When we imagine colorful things in nature, butterflies are often the first thing that comes to mind. Whether you’re taking them in at a butterfly garden or just watching one flit on the breeze, butterflies certainly add a splash of color to your life.
List of Colorful Butterflies
Here’s our list of the most colorful butterflies in the world:
- Latin name: Danaus plexippus
- Habitat: Many habitat types across North America, Central America, and South America. They also can be found in Australia, New Zealand, and surrounding areas. These butterflies can even appear in Morocco and the Philippines.
- Size: Wingspan between 3.5 and 4 inches
- Diet: Primarily milkweed
- Colorful feature: Both males and females are an energetic burnt orange color. Their wings are outlined with stark black that is spotted in white.
These famous butterflies are probably best known for their annual migration from Canada and the northern United States to Mexico and parts of Florida. They are usually a deep orange color with black-outlined wings, but they come in several subspecies and morphs, including a striking white morph. And unlike most butterfly species, monarchs have even been bred at the International Space Station.
2. Malabar Banded Peacock
- Latin name: Papilio buddha
- Habitat: Various habitat types throughout India’s Western Ghats
- Size: Wingspan from about 4-6 inches
- Diet: Preferably the Indian prickly ash plant
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have wings that are deep green toward the center. There is a band of lighter green beside them, and the outer edges of the wings are black.
This aptly named butterfly is a member of the swallowtail butterfly family. Its brilliant wings have a band of light green that sometimes looks like shimmering turquoise. You might think that this butterfly is endangered based on its beauty alone, but it is fairly common in its native range.
3. Giant Blue Morpho
- Latin name: Morpho didius
- Habitat: Various habitat types across Peru
- Size: Wingspan up to almost 6 inches
- Diet: Its caterpillars mostly eat palm trees.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have deep, metallic blue wings with a hint of black along the edges. They are also fairly large, and that adds to their brilliance.
Virtually every list of colorful butterflies includes some variant of the blue morpho. They are one of the most spectacularly colored butterfly species. You might be surprised to see that the undersides of their wings are a dull brown color with eye-like markings. There are several different species commonly called the “blue morpho,” but this is the largest of them.
4. Cairns Birdwing
- Latin name: Ornithoptera euphorion
- Habitat: Preferably rainforest areas in Australia
- Size: Males can have a wingspan up to about 5 inches, while females can have a wingspan up to about 6 inches
- Diet: Its caterpillars primarily feed on different types of vines, including native Dutchman’s pipe and the Australian rainforest vine Pararistolochia australopithecurus. Adults primarily eat nectar.
- Colorful feature: Males of this species are the most colorful; their wings are intricately patterned with black, turquoise, green, and yellow. Females are patterned primarily with yellow, black, and white.
Many of the world’s most colorful butterflies are birdwing butterflies; they are named for their birdlike patterns of flight. This particular species is named for the city of Cairns in Australia. Cairns and Cooktown are the two major cities that can be found in this butterfly’s native range.
5. Periander Metalmark
- Latin name: Rhetus periander
- Habitat: Mostly rainforests in Central America and South America
- Size: Wingspan is up to about 1.2 inches
- Diet: Adults primarily eat nectar from various flowers
- Colorful feature: These intensely colored butterflies have wings that are cobalt blue and outlined with black. The bottom parts of the wings are marked with bright red splotches.
These butterflies have some of the most elegantly shaped wings on the list. The lower parts of the wings curve and taper gracefully. Though it has quite a large range, it is divided into several subspecies across that range.
- Latin name: Parthenos sylvia
- Habitat: Mostly forests in south and southeast Asia
- Size: Wingspan is up to about 3 inches
- Diet: Primarily the Adenia plant; caterpillars eat the leaves while adults drink the nectar
- Colorful feature: There are several different morphs or forms of this butterfly species, but all are intricately patterned and similar in appearance. Their wings are edges in black with large white spots, and their centers have a base color of iridescent blue, green, yellow, or some combination of those colors.
The clipper butterfly has an unusual name; it references the white wing patches that look like the sails on a clipper ship. The first person to officially describe the species was a Dutch merchant who quickly saw the resemblance to ships.
7. Cramer’s Eighty-Eight
- Latin name: Diaethria clymena
- Habitat: Many parts of Central America and South America; they can often be found near human houses
- Size: Wingspan is between 1.2 and 1.6 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars primarily feed on different types of nettle trees while adults mostly drink nectar
- Colorful feature: These butterflies are named for the pattern on the underside of their wings; it resembles the number 88. The undersides of their wings are patterned with black, white, and red. The upper parts are black with bands of blue and green.
This butterfly is a great example of a species that looks completely different depending on how you view it. Its geometrically patterned ventral wings look almost like an art print, while its dorsal wings are understated yet elegant.
8. Emerald Swallowtail
- Latin name: Papilio palinurus
- Habitat: Forested areas of Southeast Asia
- Size: Wingspan is about 3-4 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on rue or citrus plants while adults drink nectar.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have wings with bands of metallic green. The darker background color appears “powdered” with metallic green as well.
While the emerald swallowtail certainly appears green, that color isn’t due to pigmentation. Rather, it comes from something called “structural coloration.” Its wing scales contain a pattern of blue “bowls” with yellow centers. When the light refracts, it appears to be green.
9. Queen of Spain Fritillary
- Latin name: Issoria lathonia
- Habitat: Primarily open habitats in Europe, North Africa, the Canary Islands, and parts of the Palearctic
- Size: Wingspan is between 1.5 and 1.8 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on Viola plants while adults drink the nectar.
- Colorful feature: The upper part of the wings of these butterflies is mostly a deep orange with cheetah-like spots. But the undersides are especially beautiful. They are covered with large pearlescent spots.
These striking insects are some of the butterflies you really need to see up close to appreciate. In particular, their stunning pearlescent spots look almost as though they have been inlaid into wood. Thanks to their wide range and seasonal migration, these are some of the butterflies you’ll be most likely to see in Europe.
10. Crimson Rose
- Latin name: Pachliopta hector
- Habitat: Both jungle and open country in India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and parts of Myanmar
- Size: Wingspan from about 3.3 inches to 4.5 inches
- Diet: It mostly likes to feed on Lantana flowers.
- Colorful feature: These stunning butterflies are mostly black. Their tails are mottled with red, and the wings are marked with white bands.
This butterfly is part of the group of swallowtail butterflies, and its elongated tail makes it look especially striking. It has a crimson body to match the mottling on the tail, and even the undersides of the wings are patterned in red as well.
11. Amber Phantom
- Latin name: Haetera piera
- Habitat: Mostly lowland forests in the Guianas, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Peru
- Size: Wingspan is about 2-3 inches
- Diet: Different types of plant matter; experts don’t know many specifics
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have largely clear wings that are tinged with amber, much like stained glass would be. They have a few eye-like spots on the back part of their wings.
The amber phantom is one of the strangest butterfly species out there. After all, you can see completely through its glasslike wings! But those wings are just slightly tinted with amber, giving them a subtle rosy hue.
12. Great Purple Emperor
- Latin name: Sasakia charonda
- Habitat: Primarily forest canopies in Japan, Korea, China, and parts of Vietnam and Taiwan
- Size: Males have a wingspan up to 2 inches, while females have a wingspan up to 2.6 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly eat hackberries, and adults frequent sources of salt in addition to their regular diet.
- Colorful feature: Males of this species are especially colorful. Their wings are a deep purplish blue that is lined with black. Both the purple and black portions of the wings are marked with star-like spots. There are two small red patches at the bottom of the wings. Females are not quite as bright and lack the purple-blue coloring.
The great purple emperor is Japan’s official national butterfly. It’s easy to see why; this particular insect looks like something out of a painting. Most of its common names reference both its size and color. Its Japanese name translates to “great purple,” while its Chinese name translates to “big purple butterfly.”
13. Zebra Swallowtail
- Latin name: Protographium marcellus
- Habitat: Various habitat types in southeastern Canada and the eastern United States
- Size: Wingspan between 2.5 and 4.1 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly eat foliage from pawpaw trees while adults mostly drink nectar and source minerals from soil.
- Colorful feature: As the name suggests, these swallowtails are white with irregular black stripes similar to those of a zebra. Like many swallowtails, they also have narrow black “tails” extending from the hindwings.
The zebra swallowtail is the state butterfly of Tennessee. And unlike some butterfly species, it has both a spring form and a summer form. Spring butterflies have less prominent black stripes and are generally smaller. Summer butterflies have thicker, bolder black lines and are larger.
14. Mourning Cloak
- Latin name: Nymphalis antiopa
- Habitat: Various habitat types across Eurasia and North America
- Size: Wingspan can be up to 4 inches
- Diet: Its caterpillars can feed on a wide range of plants. Adults mostly feed on nectar.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have dark, purplish wings that are lined with yellowish white. They also have a collection of sapphire ovals along the yellow band.
Despite its grim name, the mourning cloak is actually a butterfly with a burst of cheerful color. It also lives for up to a year, which is much longer than most butterfly species. It has had several colorful and unique names in the past, including “white petticoat” and “grand surprise.” In Europe, it is called the Camberwell beauty.
15. Peacock Butterfly
- Latin name: Inachis io
- Habitat: Various habitat types in Europe and parts of Asia
- Size: Wingspan is around 2 inches
- Diet: It primarily feeds on stinging nettle, small nettle, and hop plants.
- Colorful feature: The peacock butterfly is one of the most brilliantly colored butterflies on the list. The upper wings have two multicolored, iridescent eye-like spots as well as a broad, red stripe beneath it. The lower wings have bright blue eye-like spots.
This beautiful butterfly has been used in research studies investigating how eye-like spots on butterflies and moths may help ward off predators. And despite its beauty, it’s not especially rare. In Europe, it can be found in gardens, parks, woods, and virtually any other habitat.
16. Adonis Blue
- Latin name: Polyommatus bellargus
- Habitat: Primarily dry grasslands in the Palearctic
- Size: Wingspan is about 1.2 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars prefer to feed on horseshoe vetch, and adults eat various types of nectar.
- Colorful feature: The males of this species are a light, delicate blue with thin white lining around the wings. Females are more dull, but they have a collection of small, eye-like dots around their wing edges as well.
Many of the world’s most beautiful butterflies are blue, but most are a darker metallic blue. The Adonis blue is a paler color that’s somewhere between sky blue and cornflower blue. And though it’s a small butterfly, it adds a real burst of color to the grasslands it calls home.
17. Trans Andean Cattleheart
- Latin name: Parides iphidamas
- Habitat: Many habitat types in Central America and South America
- Size: Wingspan can reach up to 4 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on various forms of Dutchman’s pipe plants, while adults feed on nectar.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies are mostly black with two white-blue patches on the upper wings and two bright red patches on the lower wings. The undersides of their wings have several patches of pink.
Like many other butterflies on the list, this one’s bright colors look especially bright against its black base color. Most of the plants it feeds on are toxic, and its spiny caterpillars are poisonous to predators.
18. Southern Dogface
- Latin name: Zerene cesonia
- Habitat: Mostly prairie hills and open woodlands in parts of North America and South America
- Size: Wingspan is between 1.75 and 2.5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults feed on various types of flowers including alfalfa, purple prairie clover, and verbena
- Colorful feature: These butterflies are patterned with bright yellow and black. The name “dogface” comes from the black pattern on the upper wings that looks like a dog’s face.
This cheerful yellow butterfly can be found in much of the southern United States and along much of the western coast of South America. When its caterpillar is in a chrysalis, it has a unique way of camouflaging; the chrysalis itself looks a lot like a leaf until the newly formed butterfly emerges.
19. Cloudless Sulphur
- Latin name: Phoebis sennae
- Habitat: Mostly open areas across North America, Central America, and South America
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.5 and 3.1 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on senna plants and partridge peas, while adults drink nectar from a wide range of flowers
- Colorful feature: As the name suggests, the cloudless sulphur butterfly is a bright, clear yellow color. Males are usually slightly brighter than females.
Like many species, the cloudless sulphur usually has bright green caterpillars. But its caterpillars sometimes come in a bright yellow form that matches the color of the adult butterfly.
20. Paradise Birdwing
- Latin name: Ornithoptera paradisea
- Habitat: Mountain and lowland forests in New Guinea
- Size: Wingspan between 5.5 and 7.5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults mostly feed on Dutchman’s pipe plants.
- Colorful feature: Males and females have very different color patterns. Males are a bright yellow with black lining and banding on the wings. Females are primarily black with white and taupe patterning.
The paradise birdwing is another of the large and brilliantly colored birdwings on the list. While this species is not endangered, it is classified as being near threatened. To protect the population, there are government restrictions on who can export specimens from the country.
21. Chestnut Tiger
- Latin name: Parantica sita
- Habitat: Various habitat types along the Himalayan mountains and partially into the Malayan region
- Size: Wingspan is about 3.2 to 4 inches
- Diet: Adults and caterpillars feed on a wide range of plants including tropical milkweed, waxplants, and coast typhlora.
- Colorful feature: These beautiful butterflies have bluish-white wings rimmed in black and a rich, chestnut brown.
At first glance, this beautiful Asian species looks like a differently colored monarch butterfly. The two species are somewhat related, as they are both milkweed butterflies. But thanks to the chestnut tiger’s much different range, it feeds on a tropical version of the milkweed plant.
22. Ulysses Butterfly
- Latin name: Papilio ulysses
- Habitat: Mostly rainforest areas and gardens in Australia, the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea
- Size: Wingspan can be up to 5.5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars primarily feed on kerosene wood, while adults prefer to feed on the flowers of the pink flowered doughwood plants
- Colorful feature: These highly colorful butterflies have wings of bright, metallic blue. They are lined in a thick band of black. The females have small blue crescents in the blacklining of the hindwings.
This stunning butterfly bears a resemblance to the famous blue morpho. It’s commonly known as the blue emperor as well. Its beauty can help it draw tourism into its native range. In Queensland, Australia, it is used as an emblem for tourism.
23. Duke of Burgundy
- Latin name: Hamearis lucina
- Habitat: Chalk and limestone grasslands and woodland clearings in the Palearctic region
- Size: Males have wingspans up to 1.2 inches, while females have wingspans up to 1.3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults feed on a variety of plants, including cowslip, oxlip, primrose, and false oxlip.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have a base color of black or very dark brown. The wings are marked with a distinctive orange-brown checker pattern.
Though the Duke of Burgundy is currently classified as a species of “least concern,” its populations were once in serious decline in the UK. Currently, protective laws require those wanting to trade the species to have a license.
24. Madagascar Giant Swallowtail
- Latin name: Pharmacophagus antenor
- Habitat: Bushy areas and sparse forests in the western part of Madagascar
- Size: Wingspan is from 4.7 to 5.5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on plants in the Aristolochiaceae family, while adults drink the nectar of various species.
- Colorful feature: These large butterflies are primarily black, but their wings are colored in a white, checkerlike pattern. But the bottom of the hindwings have some red patterning as well.
As a member of the swallowtail family, this graceful species has a pair of long hindwing “tails” that give it a highly streamlined look. It has a very limited range and is the only species in its genus, so it’s a unique find for collectors and butterfly watchers alike.
25. Yellow Pansy
- Latin name: Junonia hierta
- Habitat: Grasslands and scrubby areas in Africa and Southeast Asia
- Size: Wingspan is between 2 to 2.4 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults primarily feed on the tridax daisy plant. Adults also like to feed on rotting fruit.
- Colorful feature: Both males and females of this species have a black base color marked with watercolor-like yellow to orange patches. They also have a few bright blue markings. Females are slightly duller in color than males.
These uniquely colored butterflies look as though they’ve been painted. Thanks to their bright markings, they are popular among collectors. Their patterning is not exact from individual to individual, so most specimens look at least somewhat different from each other.
26. Five Bar Swordtail
- Latin name: Graphium antiphates
- Habitat: Various habitat types in south and Southeast Asia
- Size: Wingspan is from 2.2 to 2.8 inches
- Diet: They often feed on the plant Unona lawii, and adults often “mud puddle,” or look for nutrients in moist surfaces on the ground
- Colorful feature: In these butterflies, the underside of the wings is the most colorful part. Most of the wing is a bright emerald green crossed with tiger stripes, while part is white and marked with yellow to orange spots.
This unique butterfly is eye-catching both in terms of shape and color. Its tiger-like stripes look especially dramatic against the near-neon colors of its underwings. And of course, the tapered hindwings with swordlike “tails” give it an especially sleek look.
27. Striped Blue Crow
- Latin name: Euploea mulciber
- Habitat: Forested areas across India and Southeast Asia
- Size: Wingspan is between 3.1 to 3.5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults feed on several plants, including different Ficus and Nerium species
- Colorful feature: Males and females are both very brightly colored. Females have a deep brown base color with ray-like cream stripes reaching from the center. The top of the wings has patches of deep royal blue marked with white spots. Males are colored somewhat similarly, but they lack the ray-like stripes.
These artfully patterned butterflies have a look of understated elegance. Though their colors may not be neon, their intricate patterns and the pleasing contrast between white, blue, and brown certainly make them visual standouts.
28. Black Swallowtail
- Latin name: Papilio maackii
- Habitat: Forested areas of China, Japan, Korea, and parts of central Asia
- Size: Its wingspan ranges from 4.7 to 5.5 inches
- Diet: Its caterpillars prefer to feed on ailanthus-like prickly ash, Japanese orixa, and similar plants.
- Colorful feature: These metallic, glossy butterflies have a black base color that is spotted with iridescent green and purple scales. In most cases, the females are more brightly colored than the males.
The swallowtail family includes some of the world’s most colorful butterflies. And while the black swallowtail may not be “bright” in the traditional sense, its glossy black coloration makes it a true standout. And of course, the scalloped edges and tails found on the hindwings make it look especially graceful.
29. Wallace’s Golden Birdwing
- Latin name: Ornithoptera croesus
- Habitat: Primarily the area around the Sibela mountain in northern Maluku in Indonesia
- Size: Wingspan is usually from 5.5 inches to 6.25 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on Thottea and Aristolochia plants, while adults prefer to visit Mussaenda plants.
- Colorful feature: Males of this species are more colorful than females, and their black upper wings are crossed with a bright band that can range from yellow to gold to orange. The hindwings are the same color. The females aren’t quite as bright, but their dark brown wings are still marked with bright yellow chevron-like markings.
This beautiful birdwing butterfly is named after Alfred Russell Wallace, the naturalist who first described it in the 1800s. Wallace wrote that “the beauty and brilliancy of this insect are indescribable.” Like many birdwing butterflies, it is rare. However, its status has improved; its status was recently changed from “vulnerable” to “near threatened.”
30. Redspot Sawtooth
- Latin name: Prioneris philonome
- Habitat: Many habitat types in the Indomalayan realm (South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the southern part of East Asia)
- Size: Wingspan is around 1 to 2 inches
- Diet: Adults and caterpillars prefer to feed on various brassicaceous plants
- Colorful feature: These unique butterflies have whitish upper wings and yellow lower wings with black veining. The undersides of the wings are brighter yellow with black outlining and patches of white.
“Sawtooth” may seem like an odd name for a type of butterfly, but the name may come from its wing edge. The edge of the wing appears to be serrated like a saw’s edge if you look closely. However, you’re unlikely to see this pattern without a zoom lens or microscope.
31. Ceylon Blue Glassy Tiger
- Latin name: Ideopsis similis
- Habitat: Primarily different habitat types in Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and India
- Size: Wingspan is about 2.4 inches to 2.7 inches
- Diet: One of its most common host plants is Tylophora tanakae. Adults especially like to feed off of romerillo plants
- Colorful feature: Even the name of this butterfly evokes color. It has a bluish-white base color that is overlaid with thick black lining.
This butterfly belongs to the subfamily of crow and tiger butterflies. That explains why it looks somewhat similar, in terms of color and pattern, to many of the butterflies on the list. Its blue-white coloration looks almost marbled, and that makes it look like a piece of art.
32. Orchard Swallowtail
- Latin name: Papilio aegeus
- Habitat: Various habitat types across Australia, except for the state of Tasmania
- Size: Females have a wingspan up to about 5.5 inches, while males have a wingspan up to about 4.7 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults mostly feed on citrus trees.
- Colorful feature: Both males and females have black and white coloration with two small reddish patches on the hindwings. The males have a couple of bright white patches, but the females have a distinctive and beautiful grey-white, cloak-like patch that crosses the entire wingspan.
If you have been paying attention to how butterflies are classified, you may see that this one is somewhat confusing. It’s classified as a swallowtail, but unlike other swallowtails, it lacks the narrow “tail” extending from the hindwing. Even though this species can be found in most Australian states, its population is most commonly found in eastern Australia.
- Latin name: Siproeta stelenes
- Habitat: Various habitat types in Central America and the northern part of South America
- Size: Wingspan is usually between 3.3 and 3.9 inches
- Diet: Its caterpillars prefer to feed on ruellia and related plants, while the adults eat rotting fruit, nectar, and even dead animals and bat dung
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have especially colorful upper wings. Though their wings are lined and veined in black, the central color of their wings is often brilliant green. However, depending on the individual, the wing color can also be a bright yellow-green.
The malachite butterfly is one of the most exciting-looking insects on the list. After all, it isn’t every day that you see a green butterfly. It gets its name from a mineral called malachite that is close to the green color of the butterfly’s wings.
34. Common Silverline
- Latin name: Cigaritis vulcanus
- Habitat: Scrubby areas and sparse forests in Java, Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka
- Size: Wingspan is between 1 and 1.3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on a variety of plant types including jujube and titberries, while adults primarily drink nectar
- Colorful feature: In these butterflies, the undersides of the wings are most colorful. Both sexes have a whitish base color with orangish bands outlined in black. The bands have squiggly silver lines in the center. The upper surfaces of the wings are also colorful; they are a very deep seal brown with a few orange patches.
When viewed from a distance, these butterflies have beautifully striped wing undersides. But once you get up close, you can see where they got their name; those striking bands have small, metallic silver lines at the center.
35. Blue Mormon
- Latin name: Papilio polymnestor
- Habitat: Many parts of India and Sri Lanka; it isn’t unusual to see it in urban environments
- Size: Wingspan usually between 4.7 and 5.9 inches
- Diet: Adults prefer to feed on flowers like the wild mussaenda, jasmine, and Chinese violet. Caterpillars usually feed on trees and shrubs in the Rutaceae family.
- Colorful feature: When viewed from above, these butterflies have a black-blue base color that fades into white. The white hindwings are spotted with the same dark color. The undersides of the wings are more blue in color, and they usually have a few red patches where the wing joins the body.
These large and exotic-looking butterflies have remarkable cultural significance in India. In 2015, it was declared the state butterfly of the Indian state of Maharashtra. That made Maharashtra the first state in India to have designated an official state butterfly.
36. Zebra Longwing
- Latin name: Heliconius charithonia
- Habitat: Tropical and other moist areas in parts of Central America and South America
- Size: Wingspan ranges from about 2.8 to 4 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars primarily feed on passionflower plants. Adults are somewhat unusual in that they eat both nectar and pollen.
- Colorful feature: True to the name, these butterflies have sharply contrasting black and white stripes much like those of a zebra. The very bottom of the hindwing has a row of small white dots as opposed to a continuous white stripe.
You probably already know that many animal species (including many butterfly species) use the color red to warn off predators. But you may not realize that the bold striping on the zebra longwing achieves the same purpose. This use of color to warn predators is known as aposematic coloring.
37. Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing
- Latin name: Ornithoptera alexandrae
- Habitat: Forested areas of the Oro province in Papua New Guinea
- Size: Wingspan ranges from 9.8 inches to 11 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on pipe vines in the Aristolochiaceae family, while adults drink nectar from host plants.
- Colorful feature: Males of this species are the most colorful. Their wings are an iridescent bluish green with prominent black banding, while their abdomens are bright yellow.
The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing enjoys the distinction of being the largest butterfly in the world. It is also an endangered species thanks to its small range and increasing habitat destruction. It is also sometimes illegally captured, killed, and sold to collectors. In fact, selling them on the black market can earn the seller $10,000 per specimen.
38. Giant Blue Swallowtail
- Latin name: Papilio zalmoxis
- Habitat: Tropical areas of Africa
- Size: Wingspan is between 4.7 and 6.3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults usually feed on citrus plants and other members of the Rutaceae family
- Colorful feature: This species is somewhat unique in that it can be found in two colors. Both colors have black outlining. One is a shiny blue and the other is shiny green. The brilliant coloring is caused by a fluorescent pigment.
While the giant blue swallowtail isn’t the world’s largest butterfly, it’s certainly close. And like many species on the list, females are less bright than males. These butterflies have bright yellow abdomens that stand out against their cool-colored wings.
39. Chocolate Albatross
- Latin name: Appias lyncida
- Habitat: Rainy highland areas of south and Southeast Asia
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.2 to 2.8 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat various plant materials while adults drink nectar and draw nutrients from soil.
- Colorful feature: The males of this species have subtle yet beautiful coloring on the upper wings and bright coloring on the undersides. When viewed from above, the wings are a soft white with brown or black markings around the edges. The undersides of the wings are bright yellow with chocolate markings along the edges.
The chocolate albatross is a smallish, pleasantly colored species. Its especially bright underwings are tempered by warm chocolate-brown edging and a few spots of white.
40. Metallic Cerulean
- Latin name: Jamides alecto
- Habitat: Forested areas primarily located in the Indomalayan realm
- Size: Wingspan is between 1.2 and 1.7 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on a very wide variety of plants. Adults can be seen drinking nectar as well as taking in nutrients from moist soil.
- Colorful feature: The name of this butterfly is fairly self explanatory. The top of the wings are a very soft whitish blue with a metallic sheen. The undersides are a brownish blue with wavy lines and a single eyelike spot.
The metallic cerulean is one of the smaller butterflies on the list. And while its color is softer than many, its soft metallic sheen has a quiet beauty that only increases as you take a closer look. While it’s mostly in the Indomalayan realm of the world, it can also be found in the Australasian realm.
41. Great Eggfly
- Latin name: Hypolimnas bolina
- Habitat: Various tropical and subtropical habitats in Madagascar, Asia, and Australia
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.8 and 3.3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults feed on several host plants including the arrowleaf sita and the succulent Portulaca oleracea.
- Colorful feature: Males of this species have a primarily black background color with a white bar and an electric blue spot on each wing. Females are less colorful. They have a mostly brown base color with a beige pattern along the lower wings and slight blue patterning near the top.
This beautiful yet oddly named insect goes by a much prettier sounding name in New Zealand. There, it is known as the blue moon butterfly. Most experts believe that these butterflies mostly appear in New Zealand when the winds are strong enough to carry them there from Australia.
42. Monkey Puzzle
- Latin name: Rathinda amor
- Habitat: Jungles and scrubby forests in Sri Lanka and India
- Size: Wingspan is between 0.9 inches and 1.2 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults feed on a range of plants, including mango, myrtle, and soapberry.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have black-brown upperwings with a slight purple hint. The underwings are yellowish white with an intricate, puzzle-like pattern of chocolate brown lines.
The monkey puzzle is a somewhat unique butterfly, as it is not especially good at flying. While some species can fly quickly and stay airborne for long periods of time, this one tends to only fly in short bursts.
43. Leopard Lacewing
- Latin name: Cethosia cyane
- Habitat: Various habitat types in India, China, Indochina, and the Malay Peninsula
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.4 and 3.1 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults primarily feed on passiflora, its host plant.
- Colorful feature: Males of this beautiful butterfly species have very bright patterned underwings. The base color is mango orange with a darker orange patch and a white patch. The underwings are marked with a variety of squiggly and zigzag chocolate lines.
The leopard lacewing has one of the most intense and interesting patterns on the list. Females are less bright than males. And while the upper side of the male’s wings doesn’t have the same exciting pattern as the underwings, it is still a vivid, bright orange with some black and white patterning.
44. Madagascar Diadem
- Latin name: Hypolimnas dexithea
- Habitat: Various habitat types across Madagascar
- Size: Wingspan is between 3.5 and 4.3 inches
- Diet: Adults and caterpillars feed on various plants across Madagascar.
- Colorful feature: These colorful insects have a black base color with a white bar and spots on each wing. The lower part of the hindwings is a rich red-brown, and it has a large white patch above it.
The Madagascar diadem is a large and beautiful butterfly that is often sought after by collectors. It’s somewhat unique in that its wings have fringe-like edges. The “fringe” has a white base color and a pattern of black lines that make it stand out against the butterfly’s primary base color.
45. African Monarch
- Latin name: Danaus chrysippus
- Habitat: Mostly open and dry areas of Australia, Africa, and Asia
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.8 and 3.1 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars and adults feed on various plants in the milkweed family.
- Colorful feature: This butterfly has a pattern similar to the monarch butterfly described above. However, it has a higher proportion of orange. While its wings are outlined in black, it has larger white spots along the edges than monarchs do.
The African monarch has an interesting distinction; it’s very likely to be the first butterfly ever depicted in art. Its likeness has even been found in an Egyptian fresco that is estimated to be 3,500 years old.
46. Apollo Butterfly
- Latin name: Parnassius apollo
- Habitat: Alpine meadows, hills, and pastures across much of continental Europe and central Asia
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.4 and 3.4 inches
- Diet: The primary host plant for adults and caterpillars is the wormleaf stonecrop.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have a grey base color. They are marked with black patterning that is primarily around the wing edges. The hindwings have a few very bright red eyelike patches.
This distinctive butterfly looks almost like a moth at first glance. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that it was named for the Greek god Apollo. The species is divided into over 20 subspecies across its considerable range.
47. Glasswing Butterfly
- Latin name: Greta oto
- Habitat: Tropical rainforest areas of northern and central South America
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.2 and 2.4 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars usually feed on host plants of the Cestrum genus. Adults usually drink the nectar of Lantanaplants.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have wings that are primarily clear. This interesting approach to camouflage makes it easier for the glasswing to blend into a variety of surroundings. The wings are rimmed in a warm tortoiseshell color with a white patch.
While many people think that the wings of this butterfly resemble glass, others find them to be more like mirrors. In Spanish-speaking regions of this butterfly’s range, people sometimes refer to it as espejitos, a word that means “little mirrors.”
48. Map Butterfly
- Latin name: Araschnia levana
- Habitat: Various habitat types in the Palearctic region, Japan, Korea, Europe, the Far East of Russia, and Central Asia
- Size: Females have a wingspan up to 1.6 inches while males have a wingspan of up to 1.3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars primarily feed on stinging nettles, while adults drink a variety of nectar types.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies show some variation in coloring, but most are a deep red-orange with a pattern of map-like black spots.
The map butterfly has one of the largest ranges on the list. Notably, though, it has not taken up residence in the United Kingdom. For a time, there were various attempts to release it into the wild, but all failed. Now, it is illegal to release a foreign species into the wild.
49. Edith’s Checkerspot
- Latin name: Euphydryas editha
- Habitat: Mountainous areas of western North America
- Size: Wingspan is between 1.3 and 2 inches
- Diet: Depending on exact location, caterpillars and adults will feed on a variety of plants. These include lousewort, paintbrush, and beardtongues.
- Colorful feature: The Edith’s checkerspot exhibits lively coloring. While its wings are very dark, they are marked with a checker-like pattern of red and pale yellow.
Though the Edith’s checkerspot has a wide range, global warming poses a significant threat to its populations, especially in warmer areas. But as southern populations decline, this butterfly has been moving its range further north.
50. Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail
- Latin name: Papilio appalachiensis
- Habitat: Mostly in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern North America
- Size: Wingspan is between 3.4 and 4.5 inches
- Diet: Both adults and caterpillars feed on a variety of plants.
- Colorful feature: These butterflies have soft yellow wings with distinctive black patterning. The hindwings each have a smallish blue and red spot.
To the uninitiated, the Appalachian tiger swallowtail may look a lot like the eastern tiger swallowtail and similar species. But there’s a relatively easy way to tell the species apart; this one is considerably larger.
51. Richmond Birdwing
- Latin name: Ornithoptera richmondia
- Habitat: Rainforests in parts of Australia
- Size: Females have a wingspan of up to 6.3 inches while males have a wingspan of up to 5.1 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed primarily on two host plants in the Aristolochiaceae family, while adults drink the nectar of plants including lantanas and eucalypt plants.
- Colorful feature: Males are especially colorful, with green upper wings that have black banding. The undersides of their wings are especially colorful as well. They feature patterning of black, blue, green, and yellow.
This is another of the stunning birdwing species of butterfly. Like most birdwing species, many experts consider it to be rare. Even though it has not been officially evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to determine the degree to which it is threatened, the Richmond birdwing has been the subject of several population recovery programs.
52. Rothschild’s Birdwing
- Latin name: Ornithoptera rothschildi
- Habitat: Flowering meadows in New Guinea’s Arfak Mountains
- Size: Males can have a wingspan up to 5.1 inches, while females can have a wingspan of up to 5.9 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on pipevines, while adults mostly drink nectar.
- Colorful feature: The males of this species are especially colorful. They have a black base color with yellow and yellow-green patterning. They also have smaller lime green spots.
Though many birdwing butterflies have very narrow ranges, the Rothschild’s birdwing has the smallest of all. That makes it relatively hard to find, but it’s certainly worth the effort to see one!
53. Idas Blue
- Latin name: Plebejus idas
- Habitat: Flowery, grassy areas across Europe as well as the Paleoarctic and Nearctic realms
- Size: Wingspan is between 0.67 and 1.1 inches
- Diet: Both adults and caterpillars feed on a very wide variety of plants.
- Colorful feature: Males of these species have upper wings of a metallic medium blue. Females have upper wings that often appear mottled with different colors. Like some other species on the list, these butterflies have coloration that varies considerably between individuals.
This is one of the butterfly species that has been divided into many subspecies. One of these subspecies, Plebejus itas lotis, is native to the state of California and is critically endangered.
Nature’s Most Colorful Butterflies
Hopefully you’ve both seen some of your favorite colorful butterflies on the list and learned a few new ones. The nice thing about these colorful creatures is that they’re everywhere; you don’t need to go far into the wilderness or out into farmlands to see them. Wherever you go, keep an eye out for these fluttering beauties.