Butterflies

Blue butterfly on a flower
The Greenish Blue is one of almost 300 butterfly species found in Grand Canyon National Park.

NPS Robb Hannawacker

 

Scientific Name

Order Lepidoptera (292 butterfly and moth species in the Park)

 

Identification

  • Adult butterflies have six legs, four wings, and a long proboscis. Normally curled when not being used to feed, the proboscis is used to drink nectar from flowers.
  • The wings are covering in tiny scales. These scales are what give the wings of butterflies their incredible colors.
  • Moths and butterflies are in the same Order (Lepidoptera), but often have physical differences. While there are exceptions, moths tend to be active at night (while butterflies are active during the day), and moths hold their wings down over their back (butterflies hold their wings folded upright).
  • Butterflies of the Grand Canyon have an enormous range in size. The western pygmy blue butterfly is one of the world's smallest butterflies and has a wingspan of only 0.5 inches (1.27cm). The two-tailed swallowtail is North America's largest butterfly, with a wingspan of up to 6.5 inches (16.5cm).
  • While there are 292 species of butterflies and moths in Grand Canyon National Park, some of these species can interbreed, producing hybrid offspring that combine the appearances and colors of both parents. For example, the offspring of Weidemeyer's Admiral (Limenitis weidemeyer) and Red Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) look like Weidemeyer's Admiral, except that they have purple wings instead of black.
 

Habitat

  • Butterflies and moths are found in all parts of Grand Canyon National Park- from the pinyon-juniper forests of the South Rim, to the Colorado River, to the high elevation forests of the North Rim.
  • The sheer number of butterfly and moth species means that there are many different life patterns represented in Grand Canyon National Park. Many species spend their entire existence in the Canyon while others migrate and only spend part of their life in the park. Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are found in the Grand Canyon in late summer as they migrate thousands of miles from Canada and the United States to Mexico for the winter.
  • Butterflies are most frequently seen in the Grand Canyon from early June to mid-August.
 

Behavior

  • Butterflies go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, caterpillar, pupa (also called a chrysalis), and adult (also called an imago).
  • Once a caterpillar is fully grown, it stops feeding on leaves and moves to a protected location which it hangs from. Now known as a pupa or chrysalis, it undergoes metamorphosis- changing from a caterpillar to an adult butterfly.
  • Most adult butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, but a few species are predators that feed on the eggs and larvae of other insect species. Many butterflies rely on certain species of plants for food. Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) feed on only one type of plant: milkweed.
  • The lifespan of an adult butterfly varies between species. Many species live for only a month, while others can live up to 12 months.
 

Last updated: April 8, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Phone:

(928) 638-7888

Contact Us