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If you live in Maryland or plan to visit, you will be amazed by the variety of butterflies that you can find in the state. With its diverse landscape, Maryland is home to a plethora of butterfly species, each with unique patterns and behaviors.
In this article, we will introduce you to ten species of butterflies that you can find in Maryland, along with a brief description of their characteristics.
- Maryland is home to a diverse range of butterfly species, including the Monarch butterfly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Common Buckeye, American Lady, Eastern Tailed-Blue, and Pearl Crescent.
- These species face threats from habitat loss, predators like birds and spiders, human activities like agriculture and development, and climate change.
- Conservation efforts for butterfly habitats include planting milkweed and other native plants, reducing pesticide use, and creating designated areas for butterfly conservation.
- Butterflies play an important role in maintaining plant species’ health and pollination, and are an important part of Maryland’s ecosystem.
1. Monarch Butterfly
You’ll love watching the Monarch butterfly flutter its orange and black wings as it dances through the fields of Maryland.
This iconic butterfly species is known for its impressive migration patterns, flying up to 3,000 miles from Canada to Mexico each year.
As they pass through Maryland during their journey, you may spot them gathering nectar from milkweed plants or resting on tree branches. However, due to habitat loss and other threats, Monarch butterfly populations have significantly declined in recent years.
As a result, conservation efforts have been implemented to protect their habitats and promote their survival. These efforts include planting milkweed and other native plants, reducing pesticide use, and creating designated areas for butterfly conservation.
By supporting these conservation efforts, we can help ensure that future generations can continue to marvel at the beauty and resilience of the Monarch butterfly.
2. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail can be easily identified by its distinct yellow and black stripes. This species of butterfly is one of the most common in Maryland and can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, meadows, and gardens.
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail has a wingspan of 3.5 to 6 inches and its wings are a combination of yellow, black, and blue. The female has a wider wingspan than the male and is usually more yellow in color.
The life cycle of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The eggs are laid on the leaves of host plants, which include tulip trees, wild cherry trees, and magnolias.
The caterpillars, or larvae, are green with black stripes and have a pair of false eyespots near their head. After about two weeks, the caterpillars form a chrysalis and undergo metamorphosis.
The adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis after about two weeks and begins the cycle anew. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is an important pollinator and plays a vital role in maintaining the health of many plant species in its habitat.
3. Black Swallowtail
When you spot a Black Swallowtail in your garden, you might notice its striking black and yellow wings fluttering gracefully as it lands on a nearby flower.
The Black Swallowtail, also known as the American Swallowtail, is a common butterfly species found in Maryland. Its scientific name is Papilio polyxenes and it belongs to the family Papilionidae.
The Black Swallowtail has a unique life cycle that includes four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The female butterfly lays her eggs on plants in the carrot family, including dill, parsley, and fennel.
The larvae, which are also called caterpillars, hatch from the eggs and feed on the leaves of the host plant.
After several molts, the caterpillar forms a chrysalis and undergoes metamorphosis, emerging as an adult butterfly.
The Black Swallowtail prefers open fields and meadows as its habitat, but it can also be found in gardens and parks where its host plants grow.
4. Spicebush Swallowtail
If you want to attract the beautiful Spicebush Swallowtail to your garden, consider planting some spicebush or sassafras trees. These trees are the primary host plants for the Spicebush Swallowtail during its life cycle.
The adult butterfly lays its eggs on the leaves of these trees, and the larvae feed on the leaves until they are ready to pupate.
The Spicebush Swallowtail has a unique life cycle that lasts about a month. After hatching from its egg, the larvae go through five instars, or stages of growth, before forming a chrysalis.
The chrysalis hangs from a branch or leaf for about two weeks before the adult butterfly emerges.
The adult butterfly then feeds on nectar from a variety of flowers, making it an important pollinator in its habitat.
5. Red Admiral
To attract the Red Admiral to your garden, you’ll want to plant some nettle or false nettle, as these are the primary host plants for this beautiful butterfly.
The Red Admiral is a medium-sized butterfly that can be found in Maryland from late spring to early fall. Its wings are primarily black with a distinct red-orange band near the tips of the forewings and hindwings.
The life cycle of the Red Admiral begins with eggs laid on host plants. The larvae, or caterpillars, feed on the leaves of these plants before forming a chrysalis.
The adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and feeds on nectar from a variety of flowers. The Red Admiral can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and gardens, but it prefers areas with abundant nectar sources and host plants.
By planting nettle or false nettle in your garden, you can help support the habitat requirements of this beautiful butterfly.
6. Painted Lady
The Painted Lady butterfly is a migratory species that can be found on every continent except for Australia and Antarctica. With its striking orange and black markings, it’s known for its impressive migration patterns.
During their lifetime, they can travel up to 9,000 miles, with some populations migrating between North Africa and Europe.
The butterfly’s life cycle starts with the female laying eggs on host plants, such as thistles or hollyhocks. Once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars go through five instars before turning into chrysalises.
After about two weeks, the adult butterfly emerges and begins its journey.
During migration, they fly at a height of around 500 to 1,000 feet and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. These butterflies play an important role in pollination, and their brightly colored wings make them a favorite among butterfly enthusiasts.
7. Common Buckeye
You just learned about the Painted Lady butterfly, a migratory species that passes through Maryland during their annual journey. Now, let’s take a closer look at another butterfly species that you might come across in Maryland – the Common Buckeye.
The Common Buckeye butterfly, scientifically known as Junonia coenia, is a widespread butterfly species found across the United States, including in Maryland.
These butterflies have distinct markings on their wings, with large eye spots that resemble the eyes of a deer or a buck. They are typically small to medium-sized, with a wingspan of around 1.5 to 2.5 inches.
Common Buckeyes are known for their unique behavior patterns, particularly when it comes to their migration habits.
In the fall, these butterflies will often migrate southward in large numbers, sometimes forming massive swarms that can be seen flying overhead.
When it comes to habitat preference, Common Buckeyes can be found in a variety of environments, including open fields, meadows, gardens, and even along roadsides.
They’re particularly drawn to areas with plenty of sun and open space, as this allows them to bask in the warmth and easily find nectar-rich flowers.
If you’re hoping to spot a Common Buckeye in Maryland, look for them in open fields and meadows during the summer months, when they’re most active.
Keep an eye out for their distinctive eye spots and unique flight patterns, and you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these stunning butterflies in action.
8. American Lady
If you’re lucky enough to spot an American Lady butterfly in the wild, their distinctive orange and black markings are sure to catch your eye.
These beautiful creatures are incredibly fascinating, and they have a lot of interesting characteristics that make them stand out from other types of butterflies.
Here are some key facts you should know about the American Lady:
- Life cycle: American Lady butterflies have a relatively short lifespan, typically living for only a few weeks to a few months depending on the time of year and environmental conditions. They begin as eggs, which hatch into caterpillars that feed on plants like sunflowers, thistles, and hollyhocks. After undergoing metamorphosis, they emerge as adult butterflies and begin the cycle anew.
- Habitat preferences: American Lady butterflies can be found throughout much of North America, including Maryland. They prefer open areas with plenty of sunlight, such as fields, meadows, and gardens. They are also known to migrate long distances in search of food and suitable breeding grounds.
- Feeding habits: Adult American Lady butterflies feed on the nectar of flowers, especially those with deep tubular shapes that are difficult for other insects to access. They’re particularly fond of milkweed, a plant that’s toxic to many other insects but provides a valuable food source for these butterflies.
- Predators and threats: American Lady butterflies face a number of threats in the wild, including predators like birds and spiders, as well as habitat loss due to human activities like agriculture and development. Climate change is also a growing concern, as it can disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems and affect the availability of food and breeding grounds for these butterflies.
Overall, the American Lady butterfly is a fascinating and beautiful species that plays an important role in our ecosystem.
By learning more about their life cycle, habitat preferences, and feeding habits, we can better understand and appreciate these amazing creatures.
9. Eastern Tailed-Blue
When you spot an Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly, you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder and amazement at the delicate beauty of this tiny creature.
With a wingspan of just over an inch, this butterfly is easily recognized by its blue upper wings and white under wings, which are adorned with a distinctive black spot and two orange crescent-shaped markings.
The Eastern Tailed-Blue is a common sight in Maryland during the summer months, where it can be found in a variety of habitats, including meadows, fields, and gardens.
The life cycle of the Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly begins when a female lays her eggs on the underside of a host plant leaf. The eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars, which feed on the leaves of the host plant until they are ready to pupate.
The pupa stage lasts for around two weeks, after which the adult butterfly emerges.
The Eastern Tailed-Blue has a relatively short lifespan of just a few weeks, during which time it must mate, lay eggs, and complete its life cycle. Despite its short life, the Eastern Tailed-Blue is an important part of Maryland’s ecosystem and a favorite among butterfly enthusiasts.
10. Pearl Crescent
As you observe the Pearl Crescent butterfly, you can appreciate the intricate pattern of orange and black coloration on its wings.
This butterfly is commonly found in Maryland and prefers open fields and meadows as its habitat. In fact, it’s one of the most abundant butterflies in these areas.
The life cycle of the Pearl Crescent butterfly consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The female butterfly lays eggs on the underside of leaves, which hatch into tiny larvae.
These larvae, also known as caterpillars, feed on the leaves of their host plant.
After several molts, the caterpillar enters the pupal stage, where it undergoes metamorphosis and transforms into an adult butterfly.
The adult butterfly emerges from the pupa with its beautiful wings and begins the cycle anew.
With its widespread distribution and bright colors, the Pearl Crescent is a fascinating species to observe in its natural habitat.