|

Top 25 Texas Butterflies: The Ultimate Guide!

With over 400 butterfly species, Texas has more types of butterflies than any other state! I’ve selected just a subset of butterflies in Texas for this guide.

These 25 species are typically found throughout the state and fly throughout the year. They are some of the most common butterflies you will find in your garden, especially if you grow Texas native plants!

Start by downloading my free printable PDF of 10 Common Texas Butterflies. You this handy one-pager to help identify butterflies you see in your yard.

These are some of the butterflies you are most likely to spot in Texas!

While these butterflies are common in Texas, some can be found throughout the United States. I’ve included both their common names and scientific names (in parentheses), as well as their host plants, below.

The ultimate guide to common Texas butterflies!
Pin this image to save this post!

Download the Free PDF: 10 Texas Butterflies

I created a handy one-page PDF for you to print and keep by your backyard patio or in your gardening bag. It includes a thumbnail photo of each butterfly along with tips for identifying them and a list of their host plants. Get it here:

Texas butterflies PDF

Texas Monarchs (and Look-Alikes!)

It’s always exciting to spot a Monarch in Texas. But take a closer look, and you may actually be seeing one of their look-alikes!

1. Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Host plants: Milkweed

Did you know that the Monarch butterfly is the Texas state butterfly? This iconic orange butterfly is one of the easiest to identify while it travels through Texas.

In the spring, Texas is on the central path of the Monarch migration from Mexico north to southern Canada. Monarchs arrive just as their host plant, Milkweed, is starting to put on new growth.

The monarchs return in the fall on their long journey to their winter homes in central Mexico. Here in San Antonio their fall migration peak is typically the third week in October.

Monarchs in Texas - Texas state butterfly
The Monarch butterfly is one of the most well-known Texas butterflies. It is the Texas state butterfly.
  • Monarchs require Milkweed to survive! It is the only plant their caterpillars can eat.
  • Whenever possible, avoid Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), which is commonly sold at nurseries. Here is why.
  • Instead, look for these native Texas Milkweed options at local nurseries that carry Texas natives:
    • Antelope Horns Milkweed (Asclepias asperula)
    • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
    • Texas Milkweed (Asclepias texana)
    • Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
    • Zizotes Milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides)

2. Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Host plants: Willow, Cherry, and Poplar trees.

Viceroys are expert mimics! They look almost exactly like Monarch butterflies, but if you look closely there is an extra horizontal line that runs along their hind wings.

Some butterflies, like the Viceroy, have adapted to mimic more poisonous butterflies and trick predators. Monarchs are poisonous thanks to the compounds they digest from Milkweed.

If you want to attract Viceroy butterflies, plant their host trees! Trees are some of the best butterfly and moth host plants around.

Viceroy butterfly
Look for the black horizontal line on the hindwings to identify Viceroy butterflies.

3. Queen (Danaus gilippus)

Host plants: Milkweed (the same host plant as Monarchs)

The Queen butterfly is one of the butterflies I see most often in San Antonio. Perched on a flower with its wings closed, it looks very similar to a Monarch. However when it opens its wings you will notice white spots, but not the black webbed lines Monarchs have.

Queen butterflies Texas
Queen butterflies are easiest to identify with their wings open to reveal their white spots.

Queen caterpillars look very similar to Monarch caterpillars. The easiest way to tell them apart is to count their antennae-looking tubercles. The Monarch has two sets, while the Queen has three:

Monarch and Queen caterpillars
The Monarch caterpillar (left) has two sets of tubercles (black spikes), while the Queen (right) has three.

While Queen caterpillars eat Milkweed, the adults love the nectar of Gregg’s Mistflower. This plant will often be covered in Queens. It is a must for your butterfly garden!

Queen butterflies will flock to Gregg’s Mistflower in Texas in the fall!

Texas Swallowtails

After Monarch, Swallowtails are some of the easiest to recognize, and most beautiful, of butterflies! Here are a few of the Swallowtail butterflies you can find in Texas:

4. Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

Host plants: Pipevines

Pipevine Swallowtails are one of the more common butterflies in Texas. Similar to Monarchs, they are poisonous to predators, thanks to toxins from their host plant, Pipevine. Other butterflies, such as the Red-Spotted Purple, mimic it.

Pipevine swallowtail
Look for the orange and blue on the hind wings of the Swallowtail caterpillar.

Pipevine Swallowtails have unique caterpillars to other Swallowtails. They are brownish-red and pokey looking!

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillar

It can be hard to find Pipevine (Aristolochia species) at the nursery. Seek out a local nursery that specializes in natives and ask them to carry it. Or reach out to your local Native Plant Society. Their members may propagate some to share.

White-Veined Pipevine is a non-native Pipevine that some nurseries sell. It is a ground cover.

5. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Host plants: Ash, Cherry, Cottonwood, and Mexican Plum trees.

This beautiful black and yellow butterfly always gives me a sense of awe when it flutters by. You can’t help but notice the brilliant burst of yellow! It is found throughout Texas except for far West Texas and the Panhandle.

Black and yellow butterfly Texas

6. Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

Host plants: Prickly Ash and Wafer Ash trees, Citrus trees

The largest of the Swallowtail butterflies, it is also one of the largest butterfly species in North America. Its wingspan can be over 5 inches across! It is yellow and black like the Tiger Swallowtail, but with different markings.

Giant swallowtail butterfly

7. Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

Host plants: Spicebush and Sassafras

The Spicebush Swallowtail mimics the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail in its coloring. However, you can identify it by the clear line of white circles running along the base of its wings.

Spicebush Swallowtail
Look for the line of white circles along the base of the Spicebush Swallowtail’s wings.

8. Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Host plants: Fennel, Parsley, Dill

Attract this beautiful butterfly to your yard by planting herbs in your garden! Their host plants are fennel, parsley, dill, and rue. The adults will lay their eggs on these plants and you’ll soon see caterpillars.

Black Swallowtail
Plant Dill, Parsley, Fennel, or Rue and Black Swallowtails will find your yard!

The Black Swallowtail caterpillars look quite different than other Swallowtail caterpillars. They are Black, white and green similar to Monarch caterpillars.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar
If you see these caterpillars on your herbs, celebrate them! They will become Black Swallowtails.

Texas Fritillaries

9. Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Host plants: Passionvine (Passiflora species)

These orange and black butterflies are some of the most common butterflies in Texas. You can find Gulf Fritillaries wherever their host plant, Passionvine is growing. Look for native Texas species Passiflora incarnata to grow in your yard.

I have Passionvine growing in my yard and there will almost always be a female fluttering around it on a sunny day, laying its eggs.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly - orange and black butterflies
The Gulf Fritillary butterfly is easy to identify from the white markings when its wings are closed.

10. Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

Host plants: Flax, Passionvine, Purslane, Violets and Pansies

The Variegated Fritillary can be found flying all year in Texas. It has a variety of host plants including Passionvine. It is not a true Fritillary, but shares traits with Fritillaries and Longwing butterflies.

Variegated fritillary butterfly

Texas Crescents

Crescent butterflies are smaller butterflies, with a wingspan typically no larger than 1.5″ across. These common backyard butterflies can be tricky to tell apart.

11. Texan Crescent (Phyciodes texana)

Host plants: Flame Acanthus, Wild Petunia, Water Willow

Texas Crescent butterflies are the only butterfly on this list named for our great state! These native butterflies have a range that spans westward from Texas to California.

Texas Crescent Butterfly
Look for the row of white circles along bottom wings to identify the Texas Crescent from other Crescents.

12. Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon)

Host plants: Frogfruit

This little butterfly uses one of my favorite Texas native plants as its host plant – Frogfruit! Plant this pretty groundcover to attract Phaon Crescent and a myriad of other small pollinators.

Phaon Crescent
Plant Frogfruit to attract the Phaon Crescent butterfly to your yard.

13. Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Host plants: Asters

The Pearl Crescent butterfly has more black markings around the edges of its wings than other Crescent butterflies.

Pearl Crescent
Pearl Crescents tend to have a darker wing border than other Crescent butterflies.

14. Vesta Crescent (Phyciodes vesta)

Host plants: Tube-tongue

The Vesta Crescent has a silly-sounding host plant: Tube-Tongue. This Texas native plant with purple flowers also goes by the scientific name Justicia. I recently spotted a Vesta Crescent nectaring on Shrubby Boneset. See the video here.

Vesta Crescent

Other Common Butterflies in Texas

15. Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)

Host plants: Sunflowers, Ragweed

Plant Sunflowers and you can help support the pretty Bordered Patch butterfly. Sunflowers are their host plant along with Ragweed (which you probably don’t want to plant if you have allergies!).

Bordered Patch butterfly
The Bordered Patch butterfly is a common backyard visitor in Texas.

My Annual Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) were covered in Bordered Patch caterpillars last summer. If you see caterpillars on your flowers, don’t try to get rid of them. First, identify them and learn about what they will become. Your flowers are playing an important ecosystem role! They will rebound from being eaten.

Central Texas caterpillars
Bordered Patch caterpillars on Common Sunflower.

16. Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Host plants: Nettle, False Nettle, Pellitory

The unique coloring on the Red Admiral butterfly makes this one easy to spot. When it is resting with its wings outstretched, you’ll notice the orange band that forms a circle around the butterfly.

orange and black butterflies

17. Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Host plants: Wild Petunia, Snapdragon Vine, Plantain

The striking eyespot markings on the wings of the Common Buckeye butterfly make it easy to identify. Common Buckeyes are one of my favorite butterflies to spot! They are common throughout North America.

Common Buckeye butterfly

18. American Snout Butterfly (Libytheana carinenta)

Host plants: Hackberry trees

Large numbers of American Snout butterflies can be seen in San Antonio and throughout Bexar County where I live in early fall. They often are so thick they are hard to miss (and unfortunately can get squashed on your car!).

Each year’s emergence coincides with native hackberry trees putting on fresh growth. Snout Butterflies lay their eggs on new leaves so their caterpillars can eat them. There were even more Snout butterflies in San Antonio in 2022 than in past years, likely due to a period of drought followed by rainfall.

The Hackberry Emperor is another butterfly that uses Hackberry trees as its host plant.

Texas butterfly
Identify these butterflies by their long “snout”!

19. Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

Host plants: Dalea, Clover, False Indigo, , Texas Kidneywood

This little yellow butterfly is one of several Sulphur butterflies common in Texas. You can identify this one by the black circle with a white center on its forewing. Look for this spot to avoid confusing it with other Sulphur butterflies such as the Cloudless Sulphur or Orange Sulphur.

Southern Dogface butterfly

20. Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

Host plants: Mallow, Thistle, Texas Lantana, Clover, others

This small butterfly has a wingspan of about an inch. There are several different types of Hairstreaks in Texas, but this is the one I see most often. It uses up to 90 different plants as its host plant including Mallow, Thistle, Texas Lantana, and Clover.

Gray hairstreak butterfly

21. Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Host plants: Elm trees, Hackberry trees, Nettle, False Nettle

The uniquely-shaped wings of this butterfly make it a fun one to spot! It is very similar looking to the Eastern Comma butterfly, with slightly different markings on their hind wings.

Question mark butterfly Texas

22. Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Host plants: Thistle, Mallows, Legumes

The Painted Lady is one of the most common butterflies throughout the world! It uses a wide variety of plants as its host plant. The American Lady is another similar-looking butterfly of the same genus.

Painted Lady butterfly

23. White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)

Host plants: Frogfruit, Ruellia, Flame Acanthus

The White Peacock butterfly is easiest to spot in south Texas. Its host plant, Frog Fruit, is one of my favorite native groundcovers!

White Peacock butterfly

24. Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)

Host plants: Native Grasses, Bermuda Grass

Skippers are a special type of butterfly. They are a cross between a butterfly and a moth. Skippers use grasses as their host plants.

There are a number of different skippers in Texas, but the Fiery Skippers is one you will likely see nectaring on flowers such as Gregg’s Mistflower or Buttonbush.

Fiery Skipper Texas

25. White-Striped Longtail (Chioides albofasciatus)

Host plants: Legume vines

The Longtail butterflies are a really fun one to spot because they look so unique. I often see them nectaring on Buttonbush (shown below). The image is a little blurry because they don’t like to stay still!

Longtail Texas butterfly

Texas Butterflies and Native Plants

The best way to create a butterfly garden? With plants that are native to your local area! These plants serve as host plants for our local butterflies. Adult butterflies lay eggs on the specific plants their caterpillars are adapted to eat.

Plants that attract butterflies in Texas
Texas native plants are gorgeous!

Urban development throughout Texas has caused significant habitat loss for butterflies and other insects. By planting butterfly host plants in our yards, we can start to rebuild some of that important natural habitat!

Here are some of recommendations for native plants that attract butterflies in Texas:

Create a Monarch Waystation by planting their host plant, Milkweed. Opt for native Texas Milkweed such as Antelope Horn Milkweed or Butterfly Weed. Include nectar plants as well. Butterflies are particularly drawn to native plants with clusters of flowers such as Gregg’s Mistflower or Frostweed.

Best Texas Butterfly Books

These laminated pocket guides are my favorite Texas butterfly resource to recommend! They are the first guide I bought once I started getting into identifying butterflies. Take these guides with you when you head to Texas parks or natural areas.

Texas Butterflies field guides
These handy laminated pocket guides are a must to keep nearby!

They are an accordion fold field guide with clear photos to help you quickly identify a butterfly. Choose one for your region of Texas:

These are my two favorite reference books about Texas butterflies:

  • Butterfly Gardening for Texas – This hefty book is the perfect coffee table resource. It provides a detailed overview of numerous Texas butterflies, native host plants and nectar plants, along with lots of butterfly gardening tips.
Books about Texas butterflies

Have a Butterfly Garden? Get this Garden Sign!

Shop it here in the Native Backyards Etsy shop.

butterfly garden sign

Learn About More Texas Insects and Wildlife!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *