Top 20: of the Most Amazing Butterflies in the World

Butterflies are the most familiar of insects to humans, due to their vivid colors and visits to flowers. There are about 18,000 species of butterflies in the world. Some species of butterflies are agents of pollination of some plants, caterpillars of a few butterflies eat harmful insects, however there are species that are pests due to their ability to damage domestic crops or trees in their larval stages. There are butterflies that have symbiotic and parasitic relationships with social insects such as ants. And some migrate over long distances, like the Monarch.

Choose the most beautiful butterflies to put on a relatively short list was a difficult task, because there are lots of extraordinary butterflies flying in our world and each have a place in the list of the Most Amazing butterflies. However, here are some butterflies I consider beautiful and interesting to share with you.

Alphabetical order


1. Anna’s Eighty-Eight butterfly (Diaethria anna)

The Anna’s Eighty-eight is a butterfly found in wet tropical forests in Central America and South America. On rare occasions, it can be found as a stray in South Texas.

Anna’s Eighty-eight’s upper side is dark brown with a wide, metallic green band across the forewing. The underside of hind-wing is white with a red costal margin and a black-outlined “88”, giving the species its common name.

2. Apollo butterfly (Parnassius apollo)

The Apollo is a white butterfly, with large black “eye” spots on the forewings and red eye-spots on the hind-wings. These striking red eye-spots can vary in size and form depending on the location of the Apollo butterfly, and the bright red color often fades in the sun, causing the eye-spots of older individuals to appear more orange. The wings are shiny, with slightly transparent edges, and some individuals are darker (melanistic).

The Apollo butterfly prefers flowery meadows and pastures of the continental European mountains, in Spain, Scandinavia and Central Europe, in the Balkans up to northern Greece and in the Alps between Italy and France. It is also present in some areas of the central Asia.

3. Australian Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa kershawi)

The Australian Painted Lady butterfly is found mostly in Australia. This butterfly has pale brown underwings and a delicate pattern of orange and brown on the upper wings, with tiny blue eyespots on the hind wings.

4. Blue Clipper butterfly (Parthenos sylvia lilacinus)

The Blue Clipper butterfly is native to Malaysia and is one of two forms from Parthenos sylvia. It’s a fast flying butterfly and has a habit of flying with its wings flapped stiffly between the horizontal position and a few degrees below the horizontal. It may glide between spurts of flapping.

5. Blue Morpho butterfly (Morpho peleides)

The Blue Morpho butterfly is found in Mexico, Central America, northern South America, Paraguay, and Trinidad.

The brilliant blue color in the butterfly’s wings is caused by the diffraction of the light from millions of tiny scales on its wings. It uses this to frighten away predators, by flashing its wings rapidly. The wingspan of the Blue Morpho butterfly ranges from 7.5-20 cm (3.0-7.9 in).

6. Blue Pansy butterfly (Junonia orithya)

The Blue Pansy butterfly is found from Africa, through southern and south-eastern Asia, and in Australia.

Blue Pansy butterfly is brightly marked with blue and orange, and possess prominent ocelli. Both sexes are similar in color and pattern, but the male has more extensive areas of blue, and smaller ocelli on the hind-wings.

7. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern tiger swallowtail is native to North America from Ontario south to Gulf Coast, west to Colorado plains and central Texas.

The male is yellow with dark tiger stripes on each fore wing. The outer edge of the fore wing is black with a row of yellow spots. The postmedian area of the hind-wing is black with yellow spots along the margin. The inner margin of the hind wing has small red and blue spots. The ventral fore wing margin has a yellow bar that is broken into spots.

Females may be either yellow or black, making them dimorphic. The yellow morph differs from the male in having a blue postmedian area on the dorsal hind wing. In the dark morph, the areas that are normally yellow are replaced with dark gray or black. The bluish postmedian area on the ventral hind wing has one row of orange spots.

8. Emerald Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio palinurus)

The Emerald Swallowtail is native to southeast Asia. It has a wingspan reaching about 8-10 cm (3.1-3.9 in). The dorsal sides of the wings are covered by a powder of green scales and the background vary from dark greenish to black, with broad bright emerald green metallic bands. The undersides are black with orange, white and blue spots along the edges of hind wings, that show extended tails at the end. The flight of these butterflies is swift and quite fast.

9. Glasswinged butterfly (Greta oto)

The Glasswinged butterfly is one of the most spectacular butterflies on the planet, because of its one fabulous characteristic: its wings are almost completely transparent! This butterfly has a Spanish name, “espejitos” which means “little mirrors”. They can be found from Mexico through Panama, Colombia and also Florida.

The wings are transparent, with a span of 5.6-6.1 cm (2.2-2.4 in). Indeed, the tissue between the veins of its wings looks like glass, as it lacks the colored scales found in other butterflies. The opaque borders of its wings are dark brown, sometimes tinted with red or orange, and its body is dark in color.


10. Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

The Monarch butterfly is known for the incredible mass migration that brings millions of them to California and Mexico each winter. North American monarchs are the only butterflies that make such a massive journey—up to 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers).

Its wings feature an easily recognizable orange and black pattern, with a wingspan of 8.9-10.2 cm (3½-4 in). The upper side of the wings is tawny-orange, the veins and margins are black, and in the margins are two series of small white spots. The fore wings also have a few orange spots near the tip. The underside is similar, but the tip of the fore wing and hind wing are yellow-brown instead of tawny-orange and the white spots are larger.

11. Owl butterfly (Caligo)

The Owl butterfly is one of the best examples of mimicry in the butterfly world. The fake ‘eye’ is used to startle would-be predators that happen upon the butterfly when it is resting in the day. The ‘eye’ even has a white crescent that mimics the moist eye of an owl. The rest of the wings complete the picture with white, wavy lines that mimic feathers.

They are found in the rainforests and secondary forests of Mexico, Central, and South America.

12. Peacock butterfly (Inachis io)

The Peacock is a colorful butterfly, found in Europe and temperate Asia as far east as Japan. In the British Isles, the butterfly is found in England, Scotland (including Orkney and Shetland), Wales, and Ireland.

The Peacock is unmistakable, with quite spectacular eyes on the upper side of the hind-wings that give this butterfly its name. These eyes must appear very threatening to predators, such as mice, that confront this butterfly head-on, where the body forming a “beak”. The underside is a different matter altogether, being almost black, providing perfect camouflage when the butterfly is at rest on a tree trunk, or when hibernating. In addition to camouflage and large eyes, the butterfly is able to make a hissing sound by rubbing its wings together that is audible to human ears.

13. Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing butterfly (Trogonoptera brookiana)

Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing is a distinctive black and electric-green birdwing butterfly and considered the national butterfly of Malaysia.

The wings of the male butterflies are mainly black. Each forewing has seven teeth-shaped electric-green markings, while there is a relatively large electric-green patch on the hind-wings. The head is bright red and the body is black with red markings. The wings of the female butterflies are browner with prominent white flashes at the tips of the forewings and at the base of the hind-wings.

14. Red Pierrot butterfly (Talicada nyseus)

The Red Pierrot is a small butterfly found in South and Southeast Asia.

The upper side of its wings are black except for a large orange portion of the lower edge of the hind wing.On the underside, the forewing is white with black spots more toward the margin. The hind wing is very striking, it is white with black spots toward the base and the margin has a wide band of orange with white spots. There is a lot of variation found in the blacks spots on the hind wings.

15. Red-Spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

The Red-Spotted Purple is a beautiful forest butterfly, found to eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. This butterfly mimics the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail, and is typically found in open woodlands and along forest edges.

The upper surface of the front wings are black with thin marginal white dashes and submarginal, rows of oblong white and orange spots. The upper surfaces of the hind wings are black with iridescent blue patches and spots on the distal half. The undersides of the wings are brownish black with iridescent blue areas and with large orange basal spots, a row of bright orange spots, and two rows of curved iridescent blue dashes near the margins of the wings. The undersides of both wings have a row of curved marginal white dashes.

16. Southern Festoon butterfly (Zerynthia polyxena)

The Southern Festoon butterfly is widespread in the middle and southern Europe (southeastern France, Italy, Slovakia and Greece) covering all the Balkans and reaching the south of Kazakhstan and the Urals.

The females have slightly longer wings, usually lighter colored than males. The basic color of the wings is yellow, but they have a complicated pattern of several black bands and spots. On the edges of the hind-wings they have a series of blue and red warning spots to deter potential predators. The body is dark brown and bears red patches on the sides of the abdomen.

17. Sylphina Angel butterfly (Chorinea sylphina)

The Sylphina Angel butterfly is found in Equator, Peru and Bolivia. This butterflies are rarely encountered. When seen in flight the transparent wings of this exquisite butterfly reflect a myriad of shimmering iridescent green, blue and pink hues that hold the observer spellbound.

Chorinea-sylphina

Image CC BY-SA 3.0 – Ssola

18. Ulysses butterfly (Papilio ulysses)

The Ulysses butterfly is found in most tropical areas like northern Queensland, Northern islands of Australia and Papua New Guinea. They live below the Canopy in a Rainforest. This butterfly is the symbol for Tropical Queensland and is one of the most biggest butterflies in Australia.

The upper side of the wings are an iridescent electric blue; the underside is a more subdued black and brown. The colors are produced by the microscopic structure of the scales, a phenomenon called structural coloration.

19. White Dragontail butterfly (Lamproptera curius)

The White Dragontail is a small butterfly native to parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia and can usually be found near running water, often puddling on the sandy shores of riverbanks. Unlike most ‘puddlers’ the Dragontail prefers to puddle away from other butterflies.

This butterfly has white bands on the fore and hind-wings, and in the male, there are adroconial scales in the anal pouch of the male hind-wing upper side.

20. Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus)

The Zebra Swallowtail butterfly is native to the eastern United States and southeast Canada.
Its distinctive wing shape and long tails make it easy to identify, and its black and white-striped pattern is reminiscent of a zebra.

This butterfly’s triangular wings are white to greenish-white with black longitudinal stripes. A pair of swordlike tails extend from the hind wings. The inner margin of the hind wing has two blue spots on the corner and a red spot near the body. A red stripe runs along the middle of the ventral hind wing.


Some interesting facts:

– The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) is the largest butterfly in the world, with females reaching wingspans of 31 cm (12.2 in).

– The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is considered the largest moth in the world in terms of total wing surface area, reaching upwards of c. 400 cm2 (62 sq in). Their wingspans are also amongst the largest, reaching over 25 cm (10 in).

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