Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars

Primary Reference Resources:

Peterson's "A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies" by Paul Opler and Vichai Malikul

"Audubon Field Guide to the Mid-Atlantic States" by Peter Alden and Brian Cassie

"Peterson's First Guide to Caterpillars" by Amy Bartlett Wright

Butterflies and Moths of North America

U.S.G.S. Caterpillars of Eastern Forest

Tom Murray's Caterpillar Photographs



Great Spangled Fritillary  (Speyeria cybele ): The most common Fritillary in the east. The upper specimen is probably an older female. Lower specimen is a young male. Location: Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, VA.


Red Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax): This is a mimic of the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail. Readily hybridizes with the sub-species White Admiral below to form several ntermediate "proserpina" types. Location: Pine Lick Trail and Fifteen Mile Creek Rd, Green Ridge State Forest, MD.

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) Readily hybridizes with the sub-species Red Spotted Purple above to form several ntermediate "proserpina" types. Photo by Jeff Mitchell.

This Eastern Comma Butterfly (Polygonia comma) must be attracted to the salt on the handle of this  trekking pole. Note the orange hindwings; in summer they are black. Location: Dobbin Grade Tr, Dolly Sods North, WV

Brushfoots (con't)


Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta): 1 7/8 inches max. A more northern species that, oddly, has a large distribution in WV and a narrow band through PA, roughly following the Allegheny Mountains. Very similar to P. tharos  - the Pearl (below) Crescent which is much more common in our region. Top photo by Anita Mueller.


Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos): Very similar to P. cocyta (above). This one is more common to our region. Location: Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, VA.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta): a 2" Brushfoot. Migratory. Location: Overall Run, SNP, VA and McCray Tr, MNF, WV.


Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa, One of the first butterflies to set flight in spring. Location: Little Passage Creek, Massanutten Mt, GWNF, VA. Photo by Tony Van Vugt.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui): A small ( 2" max) migratory brushfoot butterfly. Location: Black Forest Tr, PA. Photo by Betty Steil.

Brushfoots (con't)

Gray Comma (Polygonia progne): Similar to the Eastern Comma below but with more pronounced light spots along its wing edges. Location: Halfmoon Lookout, WV. Photo by Craig Ross.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia): Only 2.25 inches. An extra set of hindwing eyes are hidden by the forewings in this shot. Location: Little Stony Creek Tr, GWNF, VA. Photo by Craig Ross.



Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio glaucas): Photo by Ken Clark.


Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus): Photo by Ken Clark.


Black Swallow Tail, Papilio polyxenes, on Pickerel Weed: Double row of yellow spots sets it off from similar species. Location: GRT Wildlife Refuge, VA. Photo by Tony Van Vugt.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus ): Location - Harpers Ferry, WV. Photo by Ken Clark.




Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus): Found on Milkweed along Waites Run, Great North Mountain, GWNF, WV. Photo by Ken Clark.

A "Northern" Southern Hairstreak (Fixsenia favonius ontario) - Location: Cape Henlopen SP, DE. Photo by Ken Clark.


Eastern tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas): Prefers sunny, weedy environments. Photo by Ken Clark.

Whites and Sulphurs

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae): 1.75 inches. One of the most common butterflies in our region. Caterpillars can cause economic damage to cabbage, broccoli and collards crops. Males have one black spot. Females have two. on each forewing. Tip of forewing is black on top and yellow underneath.

Clouded Sulfur (Colias philodice): 2 - 2.75 inches. Upperside is bright yellow with black margins. Underside lighter with a spot on the forewing, a pink bull's eye on the hindwing and Some slight marginal black markings. Feeds on legumes and clovers. Found in open fields.

Satyrs/Milweed Butterflies



Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus): Some Monarchs are toxic to predatory birds because of the juices from certain milkweed that they consume. Their orange color signals a warning to birds to leave them alone. Other orange butterflies are often called "mimics" because it is thought this color causes birds to also leave them alone even though they are not toxic. Photo by Ken Clark taken at the Howard County Conservancy, Woodstock, MD. Caterpillar was found on the Roaring Plains, MNF, WV. Photo by Eric Shereda.



Silver-spotted Skipper (Hesperia comma): Photo by Ken Clark.


Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo): Up to 1.75 inches. Often found on ridge tops in areas of scrub oak or cut over oak forests. Photo by Ken Clark.




Peck's Skipper (Polites peckius): 7/8". Underwings brown with orange patches. Food plants grasses.



Least Skipper  (Ancyloxypha numitor): 3/4". Underwings yellow-orange. Top of hindwings orange with wide dark margin. Marshes, ponds moist meadows. Feeds on grasses.





Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus): The false eyes on the wings help to ward off predators. Location: Moore Run Trail, Otter Creek Wilderness, MVF. Caterpillar Photo at Great Falls National Park, MD by Ken Clark.

Virginia ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) A moth of the Arctiidae family. Lives in wet meadows.Location Dolly Sods. Photo by Elise Kreiss.


Luna Moth (Actias luna) : Nocturnal. The adult moth (top photo) was found sleeping on the underside of a leaf on Pond Run Tr, Great North Mt, GWNF, WV. Photo by Ken Clark. In the second photo a young moth recently escaped from its cocoon clings to a tree as it waits for its wings to unfurl and dry out. Location: Prince William Forest Park, VA. Photo by D. J. Gaskin. The moth stage of this species has no mouth so cannot eat. The sole purpose of its two week life span is to pro-create.

Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris thysbe): Clear wings and a long probiscus along with its ability to hover gives this guy its name. Location: Dolly Sods North, Bear Rocks Tr, MNF, WV.



The infamous Gypsy Moth  (Lymantria dispar) and pupae/caterpillars: Brought to N.Y. to crossbreed with silk worms. Some escaped. They are now found throughout the U.S. Capable of totally defoliating entire Oak Forests which eventually die. Location: SNP, VA. Photo by Roger Eastman.

White Wave Moth (Cabera pusaria) From a distance it looks like a bird dropping - it's method of camouflage


Leconte's Haploa (Haploa lecontei):Related to the above Lichen Moth.Location: Allegheny Tr, WV. Photo by Pat Roberts.

Clymene Moth (Haploa Clymene): Cross pattern makes this moth easy to identify. Photo by Dimitri Tundra.

Virginia Creeper Sphinx (Darapsa myron): This animated looking fellow eats decaying fruit. The caterpillar eats  ... Virginia Creeper and Grape Leaves. Photo by Saki.


Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia): With a wing span between 5 and 6 inches this is the largest moth north of the Rio Grande! Shown here copulating. Location: Long Pond Trail, near Long Pond, Green Ridge State Forest, MD. Close-up photo by Reggie Duke.


Orange (Yellow) and Black Lichen Moth (Lycomorpha pholus ): One of several varieties. The caterpillars of these species eat lichen, hence the name!





Hickory Horned Devil: The juvenile form of the orange and brown Royal Walnut Moth (Citheronia regalis). The horns are not sharp or poisonous. It just looks mean. Photo by Ken Clark.

Caterpillar of the Pale (or Banded) Tussock Moth (Calliteara pudibunda) - Color varies from yellow to grey/white to tawny. Location: Cranberry Wilderness. Photo by Pat Roberts.


Pipe Vine Swallowtail Caterpillar (Genus Battus): All Pipe Vine Swallowtail caterpillars and adults taste badly to possible predators. There are several mimick species that are also avoided. Photo by Andrew Foley.



Northern Apple Sphinx (Sphinx poecila): The caterpillar of a hawk moth. Location: Roaring Plains, MNF, WV. Photo by Eric Shereda.

Giant Leopard Moth caterpillar (Hypercompe scribonia). Becomes a beautiful large white moth with black spots.


Monarch butterfly caterpillar was found on the Roaring Plains, MNF, WV. Photo by Eric Shereda.

Sawfly-type larva (Genus Hymenoptera, family possibly Cimbicid). Not really a Butterfly or moth. This is the larva of a Sawfly, Wasp or Wasp-like species. They feed mostly on leaves. Some are very similar. Photo by Andrew Foley.


Hyphantria cunea: The caterpillar of the Fall Webworm Moth which is small and snow white. Location: Roaring Plains, MNF, WV. Photo by Eric Shereda.

Wolly Bear Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella) - A juvenile Tiger Moth. April to August. Location: Cranberry Backcountry, WV.

Red-lined Panopoda (Panopoda rufimargo): The caterpillar of a small brown moth having red trim under off-white wing lines. Photo by Saki. Location: AT, VA/between the Dragon's Tooth and McAffe Knob.


Gypsy Moth caterpillar (Lymantria dispar): Brought to N.Y. to crossbreed with silk worms. Some escaped. They are now found throughout the U.S. Capable of totally defoliating entire Oak Forests which eventually die. Location: Allegheny Tr, WV. Photo by Pat Roberts.

Eastern Oak Looper (Phigalia titea): Causes defoliation in the spring. Host species attacked include the red and white oak groups, maples, elms, hickories, ash, and cherry. Heavy defoliation usually occurs in May and June and can cause growth loss and mast reduction. Photo by Ken Clark.

Imperial Moth caterpillar (Eacles imperialis): The photo does not revel the fine hairs. Photo by Dave Bennick.

American Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta americana): Location: AT near Freezeland Rd, Linden, VA. Photo by Dimitri Tundra.

Abbot's Sphinx Caterpillar, Sphecodina abbotti: There is both a green phase and a gray phase. The caterpillar loses is caudal horn before pupating. The resulting "scar" resembles an eye, a form of protective coloration.

Caterpillar of the Hickory Tussock Moth (Lophocampa caryae) - Feeds on a variety of trees. Location: PA. Photo by Pat Roberts.


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