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10 Common Butterflies That Migrate (Pictures & Facts)

Butterflies are some of the most delicate and beautiful creatures on earth. Although small, they play an important role in the ecosystem. Butterflies that migrate help to pollinate plants, keeping plant life healthy and diverse.

In addition, migrating butterflies can provide a glimpse into the health of the environment. By tracking the movements of these delicate creatures, scientists can learn about changes in the climate and the health of ecosystems. As a result, butterflies that migrate play an important role in both the natural world and our understanding of it.

10 Butterflies That Migrate

Like all cold-blooded animals, butterflies are affected by external temperature. To survive, they must either find a warm place to spend the winter or migrate to a warmer climate. They can also migrate to find new food sources. Here are some examples of butterflies that migrate.

1. Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly | Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus

The monarch butterfly is one of the most famous migrating butterflies. Every year, millions of these orange and black butterflies travel up to 3000 miles to escape the cold weather in North America. They spend the winter in warm places like Mexico and California.

Monarch butterflies have an amazing ability to fly long distances. They are believed to use the sun’s position to navigate. Monarch butterflies have been known to fly as fast as 15 miles per hour in still air. As monarch butterflies migrate, they play an important role in pollinating plants.

2. Painted Lady Butterflies

Painted lady butterfly on a flower
Painted lady butterfly on a flower | Image by Vikramjit Kakati from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Vanessa cardui

Painted lady butterflies are one of the most widespread butterflies in the world. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Their migration patterns are independent of seasonal and geographical changes —they are disruptive migrants.

Painted lady butterflies are orange and black with white spots. They have a wingspan of about 2-3 inches. They are also strong flyers and can migrate long distances. In fact, they have been known to fly as fast as 30 miles per hour in strong winds.

3. Red Admiral Butterflies

Red admiral butterfly
Red admiral butterfly

Scientific Name: Vanessa atalanta

Red admiral butterflies are found in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and North America. They are dark brown with red and white markings on their wings. They have a wing span of between 1.75 inches and 3 inches.

Red admiral butterflies migrate to find new food sources. Their host plant includes the stinging nettle and the pellitory.

Their habitat includes woods, gardens, and hedgerows. Even though they cannot resist wind very well, they can still fly at speeds of up to 12.4 miles per hour.

4. Caper White Butterflies

Caper white
Caper White | image by Garrys1 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Belenois aurota

The caper white butterfly is a beautiful creature with wings that are mostly white but have black margins. The underside of the wings is a pale yellow. This butterfly has a wingspan of about 2 inches.

They are known to migrate up to 3000 miles and can maintain rapid flight 2- 3 m above the ground for long periods. It has been observed that the white caper butterfly will sometimes migrate to areas without food sources for its caterpillars. It is not fully understood why it does this.

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5. Cloudless Sulphur

Cloudless sulphur
Cloudless sulphur

Scientific Name: Phoebis sennae

The cloudless sulfur is a yellow butterfly with black markings on its wings. Adults have a wingspan of between 1.9 inches to 2.6 inches. The sun helps keep them on course when they are migrating, and they can travel up to 12 miles a day.

One of the interesting phenomena about their migration is that the males try to reach the wintering areas as quickly as possible, while the females move more slowly to conserve energy reserves.

The cloudless sulfur lays its eggs on plants in the pea family. The caterpillars eat the leaves of these plants. When ready to pupate, they spin a cocoon and attach it to a twig or leaf.

6. Common Buckeye

Common buckeye perched
Common buckeye perched

Scientific Name: Junonia coenia

The common buckeye is a beautiful butterfly with brown and orange wings. It has eyespots on its wings that help to startle predators. They have a wingspan of between 1.65 – 2.8 inches. Southern adults migrate north during late spring and summer.

While their adult diet consists of nectar, the caterpillars eat plants in the snapdragon family. Their host plants include toadflax, false foxglove, and turkey tangle fog fruit. While both sexes of the Common Buckeye are known to perch on low vegetation or the ground, the males are especially prone to doing so.

7. Gulf Fritillary

Gulf fritillary on flowers
Gulf fritillary on flowers | Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Agraulis vanillae

The Gulf Fritillary is a beautiful butterfly with orange wings and black spots. However, females tend to be more brown than an orange. They can be found in all 67 counties of Florida. Gulf fritillaries have a wingspan of between 2.5 – 3.7 inches.

They have quick, erratic flight patterns but are also easily drawn to nectar sources. Females lay their eggs on the underside of leaves of passionflower vines. When the caterpillar’s hatch, they eat the leaves of the vine.

8. American Lady

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

Scientific Name: Vanessa virginiensis

The American Lady is a beautiful butterfly with red, orange, and black wings. It has a wingspan of between 1.25 – 1.63 inches and is one of the smaller butterflies.

The American lady butterfly is found mostly in the Southern United States. The adult diet consists of nectar from a variety of flowers.

The caterpillars eat leaves from the aster, mallow, and plantain families. The American lady butterfly is active during the day and can be seen flying in open areas near woods or gardens. They are attracted to thistles, milkweed, and dogbane.

9. Little Yellow

Little yellow
Little yellow | image by khteWisconsin via Flickr

Scientific Name: Eurema lisa

The little yellow is a small butterfly with yellow wings and black spots. It has a wingspan of between 1.3 – 1.7 inches. The little yellow is found in the southeastern United States and has an adult lifespan of about ten days. They are attracted to open areas near woods or fields.

The adult diet consists of nectar from various flowers, including goldenrods and asters. The caterpillars eat leaves from the Partridge pea and wild sensitive plants. The little yellow is active during the day and can often be seen flying close to the ground.

10. Brush-Footed Butterflies

agraulis vanillae (nymphalidae)
Agraulis vanillae (Nymphalidae) on a red flower | image by José Roberto Peruca via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Nymphalidae

The beautiful Brush-footed Butterfly is found all over North America, from the southernmost tip of Florida to the northernmost reaches of Canada. It has a wingspan of around two inches, and its body is covered in black, brown, and orange scales.

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The name “Brush-footed” comes from the fact that its hind legs are much shorter than its front legs, making it look like it has brushes instead of feet. The Brush-footed Butterfly is primarily a nectar eater, but it will also eat pollen, honeydew, and even carrion.

In the fall, these butterflies migrate to warmer climates, spending the winter in Mexico or Central America. In the spring, they make their way back north again, often following the same routes that their ancestors took generations before. The Brush-footed Butterfly is truly a fascinating creature, and its beauty brings joy to nature lovers all across North America.