There are almost a hundred species of butterflies found in Arizona, inhabiting every corner of the state. Today, we’ll be listing the 20 most common species of butterflies in Arizona, such as:
- Gulf Fritillary
- Empress Leilia
- Blue Swallowtail
- Golden Banded-skipper
- Giant Swallowtail
- Eastern Black Swallowtail
- Cloudless Sulphur
- Two-tailed Swallowtail
- Queen Butterfly
- Monarch Butterfly
- Variegated Fritillary
- Mexican Yellow
- Fiery Skipper
- Colorado Hairstreak
- Painted Lady
- Reakirt’s Blue
- Funereal Duskywing
- Common Buckeye
- Mourning Cloak
- Southern Dogface
Table of Contents
1. Gulf Fritillary
Scientific name: Dione vanillae
These butterflies are found in southern Arizona, near the border with Mexico, but not all year-round. They’re most often seen during their migrations – which happen twice a year (in the spring and the fall).
Their wingspan is rarely wider than 4 inches, with most specimens reaching 3.75 inches. The colors on their wings, on the other hand, are absolutely mesmerizing.
The top side of their wings is a copper shade of orange with black stripes and a few white spots, and the underside is a combination of cream-white and orange.
- Size: up to 4 inches, but usually less.
- Color: underside is creamy white with orange, topside is copper-orange with black stripes and white spots.
- Habitat: open habitats near grasslands and parks.
2. Empress Leilia
Scientific name: Asterocampa leilia
These butterflies, no larger than 2 inches, are year-long residents of southern Arizona, but they’ll migrate to bordering states very often. They usually live in canyons, washes, and near streams.
They’re a stunning species, creamy-brown in color with white and black spots on the outer rims of their wings. The underside of their wings is mostly gray with the same black and white spots.
- Size: up to 2 inches.
- Color: creamy-brown and orange with black and white spots on the outer rims.
- Habitat: canyons and areas near streams.
3. Blue Swallowtail
Scientific name: Battus philenor
Also known as the ‘pipevine swallowtail’, this butterfly is a common resident in the entire Grand Canyon State – interestingly, they’re a common species across the entire continent!
The blue swallowtail is quite a sight to see – its underside is black with a blue bottom and white spots, and its topside is black with a beautiful shade of blue, dotted with orange spots.
Females are usually almost entirely black.
- Size: about 5 inches.
- Color: males are black with blue bottoms and white or orange spots, females are entirely black.
- Habitat: open grasslands and meadows – manmade gardens too.
4. Golden Banded-skipper
Scientific name: Autochton cellus
This species is found throughout entire Arizona from mid-June to early September, as they’re a migratory species and they’re not found anywhere throughout the entire year.
They’re no larger than 1.75 inches and they’re entirely black with a golden band on every wing. They also have a white rim on their wings. Their populations have dropped drastically in naturally colder areas.
- Size: up to 1.75 inches.
- Color: black with a golden band and a white rim on wing edges.
- Habitat: steep woodlands and canyons.
5. Giant Swallowtail
Scientific name: Papilio cresphontes
They need very warm environments to survive the winter, and they find such temperatures in the entire state of Arizona. Interestingly, Arizona is one of the few places where this species is found all year-round.
As the name suggests, they’re a very large species, and males can grow up to be 7.4 inches wide! Their wings are black with two distinct yellow lines – one diagonal, from both wingtips to the bottom, and another, horizontal yellow line.
- Size: males can reach 7.4 inches, females reach 6.9 inches.
- Color: black with two yellow lines.
- Habitat: forests and orchards.
6. Eastern Black Swallowtail
Scientific name: Papilio polyxenes
Found in the northeast of the state, nearing the Rockies, the Eastern black swallowtail can grow to 3.3 inches in width, with the females usually being noticeably larger than the males.
Telling females apart from males is very easy with this species – they’re both entirely black, and the males have yellow spots on the lower portion of their wings, while females have blue spots.
- Size: up to 3.3 inches, females are usually larger.
- Color: both sexes are black; males have yellow spots, and females have blue spots.
- Habitat: open areas, often found in deserts.
7. Cloudless Sulphur
Scientific name: Phoebis sennae
Only found in southern Arizona, the cloudless sulphur is often found in open spaces like meadows, but it likes staying near water sources. They aren’t a large species, barely reaching 3 inches.
However, they’re very easy to recognize, with both males and females being entirely yellow, with the only difference being the shade of yellow – females are usually a bit darker.
- Size: about 3 inches.
- Color: entire yellow – females are a bit darker.
- Habitat: open areas with active water sources.
8. Two-tailed Swallowtail
Scientific name: Papilio multicaudata
The state butterfly of Arizona – you can find this species in every corner of the State, and it’s generally found in the west. It stays close to Arizona sycamore and Arizona rosewood, which it uses as host plants.
They can be as large as 6.5 inches, usually distinctly yellow with a few dark lines and a thick, dark rim on the bottom of their hindwings. Their underside is the same, but the dark lines are thinner and there are more of them.
- Size: from 3 to 6.5 inches.
- Color: yellow with black lines.
- Habitat: prefers canyons, but is also found in shrubs.
9. Queen Butterfly
Scientific name: Danaus gilippus
Prevalent in the southern half of the state, the queen butterfly is rarely larger than 3 inches, but it’s one of the most beautiful butterflies on this list. They’re copper-colored, with plenty of white spots.
They have a dark rim circling the entirety of their wings. Their underside is the same, but it also has dark lines connecting the body with the wings. Queen butterflies are rarely found in forests and usually inhabit open areas.
- Size: 3.3 inches at most.
- Color: copper-colored with white spots and a dark rim.
- Habitat: open areas.
10. Monarch Butterfly
Scientific name: Danaus plexippus
South Arizona is one of the very few places where this butterfly can be found all year-round because the conditions are perfect for their survival. These butterflies will migrate from northern areas to the south to survive.
No larger than 4 inches, they display a tawny note of orange with plenty of dark lines from the edges to the wings to the body. The thick black rim is filled with white spots.
- Size: up to 4 inches.
- Color: orange with black lines, a thick black rim with white spots.
- Habitat: usually in forests and shrubs, near streams.
11. Variegated Fritillary
Scientific name: Euptoieta claudia
Found all over Arizona, the variegated fritillary is a small species, no larger than 2.25 inches. It is a common resident of meadows, fields, and roadsides. It is one of the most common species of butterfly in Arizona.
The upper side of their wings is crossed with orange and black, with a row of black spots near the outer rim of the wings. The coloring gets darker near the center of the body.
- Size: up to 2.25 inches.
- Color: orange and black checkers with black spots near the rim.
- Habitat: open fields and roadsides.
12. Mexican Yellow
Scientific name: Eurema mexicana
Arizona is one of the very few places where this butterfly is found throughout the entire year, mainly because the climate in some places is similar to Mexico. It lives in woodlands and grasslands.
They’re rarely larger than 2.25 inches, mostly yellow or white with distinctly black, thick patches on the tips of the forewings. Males have a bright yellow patch near the center of their bodies.
- Size: up to 2.25 inches.
- Color: white or yellow with black patches on wingtips, males have a yellow patch in the middle.
- Habitat: open woodlands and grasslands.
13. Fiery Skipper
Scientific name: Hylephila phyleus
One of the most widespread butterflies in general, this species is found all over Arizona (and pretty much the entire continent). They’re a very small species, no larger than 1.5 inches.
This can make it hard to spot them, but it’s definitely worth the trouble since they’re orange with black marks. The coloration makes it look like they’re on fire, hence the name.
- Size: up to 1.5 inches.
- Color: orange with black lines.
- Habitat: mostly open fields.
14. Colorado Hairstreak
Scientific name: Hypaurotis crysalus
This butterfly flies between different states including Arizona, usually during the summer. They’re not larger than 1.5 inches, and the combination of colors on their wings is incredible.
The upperside is dark blue or purple, depending on the specimen, with a black rim and six orange spots on the rim. The underside is gray with the same orange spots. This makes them quite a sight to see.
- Size: up to 1.5 inches.
- Color: dark blue/purple in the middle, with a black rim and orange spots. The underside is gray.
- Habitat: anywhere near Gambel oak – they depend on it to lay eggs.
15. Painted Lady
Scientific name: Vanessa cardui
This is one of the most common butterflies in the world – naturally, it’s also common all over Arizona. It lives in open, sunny areas, like meadows and gardens.
It’s almost 3 inches wide, and as an adult, it reaches a beautiful combination of orange and black, with plenty of white spots on the black portions, and black spots on the orange portion.
- Size: up to 3 inches, more often 2.8 inches.
- Color: orange and black with spots.
- Habitat: open areas like gardens and grasslands.
16. Reakirt’s Blue
Scientific name: Echinargus isola
This is a very common resident of Arizona, and it often migrates all over the continent. Reakirt’s blue is the smallest butterfly on this list, usually less than an inch in wingspan!
It can be very difficult to spot in the grass fields and gardens it inhabits. However, its beautiful shading is worth the patience – the upperside of its wings is a translucent combination of rainbow-colored shades of blue.
- Size: less than an inch.
- Color: glossy shades of rainbow, white rim and two black spots.
- Habitat: grass fields and gardens.
17. Funereal Duskywing
Scientific name: Erynnis funeralis
Found in southern Arizona, with a great population reported near Tucson, this butterfly is seen from February to October. They’re no larger than 1.5 inches, mostly black with a white rim on their hindwings.
They mainly feed on flower nectar and often inhabit woodlands and gardens. In Arizona, they’ve been documented to inhabit deserts!
- Size: up to 1.5 inches.
- Color: dark brown or black with a white hindwing rim.
- Habitat: woodlands and gardens – also deserts in Arizona.
18. Common Buckeye
Scientific name: Junonia coenia
A very common butterfly in the south of Arizona, the buckeye can grow up to 2.8 inches and they usually inhabit open meadows and fields, as well as other open areas. There, they feed on nectar.
The buckeye is a favorite to many collectors because of its beautiful colors – they’re mostly orange and brown, with eight black and blue spots on their wings and a few orange stripes.
- Size: up to 2.8 inches.
- Color: orange and brown with stripes and eight spots.
- Habitat: open meadows and fields.
19. Mourning Cloak
Scientific name: Nymphalis antiopa
A common sight in Arizona, the mourning cloak is a personal favorite because of its beautiful coloring. These butterflies reach a wingspan of 4 inches and have dark-brown, almost red wings with a creamy rim and blue spots.
The underside is a pale brown with a white rim. They usually inhabit all habitats because of their migratory nature – forests, open areas, suburban parks, marshes, etc.
- Size: up to 4 inches.
- Color: dark brown with a creamy rim and blue spots.
- Habitat: all habitats.
20. Southern Dogface
Scientific name: Zerene cesonia
The last entry on our list is common all across Arizona, and it’s one of the more interesting butterflies you can find here. They have a dog face pattern on their wings, hence the name.
They’re mostly yellow with a distinct black rim that forms a pattern in the shape of a dog’s head on their wings. The black spot looks like a dog’s eye. The underside is completely yellow.
- Size: up to 3 inches.
- Color: yellow and black, forming a dog face on the wings.
- Habitat: dry, open areas.