Interpreting Species Accounts
Search by Major Taxonomic Group:
Vernacular, scientific names and taxonomic order generally follows Pelham (2008) Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 40: xiv + 658 pp.
Swallowtails: Family Papilionidae
Swallowtails (subfamily Papilioninae): The Papilionidae belong to the Superfamily Papilionoidea, the true butterflies. Many swallowtails are brilliantly colored and are favorites of butterfly enthusiasts. Many mimic other butterflies that are distasteful, while others are distasteful and cause birds and other predators to vomit. Adults are medium to large and many have tails. Adults visit flowers for nectar. Males of most species patrol for mates, while males of Black Swallowtails perch on hilltops or ridges instead of patrolling. Swallowtails overwinter as pupae. They comprise about 560 species, have a worldwide distribution, and are richest in the tropics. There are six species found in Vermont, the Giant Swallowtail only recently colonized Vermont in 2010.
Whites and Sulphurs: Family Pieridae
Sulphurs (subfamily Coliadinae): Members of the Family Pieridae, in North America, they range from Mexico to northern Canada. There are four species found in Vermont. Sexes of most species are dimorphic. Some species are puddlers and will collect around muddy pools on dirt roads. Sulphurs overwinter as larvae.
Whites (subfamily Pierinae): Worldwide in distribution with most found in the tropics. Species with more than one generation usually have distinct seasonal variation in appearance. There are 31 species of the subfamily Pierinae in North America with just three found in Vermont. Adults of most species are predominantly white above with some black patterns, and their hindwings often have a pattern of yellow and black scales that can appear green. All species overwinter in chrysalis.
Gossamer Wings: Family Lycaenidae
Harvesters (subfamily Miletinae): Worldwide in distribution, this family has approximately 4,700 species that are unevenly distributed. Miletinae is a small subfamily, and most species reside in Africa or Asia. The larvae are carnivorous, feeding on other insects. Only one species is found in North America and in Vermont.
Coppers (subfamily Lycaeninae): They are found in sunny, open habitats throughout the temperate zone, with 50 species found in Eurasia and North America and three found in Vermont. No species are known migrants, but several are local colonists. Coppers typically have upper wing surfaces that are iridescent purple or red-orange, but some North American species are blue, brown, or gray. Males perch and interact with other males while awaiting receptive females. Most species have a single brood and overwinter as eggs or as first instar caterpillars within the egg. The caterpillars feed docks, knotweeds, buckwheats, cinquefoils, gooseberries, currants, or redberry in North America.
Hairstreaks (subfamily Theclinae):Richest in tropical habitats, hairstreaks are numerous in the Americas and comprise about 1,000 species with five genera found in Vermont. In tropical species, the upperside of small to medium-sized adults is often iridescent blue, due to reflected light from the wing scales. However, most of the North American species are brown above. Migration is rare, but a few species, like Gray Hairstreak, are good long-distance colonists. Males perch to await mates, and females lay eggs singly. Caterpillars usually feed on leaves or reproductive structures of woody trees or shrubs. The chrysalids of several species can produce sounds between their abdominal segments, likely related to their interactions with ants. Hairstreaks typically overwinter in the egg or pupal stage. White M Hairstreak was discoverd in Vermont in 2012.
Blues (subfamily Polyommatinae): Distributed worldwide, they are most diverse in Southeast Asia, tropical Africa, and northern temperate regions. Most of the nearly 50 North American species are found in the west. There are currently 5 recognized species in Vermont.
Aptly named, adult males are predominantly blue above. Like bird feathers, this is due to reflected light rather than pigmentation. Some males and most females are mostly brown above. Below, wings of both sexes are usually gray-white with black spots or streaks. Adults in some genera (Euphilotes, Lycaeides, Plebulina, and Icaricia) have orange submarginal bands on their hindwings. Most adults are found near their host plants, and are poor dispersers. Adults visit flowers for nectar. Males frequently puddle at moist sand and mud. Eggs are laid singly on hostplant leaves or flowers. Larvae release sugary secretions that attract ants, and caterpillars of some species are raised inside ant nests. Most overwinter as pupae.
Celastrina in eastern North America have been a perplexing genus for years. All VBS vouchers were sent to H. Pavulaan for determination. For now, all VBS records are placed within three species: Lucia Azure, Cherry Gall Azure and Summer Azure. However, Summer Azure appeared to have two flight periods, the first peaking in early July and the next peaking in early August. The two flights combined with some morphological differences may hint at a cryptic species within Summer Azure in Vermont that is currently undescribed. Additionally, Lucia Azure flight period suggests that it too may be comprised of two sibling species. There may be as many as five Celstrina species in Vermont. Further taxonomic study is urgently needed.
Brushfoots: Family Nymphalidae
The Nymphalidae are members of the Superfamily Papilionoidea, the true butterflies. Distributed worldwide, highest diversity for this family is the tropics. They are highly variable, and there are more species in this family than in any other. There are 38 species in Vermont, with one now extirpated (Regal Fritillary). Adults vary in size from small to large, and their front legs are reduced, unable to be used for walking. Adults of some groups are the longest-lived butterflies, surviving 6-11 months as they overwinter.
Snout Butterfly (Subfamily Libytheinae): A small subfamily of only ten species, snouts reside in temperate and tropical regions, and only one species lives in North America. Authorities disagree on placement of subfamily, with some believing it should elevated to family. Adults migrate periodically in massive numbers and visit flowers for nectar. Males have reduced front legs that are not used for walking, and they patrol host plants in search of females. Eggs are laid in small groups on host leaves. Snouts overwinter as adults.
Milkweed Butterfly (Subfamily Danainae): Species in this group are large in size. The males of many have prominent marks at the middle of hindwings. Most of them can fly long distance and some are migratory. Caterpillars feed Milkweed plants (Asclepiadea). Milkweed is poisonous but the caterpillars can tolerate and store it in their body, so both the caterpillar and adult butterfly are poisonous and distasteful to predators. Caterpillars in this subfamily have two or more long dorsal filaments. They are usually banded with bright warning color; usually black, yellow and white. The pupa are smooth with brilliant colors.
Longwings and Fritillaries (subfamily Heliconiinae): Most species are found in the tropics, but several genera are prominent in the Northern Hemisphere, including greater and lesser fritillaries. Adults of several species are distasteful, and many others are mimics. Adults are long-lived, with some as long as six months. Males patrol in search of females.
Admirals and Relatives (subfamily Limenitidinae):Found on most continents, adults of most genera are characterized by their flap-and-glide flight. Caterpillar and chrysalis structure defines this group. There are just two species found in Vermont.
Emperors (subfamily Apaturinae):Emperors are members of the Family Nymphalidae. Found worldwide, they are a closely related group. A particularly diverse array of species occurs in eastern Asia. In North America, they are limited to the genus Asterocampa. The two species found in Vermont were not discovered until the 2002 during the survey.
True Brushfoots (Subfamily Nymphalinae): Brushfoots are the most prevalent members of the Family Nymphalinae. Distributed worldwide, it has changed many times over the past decades from encompassing about half of the 6,000 species of Nymphalidae to its current, more restricted list of about 495 species. There are over 70 species recorded in North America and 17 reported from Vermont. Adults of North American species are predominantly orange, brown, and black. Migration varies widely; some strong migrants are found in the lady butterflies, tortoiseshells, and anglewings, while other species are local in occurrence. Most species limit their host plants to a few species, but the Painted Lady has one of the most diverse of all butterflies. Brushfoots overwinter as young caterpillars or hibernating adults.
Wood Nymphs and Satyrs (Subfamily Satyrinae): Members of this worldwide group are most often brown with one or more marginal eyespots. Males often have visible patches of specialized scales on the fore- or hindwings. Adults have a short proboscis and rarely visit flowers, feeding instead on rotting fruit, animal droppings, or sap flows. Nearly all species hostplants are gramanoids, including bamboos, rushes, and sedges. Adults usually perch with their wings closed, but open them wide when basking early in the morning or during cloudy weather. Most species have local colonies and are not migratory. Males patrol when searching for mates, flying in characteristic slow, skipping flight. Eggs are laid singly on the host leaves or stems, and caterpillars feed within shelters of several leaves sewn together with silk. Development from egg to adult can take two years in arctic and alpine species, and is highly synchronized in some species. In those species, adult butterflies are only found during alternating years. Satyrinae typically overwinter as partially grown caterpillars.
Skippers: Family Hesperiidae
Worldwide in distribution, skippers are richest in the tropics. More than 3,500 species are described, with approximately 275 in North America, many of which are found only in Arizona and Texas. In Vermont 36 species have been found. Most skippers are small to medium, usually orange, brown, black, white, or gray. A few have iridescent colors. Skippers have large eyes, short antennae with hooked clubs, stout bodies. Their rapid flight makes their wing beats appear blurred. Males have scent scales found in modified forewing patches called a stigma. Globe-shaped eggs are laid singly.
Spread-winged Skippers (Subfamily Eudaminae): Formerly included in subfamily Pyrginae as a tribe Eudamini. There are 55 genera with most found in the tropics.
Spread-winged Skippers (subfamily Pyrginae): Found nearly worldwide, their systematics has changed considerably in recent years, but uncertainties surrounding the evolutionary relationships are now believed to be resolved. Despite the removal of over 1,000 species from this subfamily, it still is the second-largest.
Skipperlings (subfamily Heteropterinae): A small subfamily with only about 150 described species, and one in Vermont.
Grass Skippers (subfamily Hesperiinae): Distributed worldwide, they comprise more than 2,000 species, most of which are found in the American tropics. There are 24 species known from Vermont. The small to medium-sized adults usually have abruptly angled antennae. Adults of many temperate species are predominantly orange. Male forewings usually have a stigma with specialized scales. Most species have long proboscises for nectaring. Adult flight is rapid, and perching posture is unique, with the hindwings opened at a wider angle than the forewings. Males of most species perch to search for females. Caterpillars feed on grasses and sedges (monocotyledons) and live in silk and leaf nests that sometimes extend underground. They typically overwinter as caterpillars within their shelters.
Giant Silkmoths: Family Saturniidae
Giant Silkmoths (subfamily Saturniinae: As their common name suggests, these are medium to very large moths, with adult wingspans ranging from 7.5 to 15 cm. They have hairy bodies and relatively small heads. Caterpillars feed on a wide range of native and ornamental trees and shrubs. Caterpillars pupate in a well-built silken cocoon. There are four species known from Vermont.
PO Box 420 Norwich, VT 05055 802.649.1431 email@example.com
© VCE 2013