Butterflies are common creatures typically welcomed in gardens and meadows, with hundreds of species in the U.S. Despite the amount of species, some butterflies are more common in some regions than others. In the state of Hawaii, there are only two native butterflies, but they aren’t the only ones found on the islands. While some of these can be found year-round, others migrate to or from the islands each year. They thrive in these tropical areas, and can be seen at sea level and high elevations.
13 butterflies found in Hawaii
1. Kamehameha butterfly
Scientific name: Vanessa tameamea
The Kamehameha butterfly is one of the two butterfly species that are native to Hawaii. Their wings are colored bright orange and black, and can grow to be 2.5 inches long. They were named the state insect of Hawaii in 2009.
Kamehamehas can be seen in the upper woodland regions of the Hawaiian islands, feeding on native trees and nectar.
2. Asian swallowtail
Scientific name: Papilio xuthus
The Asian swallowtail, also known as the Chinese yellow swallowtail and Xuthus swallowtail, is commonly found on the Hawaiian islands. These medium to large butterflies are mostly yellow in color, with some black. They can be found in suburban and urban areas, as well as orange orchards and woodlands.
Their flight period ranges from the month of May to August. Asian swallowtails can also be found in northeast Asia, southern China, and Japan.
3. Blackburn’s bluet
Scientific name: Udara blackburnii
Blackburn’s bluet, also known as green Hawaiian blue or Hawaiian blue, is the second butterfly species native to Hawaii. They have iridescent wings colored blue and aquamarine. This small butterfly only grows up to an inch in size.
The Blackburn’s bluet mainly feeds on the Koa tree, in both the caterpillar and butterfly stages.
4. Gulf fritillary
Scientific name: Dione vanillae
Also known as the passion butterfly, the Gulf fritillary are considered long-wing butterflies. This means their wings are more long and narrow when compared to other butterflies. While common in Hawaii, they are also found through several regions in the southern U.S.
They can be seen in every county in Florida, as well as through Mexico and in South America.
Scientific name: Danaus plexippus
Monarch butterflies are commonly found in Hawaii and are one of the most easily recognizable insects. They have distinct orange and black markings, with small white spots. Monarchs are medium-sized butterflies that can reach up to 4 inches long.
They migrate anywhere from 1,200 miles to 2,800 miles during their migration through the U.S. and into Canada and Mexico. These butterflies hibernate in mountain forests in order to survive the winter season.
6. Gram Blue
Scientific name: Euchrysops cnejus
Gram blues are small butterflies, named for the soft blueish color of their wings. Male butterflies are more of a light purple color. They are common in Hawaii, as well as India, Australia, and the South Sea Islands. These insects prefer low flying in open, grassy areas.
The gram blue’s main source of food is called a “pea plant,” which can be identified by its yellow flowers.
7. Large Orange Sulphur
Scientific name: Phoebis agarithe
As the name suggests, this is a large butterfly that reaches between 2 and 3.5 inches in length. Males of the species are bright orange, while the females tend to be pink-white or yellow-orange.
They thrive in the tropics, and can also be found in the southern U.S. and Peru. In rare occurrences, they have been seen in Colorado, South Dakota, and New Jersey.
8. Fiery Skipper
Scientific name: Hylephila phyleus
The fiery skipper is a small butterfly, only reaching one inch in size. Females are either dark brown with yellow or orange spots, while males are orange or yellow with black spots. When their wings are held upright they form a triangle shape that may help them absorb sunlight.
During the summer they migrate to the northern United States and southern Canada. When in caterpillar form they are seen as pests, eating mainly Bermuda grass.
9. Sleepy Orange
Scientific name: Eurema nicippe
The sleepy orange is found in Hawaii, as well as most of the southern U.S., Belize, the West Indies, and Costa Rica. They have an average wingspan of 1.5 to 2 inches. This butterfly is named for the black dash on its upper forewing, called a “sleepy eye.”
They prefer flying through woodlands, prairies, grasslands, and roadsides.
10. Lantana Scrub-Hairstreak
Scientific name: Strymon bazochii
These small butterflies only reach an inch long and can be identified by brown and grey patches on their wings. Lantana Hairstreaks were introduced to Hawaii in the early 1900s to attempt to control lantana. However, the effort was unsuccessful.
They prefer to be in open tropical areas. These butterflies can also be found in Mexico, South Texas, and much of Central America.
11. Pea Blue
Scientific name: Lampides boeticus
Also known as a long-tailed blue, pea blue is a small butterfly that reaches an inch or so long. They are larger than other small butterfly species.
Females have less blue in their wings than their male counterparts. These insects can be found in the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, Africa, and Europe.
Pea blues are found at high elevations like mountain meadows. They also prefer forests and hot flowery climates.
12. Long-winged green streak
Scientific name: Callophrys rubi
These butterflies are named for their green underwings, which are present any time they aren’t in flight. The undersides also have a white marking that will vary in distinction from one butterfly to another. Long-winged green streaks are often found near shrubs and scrub, or quarries and bogs.
In addition to Hawaii, they are found in England, Scotland, and Wales.
13. Cabbage White
Scientific name: Pieris rapae
Cabbage white butterflies are extremely common, especially in Asia and Europe. They are also often seen in the Hawaiian Islands and prefer flying through open spaces. These can include roadsides, suburbs, or gardens.
Its caterpillar form is a garden pest, especially for vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and kale. Due to their appearance, they can easily be mistaken for moths.