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11 Most Common Butterflies in Georgia (With Pictures)

When you think of Georgia you probably think of peaches and peanuts, but this state has a lot to offer when it comes to natural beauty. The Blue Ridge Mountain area is famous for its incredible views and mesmerizing fall leaves, and the entire state is home to a huge number of butterfly species. If you are looking for butterflies in Georgia, check out this list of our 11 common ones and see if you can locate them in the wild or attract them to your garden.

1. Giant Swallowtail

Giant swallowtail butterfly
Giant swallowtail butterfly | image by USFWS Midwest Region via Flickr

Scientific name: Heraclides cresphontes

Found as far south as the Caribbean and parts of Central American, this extra-large butterfly is quite common in Georgia. Here it feeds on a variety of nectar from flowering plants such as Milkweed, Zinnias, and Lantanas.

While these butterflies are coveted visitors in butterfly gardens, many citrus farmers consider them to be pests as their caterpillars can do a significant amount of damage when hosted in citrus trees.

2. Summer Azure

Summer azure butterfly on a leaf
Summer azure butterfly on a leaf | image by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr

Scientific name: Celastrina neglecta

This small butterfly is just over an inch, making it one of the smallest species on this list. Its range covers most of the Eastern United States, including Georgia, where it boasts a large population. This butterfly prefers more wooded areas with plenty of shade.

Summer Azures are unique butterflies due to their young’s unusual diet of flowers. These butterflies will host in a wide variety of plants, but caterpillars only eat the flowers of the plant, and the adults only eat nectar.

3. Variegated Fritillary

Variegated fritillary on a flower
Variegated fritillary on a flower | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Euptoieta claudia

The Variegated Fritillary is so common in Georgia it is at times considered to be a pest due to its young’s tendency to feed on ornamental petunias and violets. These butterflies will host on a wide variety of plants and adults aren’t picky about where they get their nectar. Though it is reported that butterfly weed and Milkweed are two of their favorites. These butterflies love open, sunny areas like parks, fields and backyards. 

4. Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine swallowtail on a flower
Pipevine swallowtail on a flower | image by John Flannery via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Battus philenor

The Pipevine Swallowtail is known to predators for its poor flavor. This makes them unappealing as a food source and has led to several species mimicking their color and pattern.

The host for the Pipevine Swallowtail is the Pipevine or Dutchman’s Pipe and the toxicity of this plant is what gives the Butterfly its foul flavor. If trying to attract these beauties to your garden, Milkweed, and other nectar-producing flowers are great choices.

5. Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush swallowtail on a flower
Spicebush swallowtail on a flower | image by John Flannery via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Papilio troilus

The Spicebush Swallowtail is found throughout the Eastern United States but is more prevalent in southern states such as Florida and Georgia. The Spicebush Swallowtail is often confused with the Black Swallowtail, which is similar in size and coloration, but the Spicebush has a bit more blue-green coloration on its wings than the black.

These butterflies host on spicebush and sassafras and there are typical 2-3 broods a year. Adults feed on nectar from flowers, which makes them relatively easy to attract to your butterfly garden.

6. Viceroy

Viceroy butterfly
Viceroy butterfly | Image by Terry Murphy from Pixabay

Scientific name: Limenitis archippus

Nearly identical to the Monarch butterfly, the Viceroy practices mimicry to escape predation. Since most predators find the taste of Monarchs to be distasteful, the Viceroy capitalizes on that to increase their survival rates as well. Very prevalent everywhere Monarchs are found, the Viceroy is commonly found throughout Georgia.

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These butterflies host on a wide variety of trees, including cottonwood and several fruit-bearing trees. Adults feed on nectar and will often make appearances in gardens.

7. Monarch

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly | Image by Bill Barlow from Pixabay

Scientific name: Danaus plexippus

The Monarch butterfly is often the first butterfly children learn about. Many Georgia schools order Monarch caterpillars to be raised in their classes, allowing students to learn the life cycle of butterflies.

If you would like to raise butterflies in your home or greenhouse, Monarchs are a clear choice. Milkweed is the preferred food for Monarchs and it is easily acquired in most states. Adults can feed on the flowers and caterpillars feed on the leaves.

8. Long-tailed Skipper

Long-tailed skipper butterfly
Long-tailed skipper butterfly | image by John Flannery via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Urbanus proteus

Often confused for a moth, the Long-tailed Skipper has a unique shape that is wider at the top and long and tapered at the bottom. These butterflies appear quite fluffy on their bodies. They are mostly brown but have a bright blue patch on the lower portion of their body.

Found mostly in the Southeastern states, this butterfly is frequently sighted all over Georgia where it hosts on legume vines and Wisteria. Adults are nectar feeders and should be able to be enticed into your backyard garden with the addition of lantanas and bougainvilleas.

9. Mourning Cloak

Mourning cloak butterfly
Mourning cloak butterfly | Image by dmarr515 from Pixabay

Scientific name: Nymphalis antiopa

Known for its beautiful wings which resemble the traditional mourning cloak of old, this butterfly is mostly black with a colorful orange border. Another attribute that makes these butterflies unique is their long life span. They can live up to 11 months, which is much longer than most species of butterflies. If you are hoping to attract this butterfly to your backyard garden, you may have a harder time than you think.

Caterpillars hatch and feed on willow trees and their parents feed mainly on tree sap. While I wouldn’t rule out seeing them in your Georgia butterfly garden, there isn’t much you can do to attract them short of planting willow trees.

10. Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra swallowtail on a flower
Zebra swallowtail on a flower | image by USFWS Midwest Region via Flickr

Scientific name:  Eurytides marcellus

Zebra Swallowtails are eye-catching white with black stripes and blue and red highlights. These butterflies are found all over the Eastern United States and are incredibly prevalent in Georgia, which is near the center of their range.

Adult Zebra Swallowtails are easy to attract to gardens, feeding on the nectar of many popular butterfly garden plants like Milkweed and Butterfly Bush.

11. Red Spotted Purple

Red spotted purple on plants
Red spotted purple on plants | image by John Flannery via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Limenitis astyanax

The Red Spotted Purple butterfly is most known for its impressive coloration, but few know that its caterpillars have evolved to resemble bird poop. This, in addition to their adult coloration that is designed to resemble a poisonous butterfly species, makes them more likely to grow and breed successfully without being eaten.

Red Spotted Purples are known to have a preference for tree sap and fermenting fruit, so they are often found in Georgia’s forests, but if you live near a wooded area, you may also be able to attract them to your garden with wildflowers and other nectar-producing species.