Meet the 12 Common Texas Butterflies

Texas has over 400 butterfly species, some of which migrate, while others can be seen year-round. Common Texas butterflies include Red admiral, Black swallowtails, Zebra longwing, Cabbage white, Pearl crescent, etc.

1. American Lady

American Lady
American Lady

American lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis) can be found in open landscapes in Texas. They migrate towards the north in springtime.

These butterflies’ host plants include:

  • Pennsylvania everlasting
  • Spoonleaf purple everlasting
  • Caribbean purple everlasting
  • Sweet everlasting

American ladies’ wingspan ranges from 1.75 inches (4.4 cm) to 2.5 inches (6.3 cm). You’ll recognize an American lady by its orange-brown color, dark edges on its wings, white and purple spots, and a distinctive cobweb pattern on the lower side of its hindwings.

2. Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail

Black swallowtail butterflies (Papilio polyxenes) are non-migratory. They’re common butterflies in parks, gardens, and similar open spaces, so they’re easy to spot. Some of their host plants are:

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  • Parsley
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Caraway
  • Fennel
  • Dills
  • Rue
  • Mint

A Black swallowtail’s wingspan is 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) to 4.25 inches (10.7 cm). It’s black with numerous yellow spots and a red or orange eyespot with a few blue spots on the hindwings.

3. Desert Marble

Desert Marble
Desert Marble

Desert marbles (Euchloe lotta) don’t migrate. They thrive in various habitats, such as:

  • Arid lands
  • Desert foothills
  • Sagebrush steppes
  • Woodlands
  • Forested slopes
  • Sunny cliffs
  • Rocky canyons
  • Ridges

Typical host plants for Desert marble butterflies are plants in the mustard family.

These butterflies are small, with a wingspan from 1.25 inches (3 cm) to 1.75 inches (4.4 cm). A Desert marble is characterized by a white underside and green marbling on the hindwings.

4. Giant Swallowtail

Giant Swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail

Giant swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes) are the largest butterfly species in North America. They are widely spread throughout Central and South America as well. They’re known for migrating south during the fall.

Giant swallowtails populate general landscapes. Their host plants include:

  • Citruses
  • Rue
  • Prickly ash
  • Hoptree
  • Hercules’ Club

A Giant swallowtail’s wingspan ranges from 3.3 inches (8.3 cm) to 5.5 inches (13.9 cm). It’s black with a yellow stripe, spots across its forewings, and a bright red patch on its hindwings. The underside of its wings is yellow with black borders.

5. Hackberry Emperor

Hackberry Emperor
Hackberry Emperor

Hackberry emperor butterflies (Asterocampa celtis) migrate from May to September. They can be found in moist areas like water bodies and swamps, as well as parks and suburban yards.

A Hackberry emperor’s host plants are sugarberry and common hackberry. It doesn’t feed on nectar and is not a flower pollinator, so you won’t see it on flowers. You’re more likely to find one on a rock or pavement while it consumes minerals.

Hackberry emperors’ wingspans can reach two inches (5 cm) to 2.75 inches (6.9 cm). It is brown-bodied and has multiple dark brown, white, and orange eyespots and white spots on its forewings.

6. Mexican Bluewing

Mexican Bluewing
Mexican Bluewing

A Mexican bluewing (Myscelia ethusa) can be seen in Texas periodically. This butterfly species migrates multiple times throughout the year. Its habitat type is terrestrial — tropical forests and woodlands, as well as stream valleys.

Mexican bluewings’ host plants are flowering, particularly the ones in the spurge family. They are medium-sized and have a wingspan of 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) to three inches (7.6 cm). They are black with blue bands across the body and white spots on the outer side of the forewings.

7. Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) migrate from central Canada and the US to Mexico, where they hibernate. Their usual habitat includes open areas, such as fields, meadows, roadsides, or marshes.

A Monarch butterfly’s typical host plants are lantanas and common, swamp, and showy milkweeds. Its wingspan averages 3.39 inches (8.6 cm) to 4.88 inches (12.4 cm). Monarchs are known for brightly orange wings with black borders and veins. They have white spots on the edges of their forewings and hindwings.

8. Painted Lady

Painted Lady
Painted Lady

Painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) migrate south in the fall and return to Texas in the spring. They can be seen in open areas, including roadsides, gardens, and pastures.

A Painted lady’s host plants are various – experts have recorded more than 100 species in the Compositae, Malvaceae, and Boraginaceae families. Some of them are:

  • Calendulas
  • Sunflowers
  • Hollyhocks
  • Thistles
  • Mallows
  • Thistles

Adult butterflies can be spotted on the following plants:

  • Milkweeds
  • Red clovers
  • Blazing stars
  • Purple coneflowers
  • Zinnias

Painted ladies have a wingspread of 1.75 inches (4.4 cm) to 2.5 inches (6.3 cm). They are orange with black lines, white spots, and a pinkish color on the forewing tips. Red-orange, brown, and black colors and spots near the edges characterize the underside of their wings.

9. Pale Swallowtail

Pale Swallowtail
Pale Swallowtail

A Pale swallowtail butterfly (Papilio eurymedon) has several migrations. One occurs in June in central California and the other few in late March to August in southern California. During April and September, these butterflies move around the Pacific Coast. Foothills, open woodlands and streams are their ideal habitats.

The most common host plants of the Pale swallowtail butterfly are plants from the following families:

  • Rosaceae (cherries, nectarines, peaches, almonds, etcetera)
  • Rhamnaceae (flowering plants and shrubs)
  • Betulaceae (birches, hazelnuts, hornbeams)

These butterflies have a wingspan of 2.52 inches (6.4 cm) to 3.54 inches (9 cm). You’ll recognize them for their pale wings with black stripes and veins, two orange spots on their hindwings, and a bluish section on the lower part of the hindwings.

10. Texan Crescent

Texan crescent
Texan crescent

Texan crescents (Anthanassa texana) migrate multiple times annually around south Florida, Arizona, South Texas, and the tropics. Their habitats include deserts, open areas, gulches, road edges, and city parks.

Texan cresent’s host plants include plants from the acanthus family, like:

  • Ruellias
  • Jacobinas
  • Beloperones
  • Siphonoglossas

This butterfly has a wingspan of 1.26 inches (3.2 cm) to 1.89 inches (4.8 cm). A Texan crescent has mostly black wings, with a coppery area near the wing base. It’s also characterized by white spots near the edges of its wings.

11. Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger swallowtail
Tiger swallowtail

Tiger swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus) are non-migratory. Their habitats are deciduous woods and forests, and also streams.

Some of their host plants are milkweeds, thistles, cottonwoods, birches, ashes, as well as:

  • Ashes
  • Wild black cherries
  • Magnolias
  • Willows
  • Tulip trees
  • Honeysuckles
  • Azaleas

A Tiger swallowtail’s wing spread averages between 3.5 inches (8.8 cm) and 5.5 inches (14 cm). The coloring varies by gender. Males are bright yellow and have black stripes and edges. Females can be either light or dark. If they’re light, they’re still yellow but a bit darker than males, with darker borders. If they’re in a dark form, they’re black with a bluish marking on their hindwings.

12. Tropical Buckeye

Tropical buckeye
Tropical buckeye

A Tropical buckeye (Junonia evarete) belongs to the migratory butterfly species. It has 3 to 4 annual flights and regularly colonizes most of the US. It can be seen on fields, brushlands, and sandy islands.

A Tropical buckeye’s host plants are:

  • Lippie
  • Ruellias
  • Stemodias
  • Porterweeds

Tropical buckeyes’ wingspan ranges from 1.77 inches (4.5 cm) to 2.24 inches (5.7 cm). Their wings are brown with wide bands on their forewings and eyespots on the uppersides of both forewings and hindwings.

What Are Other Common Texas Butterflies?

Some other Texas butterfly species I haven’t listed include several species of Swallowtails — Pipevine swallowtail, Spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus), and Eastern tiger swallowtails. There are also a couple of Fritillary species, such as the Variegated fritillary and Gulf fritillary butterfly.

Cloudless sulphur, Orange sulphur, and Dainty sulphur are common, as well as Question mark, Red-spotted purple, and Checkered white butterflies. Besides these, other usual Texas butterfly species are:

  • Mourning cloak
  • Gray hairstreak
  • Little wood satyr
  • Common buckeye
  • Silvery checkerspot
  • Tawny emperor
  • American snout butterfly
  • Checkered white butterfly

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