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Butterfly Briefs: Brush-footed Butterflies (family Nymphalidae)


The American Snout (Libytheana carinent) is a medium-small, orange & brown butterfly of forests and forest edges. They have unique, elongated mouth parts that give them a pointed ‘snout’ and, with the combination of their mottled brown coloration on their hindwing below, helps them create a convincing leaf camouflage. Above, they have a pretty orange and brown pattern with some white spots.


Snouts have a distinctive, fluttery flight and can often be seen puddling on wet soil and gravel and will land on people to get salts from the sweat on their skin and clothes. They also visit flowers for nectar. Their caterpillars feed on hackberry trees.


South and southwest states (Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona) periodically have huge population outbreaks and millions of snouts can be seen migrating.  Snouts in the Midwest arrive from the south each year.


For more about the American Snout, visit



The Monarch (Danaus plexippus) is a large orange butterfly of open areas. Male Monarchs have thinner black wing veins and a black spot on a vein in their hindwing. They resemble Viceroys but the Viceroy is usually a little smaller and typically has a dark band through the middle of its hindwing.


Monarchs migrate to Mexico each winter. The grandchildren of that generation arrive back in the Midwest in spring. There are multiple summer broods, with the last brood being the generation that migrates to Mexico. The adults can be found in open areas, getting nectar from flowers. Their caterpillars feed on milkweeds. The caterpillars are not harmed by the milkweed toxins and incorporate those toxins into their tissues, protecting themselves from predators even after becoming adult butterflies.


For more about the Monarch, visit



The Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) is a medium-sized orange butterfly with a complex pattern of brown lines and spots. The adults can be found spring to fall in open areas, flying low to the ground and getting nectar from flowers such as coneflowers and clovers.


Their caterpillars feed on a variety of plants including violets, purslane, sedum, and mayapple.  Their chrysalis is gorgeous, almost looking like a jewel.


For more about the variegated fritillary, visit



Great Spangled Fritillaries (Speyeria cybele) are gorgeous, large, orange and brown butterflies of open areas. They have a two-toned pattern, with dark brown towards their body and orange towards the outside of the wing. On the underside, they have a series of large silver spots and a distinct tan band on the outer edge of the hind wing.


Great Spangled Fritillaries fly from early summer to fall but are most common in early summer at the same time that butterfly weed – a plant that they love to get nectar from – is blooming. The adults get nectar from a variety of flowers and their caterpillars feed on violets.


For more about the Great Spangled Fritillary, visit



Red-spotted Purples (Limenitis arthemis) are black above with blue scaling on the hindwings. Below they have scattered orange spots (so they should really be called orange-spotted blues!). They mimic Pipevine Swallowtails, but unlike our other three common Pipevine Swallowtail mimics, they are not swallowtails themselves – instead they are closely related to viceroys.  Interestingly, in northern areas where Pipevine Swallowtails do not occur, the Red-spotted Purple has very different coloration and does not mimic the pipevine swallowtail – it’s called the “white admiral” in those areas.


The five large dark butterflies can be difficult to tell apart, but it is possible if you know what to look for. Please check out our "Large Dark Butterflies" page or download our free butterfly eGuide for details on how to distinguish each of them based on the type of “blue” they have (iridescence versus blue scales), the type of orange spot pattern they have on the underside of their hindwing, the type of white marks on the upperwings, the presence of marks on their abdomen, and other characteristics.


Caterpillars of the Red-spotted Purple resemble bird poop and feed on a wide variety of plants including willows, cottonwoods, wild cherry, and oaks. Adults occasionally feed on flowers but more commonly get energy and nutrients from sap, rotten fruit, and poop. They have two broods during the year, one in late spring and one in mid-summer.


For more about the Red-spotted Purple, visit



Silvery Checkerspots (Chlosyne nycteis) are commonly found in fields and forest edges. They are beautiful, small orange and black butterflies that fly low to the ground and frequently perch on vegetation.


Silvery Checkerspots closely resemble the (usually more common) Pearl Crescent, but checkerspots are usually slightly larger and differ in some of the details of the pattern on their wings.  One of the best ways to tell the difference is that silvery checkerspots have light "silvery" spots within the dark spots on the trailing edge of the upperside of their hindwings, making these spots “donuts.”


Adult checkerspots nectar on a variety of flowers and seem to especially enjoy butterfly weed and coreopsis. Males are often found puddling on wet mud or gravel to get salts for reproduction. Their caterpillars can feed on many different plants, including asters and black-eyed susans.


For more about the Silvery Checkerspot, visit



The Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) is one of our most common butterflies. They are small butterflies, fly low to the ground, and are orange with variable amount of black markings on the upper side. In the Midwest, they would be most commonly confused with the Silvery Checkerspot, which is usually less common, slightly larger, and has a less variable pattern.

Adult Pearl Crescents get nectar from a wide variety of flowers. Their caterpillars feed on asters. Males frequently ‘puddle’ on wet mud and gravel to get salts for reproduction.

For more about the Pearl Crescent, visit

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