Butterflies are the most beautiful insects in the world and there are over 140 species of butterflies you can find in Maryland. It’d be impossible to list them all, so in today’s article, we’ll be focusing on the species we most often see.
These are the most common species of butterflies in Maryland:
- Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
- Zebra Swallowtail
- Spicebush Swallowtail
- Common Sulphur
- Falcate Orangetip
- American Copper
- Juniper Hairstreak
- Eastern Tailed Blue
- Meadow Fritillary
- Baltimore Checkerspot
- Question Mark
- Common Buckeye
- Painted Lady
- American Lady
- Queen Butterfly
- Silver-spotted Skipper
- Fiery Skipper
- Common Wood-nymph
- Little Wood Satyr
- Common Checkered-skipper
Table of Contents
1. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Scientific name: Papilio glaucus
Widespread all over the state of Maryland, the Eastern tiger swallowtail is one of the most common butterflies here. It has a wingspan of 5.5 inches, and it’s easy to recognize.
The male is usually yellow, and they have black stripes (typically four of them) on each wing. Females, on the other hand, can be both yellow and black, so there’s no rule.
- Size: up to 5.5 inches in wingspan.
- Color: males are yellow with eight tiger stripes on their wings. Females can be both yellow and black, and they sometimes have blue spots on the hind wing.
- Habitat: mostly woodlands, fields, creeks, and rivers – it often strays into urban environments.
2. Zebra Swallowtail
Scientific name: Protographium marcellus
Just like the tiger swallowtail, this species is common across the entire Free State. They’re a bit smaller than their cousins, reaching a wingspan of up to 4 inches.
There’s also a difference in coloration – they’re usually white with black stripes, instead of yellow. They also have two tails, reminiscent of two swords, protruding out of their hindwings.
- Size: up to 4 inches in wingspan.
- Color: both males and females are white with black stripes and two tails.
- Habitat: they stick around river edges and meadows.
3. Spicebush Swallowtail
Scientific name: Papilio troilus
The third species of swallowtail on this list is also the most beautiful one, and it’s just as common as the previous two. Reported in every single Maryland county, the spicebush swallowtail isn’t difficult to recognize.
Their wingspan can be as wide as 4 inches, and they’re usually very dark – either black or brown. The bottom of their hindwings has blue splotching and two sets of white spots alongside the wings.
- Size: wingspan is about 4 inches.
- Color: black with a beautiful blue splotching at the bottom of hindwings.
- Habitat: they stay near meadows and open woods.
4. Common Sulphur
Scientific name: Colias philodice
Known also as the clouded sulphur, this small butterfly is common across open areas, meadows, and fields in the entire state. Their wingspan usually doesn’t grow past 2.75 inches in width, and they’re usually lightly colored.
The males are yellow with a dark brown bordering on the edges, while the females can even have white wings. They often have four spots, one on each wing. You can easily spot entire swarms in mud puddles.
- Size: no more than 2.75 inches.
- Color: yellow or white with dark-brown edges on wings.
- Habitat: mostly open areas – meadows, fields.
5. Falcate Orangetip
Scientific name: Anthocharis midea
This tiny butterfly can be found in all counties, but it isn’t reported in Baltimore City. Nevertheless, it is a common butterfly, but it can be difficult to spot, as it’s only 1.75 inches wide at best.
They’re almost entirely white, while males also have orange coloring on the tip of their forewings. There’s also a black spot on their forewings. They often have a lot of black blotching on the underside of their wings.
- Size: no more than 1.75 inches.
- Color: completely white with possible dark blotching on the underside – males have orange coloring on the forewing rim.
- Habitat: very common in glades and fields.
6. American Copper
Scientific name: Lycaena phlaeas
Also known as the common copper – this butterfly is seen all over Maryland, except for Baltimore City, implying that they avoid urban areas. They’re a beautiful species, with a bright orange on the outside, drowning into a black center.
The outer edge of their hindwings is also orange. The forewing orange parts have black spots – usually eight or nine of them. The underside of their wings is usually gray.
- Size: very small, up to 1.4 inches.
- Color: orange with black spots turning into a black center. The hindwing rim is also orange.
- Habitat: grass fields.
7. Juniper Hairstreak
Scientific name: Callophrys gryneus
Yet to be reported in Garrett and Queen Anne’s counties, as well as Baltimore City of Maryland, the juniper hairstreak is a small butterfly, no wider than 1.25 inches. It has a very subtle orange, sometimes bronze color on its wings.
That coloring is usually blotched with a moss-green and some scales – there are also a few white spots on the wings too. Interestingly, it’s almost indigenous to forests with eastern redcedar.
- Size: up to 1.25 inches.
- Color: a pale orange with green blotching on the underside and a few white spots.
- Habitat: only in eastern redcedar woods.
8. Eastern Tailed Blue
Scientific name: Cupido comyntas
This beautifully shaded butterfly is often reported in all Maryland counties, most often inhabiting large open areas and fields. They’re usually no wider than 1.14 inches and both the male and the female have a lovely shade of blue on them.
The females are usually darker, with distinct orange marks on the bottom of the hindwings, while both males and females have a very light, almost white wing rim. It’s common for females to have a bit of blue blotting on the back.
- Size: up to 1.14 inches.
- Color: males are dark blue and females are almost black, they both have a very light rim around their wings.
- Habitat: open fields and meadows.
9. Meadow Fritillary
Scientific name: Boloria bellona
This butterfly isn’t common in the eastern part of the state, including St. Mary’s county. In central and western Maryland, it inhabits wet meadows and open fields. It’s very easy to recognize, as it’s a dark, intense orange with dark spots and bands on its back.
They usually use the northern white violet and the common blue violet as host plants to deposit eggs. During a single year, they brood usually once or twice. They’re seen flying from spring until the end of summer.
- Size: wingspan is 2 inches.
- Color: intense orange with dark spots and stripes.
- Habitat: wet meadows.
10. Baltimore Checkerspot
Scientific name: Euphydryas phaeton
The official state insect of the Old Line State, Baltimore checkerspot is common in central and western Maryland, but it’s rarely seen in the southeast. It usually inhabits bogs and marshes.
It rarely grows past 2.75 inches in wingspan, and its wings are black with plenty of orange and white spotting alongside the outer rim. There are also a few orange spots near the center of the body.
The outer pattern of the spotting is almost the same, but it’s usually denser.
- Size: up to 2.75 inches in wingspan.
- Color: black wings with orange and white spots.
- Habitat: marshes and bogs.
- Interesting fact: it was chosen as the official state insect of Maryland in 1973, but the numbers have significantly dropped since then.
11. Question Mark
Scientific name: Polygonia interrogationis
You read that right, the name of this butterfly species is question mark, and they’re a common sight in parks and forests across the entire state of Maryland. They’re usually seen flying from late spring to late summer.
Their wings are a very intense orange, almost turning into red, with plenty of black spots. There’s a distinct white rim on the wings, while the underside is completely brown. They’re called the question mark butterflies because of a silver marking on the underside, which forms a curved line and a dot.
- Size: 3-inch wingspan.
- Color: intensely orange wings with black spots and a white rim.
- Habitat: parks and other areas with plenty of open spaces and trees.
12. Common Buckeye
Scientific name: Junonia coenia
This intricate-looking butterfly is a wanderer and we can find them in all Maryland counties, as they’re in constant movement. They can grow to 2.5 inches in width, and they usually have a brown or almost black back.
On their back, we can see at least three large blue spots, as well as some white markings and an orange rim on their hindwing. Their underside is bright-brown with three smaller, blue spots.
- Size: up to 2.5 inches.
- Color: brown with three large blue spots, white and orange markings. The underside is a brighter shade of brown with the same three spots.
- Habitat: all open areas.
13. Painted Lady
Scientific name: Vanessa cardui
Another wanderer, this is one of the most common butterfly species in the world, found on every continent except for Antarctica and South America – it’s also found in every corner of Maryland.
Their wings are an irregular combination of black and orange with no distinct pattern and with white spots and a white rim. The underside is a different combination of white, orange, brown, and black.
This gives the butterfly a mosaic-like look.
- Size: 2.88 inches.
- Color: a combination of black and orange with white spots on the outer side (with no set pattern), and a combination of white, brown, and orange on the underside.
- Habitat: found in fields and meadows.
14. American Lady
Scientific name: Vanessa virginiensis
Another lady butterfly, the American lady is very common in every Maryland county and it’s not difficult to recognize. They’re usually almost completely orange on the outer side, with white spots and a dark edge to their wings.
The underside, similar to the painted lady, is a combination of white and brown, with no discernable pattern. They’re no larger than 2 inches and they’re very easy to recognize.
- Size: 2 inches in wingspan.
- Color: mostly orange with white spots and some black blotting on the edges. The underside is white and brown with no pattern.
- Habitat: open fields.
15. Queen Butterfly
Scientific name: Danaus gilippus
Reported only in Queen Anne’s county, this butterfly can grow to almost 4 inches. It’s usually entirely orange or copper, with white spots and a dark rim all along the edge of its wings.
The underside is also orange with the spots and the rim, but the black lines protrude towards the middle of the butterfly’s body. They’re found in meadows, particularly near milkweed.
- Size: about 3.88 inches.
- Color: orange with white spots and black rim on the edge – the underside is the same with additional black lines towards the middle.
- Habitat: meadows.
16. Silver-spotted Skipper
Scientific name: Epargyreus clarus
Another common species found all over Maryland, the silver-spotted skipper is mostly brown with a lighter-brown rim on the edge and a few silver spots in the middle. The underside is almost completely identical, except for possible discoloration.
You can most often find them on the underside of a leaf, where they’ll be getting warm. They’re a mostly nocturnal animal, resting throughout the day and flying at dusk.
- Size: up to 2.6 inches.
- Color: almost entirely brown – distinct silver spot in the middle of its wings.
- Habitat: open woods and gardens.
17. Fiery Skipper
Scientific name: Hylephila phyleus
These wanderers, found all over the state of Maryland, are probably the most interesting-looking butterfly on the list. They’re entirely orange, with some subtly black markings, making it look like they’re on fire.
Because of their size (1.5 inches) and their restlessness, they can be very difficult to spot. They’re at their most active in August and September, mostly in open fields and marshes.
- Size: no more than 1.5 inches.
- Color: completely orange (distinctly fire-colored) with subtle black markings.
- Habitat: open fields.
18. Common Wood-nymph
Scientific name: Cercyonis pegala
This wood-nymph is true to its name, as it’s common all over the Free State, where it usually lives in open woodlands and fields. There are many variations between butterflies within this one species, so they can be difficult to identify.
They can grow as wide as 3 inches, and they’re usually gray and light-brown with two or three spots on their wings. The underside is identical, with additional subtle stripes.
- Size: up to 3 inches.
- Color: brown with two or three spots, underside is the same.
- Habitat: open fields and meadows.
19. Little Wood Satyr
Scientific name: Megisto cymela
Reported in every Maryland county except Somerset, this small butterfly is very similar to the nymph, but it’s much smaller. It can grow up to 1.8 inches, it’s most often brown and it has four spots on its underside.
The upper side can have either three or four spots (sometimes the fourth spot is so small that it can’t be seen). You can most often find them in forests and areas with plenty of shrubberies.
- Size: about 1.8 inches.
- Color: brown with four spots on the underside, and usually only three spots on the upper side.
- Habitat: forests and shrubs.
20. Common Checkered-skipper
Scientific name: Burnsius communis
Final entry to the list, the common checkered-skipper can be found all over Maryland, usually in gardens and parks – often in urban areas. It’s usually about 1 inch in wingspan, reaching a 1.5-inch maximum.
Their bodies are gray or light blue, but their wings are brown with plenty of white spots on their back and a white rim on the edge of their wings. The underside is much brighter, almost entirely white, with some brown coloring.
- Size: no more than 1.5 inches.
- Color: brown with white spots and a white rim, underside is white with light-brown spots.
- Habitat: fields and meadows, often found in urban areas.