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12 Types of Butterflies in New York (With Pictures)

When thinking of New York, many people picture New York City, but this state has a lot more to offer than a skyscraper-filled landscape. New York state is home to a huge variety of beautiful butterflies. While we didn’t cover all the species found in the state, we do have information on 12 common butterflies in New York which we selected for their beauty and uniqueness.

12 common butterflies in New York

Here is a list of 12 common butterflies in New York with pictures, many of which you’ve probably heard of. Let’s have a look!

1. Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Canadian swallowtail tiger butterfly
Canadian swallowtail tiger butterfly Bernell MacDonald from Pixabay

Scientific name: Papilio canadensis

Very similar in behavior and appearance to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, the Canadian variety was once actually considered to be a subspecies of the Eastern. This classification was, however, changed and they are now considered to be two separate species.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtails are found all over Alaska, Canada, the great lakes region, and the northeast. They lay their eggs on a variety of trees, and adults feed mainly on nectar from flowers.

If you are looking to attract these beauties to your garden, native Milkweed and Honeysuckle can be great attractants.

2. Aphrodite Fritillary

aphrodite fritillary butterfly
aphrodite fritillary butterfly by khteWisconsin via Flickr

Scientific name: Speyeria aphrodite

Found in the Northern United States and Southern Canada, this 2” butterfly can have variable coloring. While the markings tend to vary, they are all mostly orange with black or white markings.

This butterfly lays its eggs mainly on violets, but they will feed on most nectar-producing flowers. If you want to attract this species to your garden, violets and Milkweed are two recommended species to plant.

3. American Lady

American lady butterfly
American lady butterfly | Image by Mike Goad from Pixabay

Scientific name: Vanessa virginiensis

The American Lady is very similar to the closely related Painted Lady. If you are trying to distinguish between the two, the most notable difference is their eyespots. American Lady has 2 and the Painted Lady has 4.

Both butterfly species have evolved to blend in with fallen leaves where they feed on rotting fruit and drink from mud puddles. There are quite a few choices of host plants for the American Lady, but asters, plants from the everlasting family, and sunflowers seem to be popular choices.

As adults, they will feed on nectar in addition to tree sap and rotting fruit, so attracting them to your butterfly garden should be relatively easy with other common butterfly-attracting plants like Milkweed and the Butterfly Bush.

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

Found mostly in the south, Pipevine Swallowtails can also be found in the southern corner of New York.

These butterflies are the trendsetters of the butterfly kingdom, with several other species mimicking them due to their poor flavor, which makes them unappealing to predators. Red Spotted Purple, Spicebush Swallowtail, and the Black Swallowtail are all butterflies that utilize this mimicry.

The Pipevine Swallowtail’s poor flavor is attributed to their host plant, the Pipevine, also known as Dutchman’s Pipe. This plant is mildly toxic, so when caterpillars feed on it it gives them a distasteful flavor.

Adult Pipevines feed on nectar-producing flowers but seem to have a preference for purple, orange, and pink flowers. This makes Milkweed a great garden attractant.

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5. Monarch

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly | Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Scientific name: Danaus plexippus

The poster child of butterflies, the Monarch is found all over the US and parts of Mexico where it spends its winters.

Many of us have fond memories of butterflies from when we were kids, and while they are less common now, they are relatively easy to attract to your garden.

Native Milkweed is a must-have for Monarchs as that is all they will lay their eggs on and all the caterpillars will eat. Adult Monarchs will feed on other nectar-producing plants.

6. Mourning Cloak

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

Scientific name: Nymphalis antiopa

These unique butterflies range from Mexico to Canada and are known for their beautiful coloration. Their wings are purple so dark it appears black, with an orange border along the edge.

The Mourning Cloak feeds mainly on rotting fruit and tree sap, so it’s mainly found in forested areas, but they are a roaming species and may occasionally stop by nectar-producing flowers if you add them to your garden.

7. White M Hairstreak

White m hairstreak on white flowers
White m hairstreak on white flowers | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Parrhasius m-album

The White M Hairstreak is named for a white streak on its wings that is shaped like an M. This butterfly is unique as the bottom of its wings are a dull brown, but the top is a bright blue.

Found mostly in the eastern half of the United States, these butterflies host in oak trees, and adults feed from nectar-producing flowers.

8. Tawny Emperor

Tawny emperor
Tawny emperor | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Asterocampa clyton

Tawney Emerpor butterflies are found in the eastern half of the United States. These butterflies are a dusty orange with black markings, which can be variable.

The host plant for the Tawny Emperor is elm trees, but unless you have elms or fruit trees in your yard you are unlikely to attract them to your garden. They rarely feed from flowers, preferring sap, dung, decaying fruit, and carrion.

9. Red Spotted Purple

Red-spotted purple butterfly
Red-spotted purple butterfly | Image by Peggy Dyar from Pixabay

Scientific name: Limenitis astyanax

Closely related to the White Admiral that is not on this list, the Red Spotted Purple can actually interbreed with the White Admiral where their ranges overlap and produce viable young.

It is thought the main difference between the two species is that Red Spotted Purples utilize mimicry of the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail and the White Admirals do not.

This butterfly occasionally feeds on nectar producing flowers, but it prefers to feed on tree sap and fermenting fruit.

10. Falcate Orangetip

Falcate Orangetip
Falcate orangetip | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Anthocharis midea

These small butterflies measure just over an inch. Their wings are mostly white, with green patterning on the bottom, and males have a vibrant orange tip on the top.

Found mostly in the Eastern US, these butterflies enjoy drinking nectar from violets and mustards, but they will visit other flower types as well.

11. Common Wood Nymph

Common wood nymph
Common wood nymph | Image by Daniel Roberts from Pixabay

Scientific name:  Cercyonis pegala

Found in most of the United States except for the Southwest, these butterflies can be highly variable in size and color.

Caterpillars of this species hibernate over winter before awakening and metamorphosing in the spring. Interestingly, males hatch before females.

These butterflies host on several species of grass and feed mainly on flower nectar and rotting fruit.

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12. Common Buckeye

Common buckeye butterfly
Common buckeye butterfly | Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay

Scientific name: Junonia coenia

As its name suggests, the common buckeye is one of the most common butterflies in New York and across the US and southern Canada.

These butterflies are mostly brown but do have colorful orange bars and impressive eyespots from which they get their name. These eyespots are thought to deter predators long enough for the butterflies to escape being eaten.

If you want to attract common buckeyes to your yard your best bet is to plant native wildflowers. These butterflies are nectar feeders and will enjoy a diverse selection of flowers.