An orange beautiful butterfly flying among small purple flowers.

Beautiful Butterfly Species from Around the World

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Of the millions of species of insects, the butterfly alone has about 20,000 species worldwide. These insects are loved the world over for their beauty and four-stage metamorphosis (transformation). First is the egg, which hatches into a caterpillar (or larva). Then the caterpillar builds a pupa (or chrysalis aka cocoon). And finally, emerges as the adult butterfly.

The work that a butterfly does is very important to our environment and food sources. Butterflies are able to get deeper into a flower than a bee. This allows them to pollinate much of our food that bees do not. Sadly, many species of butterflies are dying off because of deforestation.

Moreover, herbicides kill plants that these beautiful creature rely on for food. However, if we don’t protect these beautiful butterflies while we can, they may soon be gone from this world. We have picked out eight of the most one of a kind and beautiful butterflies for your enjoyment.

Swallow Your Pride: Emerald Swallowtail (Papilio palinurus)

Swallowtails are a species of butterfly that usually have hindwings that are spread apart with little tails that stick out. The tail is easily notable due to its black or green color. This gem of a butterfly can be found in Southeast Asia or Australia, and is an endangered species. Shockingly, they have a large wing span of 4.7-5.5 inches!

The Emeralds are special, as the bands of color on their wings can appear to be green or blue. This is because the concave surface of their wings reflect a yellow-green light and the edges reflect a blue light. The emission is similar to fluorescent bulbs, leading to research aimed at copying it for indoor lighting. Who wouldn’t want such a flash of colors in their extravagant home?

Beautiful butterfly known as Emerald Swallowtail
Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Beautiful Butterfly Without a Doubt: Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

The Question Mark is not a very well known butterfly, but it is still one of a kind. It is reddish-orange with black spots. The beautiful insect has a hook-like shape on the sides of its wings. The white question mark-shaped spots on the underside of the wings gives this butterfly its name.

Question Marks live in southern Canada and northern America and sometimes migrate to Arizona or Mexico. Unlike other butterfly females, they do not lay eggs on leaves that the caterpillars eat. This forces the newly hatched caterpillars to hunt down a host plant. Tree sap and discarded fruit are among this butterfly’s main food sources.

What a Bae: Bay Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha bayensis)

This pretty butterfly of bright red, yellow, and white, with black bands is where the Checkerspot gets its name. Their home is in the San Francisco Bay area and the mountains near San Jose of California. They normally emerge in early spring and only live about ten days. However, this is more than enough time to mate and produce eggs. The female can lay up to five masses containing 250 eggs each on plantain plants.

Sadly, plantain plants are becoming increasingly harder to find. Since 1987, the Bay Checkerspot has been a federally threatened species. The quick decrease in numbers is due to several habitat reasons. However, the decline is mainly due to release of nitrogen. These methods kill off nectar producing plants that are their main source of food.

Queen of Beautiful Butterfly: Queen Alexandra Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)

The queen of the butterflies is the largest butterfly in the world with its wings being up to 12 inches wide. Surprisingly, the male is the prettiest with iridescent yellow, green and/or blue on a black background. The females are brown with spots that are lighter colors.  They live mostly in northern Papua New Guinea in lowland forest areas. The male is very protective of its territory and will chase away large birds.

Queen Alexandra is endangered and under threat due to oil palm plantations being built on their habitats. Moreover, illegal collecting of the species is common, as the black market pays as much as $15,000 for a pair.

More than Just a Number: Cramer’s Eighty-eight (Diaethria clymena)

Also referred to as the 88 butterfly, this exotic butterfly gets its name due to the pattern on its underside. The white with black stripes look like an outlined number 88, plus a red patch that makes them stand out. Pieter Cramer discovered them in 1775, and that’s where they get their name from.

The 88’s upperside is very different from the underside being black with diagonal bands of metallic-like blueish green. Sub-tropical Amazon rainforest is the primary habitat for these insects. They are hard to keep your eyes on because of how active and timid they are but they will hang around human habitations searching for food.

Beautiful Butterfly of Oregon: Mourning Cloak of Oregon (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak lives mainly in North America and is most prevalent in Oregon. However, its habitat extends throughout the United States and down into Mexico. This gorgeous insect has even been spotted in Europe and Eurasia. They may be the longest living butterfly making it to almost a year and because they can endure low temperatures, they are one of the first to appear even before spring.

The name Mourning Cloak comes from its dark burgundy upper-side resembling a mourning cloak. Around the edges is a bright yellowish border with bright blue spots between the border and the dark red color. The Mourning Cloak can be up to four inches wide with an underside that looks like tree bark that is a great camouflage to protect it from predators.

Blue Belle Beautiful Butterfly: Blue Morpho (Morpho Achilles)

The beautiful blue color comes from the microscopic scales on their wings that reflect light. With the underside of the wing being a brownish color, it looks like it appears and disappears when it flies. The Blue Morpho is one of the largest species with wings that can be from five to eight inches wide.

This beauty lives in the tropical forests of Latin American and is severely threatened by deforestation and habitat fragmentation. These butterflies only live 115 days but enjoy their short lives. They taste fruit with the sensors on their legs and smell the flowers with their antennae. They also love to soak up the sun on the top of trees. Low flying pilots have seen the seas of blue of the butterflies.

Enchantress of Legend: Apollo (Parnassius apollo)

The Mountain Apollo got its name due to living mostly in the mountains of Europe, Asia, and western Russia. This butterfly has a beautiful white or cream color with small black spots. In addition, two to four red spots that appear to look like eyes of animals to confuse predators. 

Much like many other species of beautiful butterfly on this list, the Mountain Apollo faces extinct. Moreover, fragmentation, pollution, and human interference are all major factors in the decreasing population. A lack of resources and illegal capture by collectors has only made the situation worse.

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