaches up to 48mm.
Little Wood Satyr butterflies also show numerous black eyespots across the forewings and the hindwings.
Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) are native to North America. This species has a considerable presence in the state along streams and rivers.
You can find Viceroy caterpillars growing and feeding on willows.
Adults of the species move along to nectar from sources such as thistles and milkweed.
Orange and black coloring is prevalent in Viceroy butterflies. This species also shows distinct tiny white dots across the black margins on its wings.
Viceroys mimic other similar butterfly species to appear more imposing.
41. Clouded Skipper
Found across forest edges, Clouded Skipper butterflies (Lerema accius) are among the darkest species in the state.
These butterflies have a dark brown color and black coloring in some areas of the wings.
The dorsal coloring of the species also shows a few white spots on the lower hindwings.
Clouded Skippers grow to a wingspan of up to 1.5 inches.
The caterpillars of the species are found on various decorative flowers across the state. Adults feed on the nectar of white, red, yellow, and blue flowers.
42. Clouded Sulphur
Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) is among the resilient species in the state. They live all across North America and they are known for having a yellow main color.
The dorsal coloring of the species combines a base yellow color with brown margins.
Seeing Clouded Sulphurs is not a good sign as the species can invade certain crops.
Alfafa, soybean, and deer vetch are among the most common hosts of the species.
43. Common Wood-Nymph
Various types of grasses such as bearded grass are a host of the Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala).
This is a brown species of butterfly with large eyespots.
Dark brown and bright brown colors are specific to the species.
Large brown eyespots with central white sections are seen across the ventral side of its wings.
The species also shows smaller brown eyespots on the dorsal side of its wings.
44. Wild Indigo Duskywing
Lupines are among the most common hosts of the Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae) along with wild blue indigo.
This species has a widespread presence in all Eastern US states.
You can find adults of the species in areas with lupines and blue indigo where there are also sweet clover and dogbane plants for nectar to feed on.
Brown and gray coloring are specific to the dorsal side of the species while gray colors are seen on its ventral wings.
45. Mourning Cloak
Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis antiopa) are some of the most common native species in the state and across all other neighboring states.
Much of the lives of these butterflies is spent avoiding predators since Mourning Cloaks are seen as food by many types of predators.
True bugs, ants, beetles, and even mites feed on these butterflies or their larvae.
The species has a dull brown and gray color with pale white margins ventrally to keep all of these predators away.
46. Appalachian Brown
Appalachian Brown butterflies (Lethe appalachia) are named after their dominant brown color.
This species is seen in multiple brown nuances that vary according to gender.
Brown and light brown ventral coloring are specific to males and females of the species.
Multiple large black eyespots are seen on the ventral wings of the species. Up to 10 eyespots decorate the ventral wings of this species, both in the case of males and females.
47. Tawny Emperor
Tawny Emperor butterflies (Asterocampa clyton) also have brown dominating colors. These butterflies have light brown coloring on the upper side of the forewings and light brown color on the hindwings.
This distribution is rare in the world of butterflies as most species have darker colors closer to the head.
Black checkered marks are seen on its wings.
This species has light brown ventral wings colored with small black eyespots.
48. Ocola Skipper
Various types of sugarcane and wild rice are the best places to see the Ocola Skipper (Panoquina ocola) caterpillar.
Adults of the species are always seen on pastures rich in milkweed and lantana
This butterfly species is dominated by various shades of brown.
It has a wingspan that can reach up to 1.3 inches.
49. Dun Skipper
Dun Skipper butterflies (Euphyes vestris) are native to the state. They can be found on sedges in a caterpillar stage.
These butterflies then move on to other plants not many butterflies are interested in.
This includes plants such as Virginia silkweed, American vetch, and New Jersey tea.
Dark brown is the dominant color of the species.
Just a few white spots decorate its wings to break its otherwise all-brown dorsal coloring.
50. Carolina Satyr
Virginia is the most Northern state where the Carolina Satyr (Hermeuptychia sosybius) is native.
This is a type of brown butterfly that has multiple brown and black eyespots.
You can find the species is a pest of lawns and various other types of grass around the house.
Some of the most common grasses Carolina Satyr butterflies are interested in include Common carpetgrass and Centipedegrass.
51. Crossline Skipper
This species of butterflies start life on host plants such as the purple top.
Once an adult, the Crossline Skipper is among the species that feed on multiple types of colorful flowers in dry habitats.
New Jersey Tea and New York Ironweed are the most common plants adult Crossline Skippers feed on.
These butterflies are identified by a brown base color with small yellow sections across the forewings.
52. Silver Spotted Skipper
Silver Spotted Skippers are an imported species with a common brown and yellow color combination.
The body of the species has a green to gray nuance.
Silver Spotted Skippers are small to medium-sized butterflies. They grow to a wingspan of up to 36mm.
Females of the species are larger than males.
53. Northern Cloudywing
Northern Cloudywing butterflies are among the short lifespan species found in Virginia.
This butterfly is only active from May to July.
You can find Northern Cloudywing butterflies in rolled plant leaves. Pea family plants are the ideal hosts of the species.
Adult Northern Cloudywing butterflies feed on vetches and honeysuckle.
54. Common Sootywing
Common Sootywing butterflies are seen across the state and sometimes North of Virginia in the case of strays.
These butterflies have a gray to brown color with tiny white spots all across the wings.
Its body is mostly gray.
Butterflies of this genus feed on amaranths as caterpillars. They move on to peppermint and milkweed as adults.
Common Scootywing butterflies are occasional cucumber pests.
55. Dion Skipper
Sedges and pickleweed are the main host plants of Dion Skippers in the state.
This small species that has a wingspan that barely measures more than an inch comes in orange, brown, and yellow colors.
Orange is specific to its ventral side while yellow and dark brown colors are seen on its dorsal wings.
Most active in the morning, Dion Skipper butterflies are commonly seen in humid areas such as marshes and swamps.