A Rainbow of Butterflies


Butterflies come in all colors of the rainbow. It’s true, and if you don’t see a particular color, you can bet that someone else, somewhere in the world, will see that color. Take a look at some of the marvelous colors of butterflies.

1. Red

James St. John via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Behold, Cymothoe sangaris, or the red glider butterfly. It lives in the rainforest of several central African countries. If you do a Google search for the species name, most of the results will be stores that will sell you a mounted specimen. They are apparently hunted for their looks.

2. Orange

Harald Hoyer via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

This orange butterfly is male and he’s called The Cruiser (Vindula dejone erotella). We know he’s male because the female of this species looks nothing like this -females are kind of greenish-gray with a white sash. But they manage to recognize each other. The Cruiser is found in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

3. Yellow

Contact '97 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 

You see here the common grass yellow butterfly (Eurema hecabe), found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific. They are migratory, but normally stick to tropical regions.

4. Green

Liz West via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The Dido longwing butterfly (Philaethria dido) has striking bright green wings set off by black borders. This tropical butterfly ranges from Mexico to the Amazon, where it lives in the rainforest canopy.

5. Blue

Zeynel Cebeci via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Here is a lovely specimen of the Anatolian navy blue butterfly (Agrodiaetus actis). Unfortunately, it’s only found in certain regions of Turkey.

6. Purple

MONGO via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Although the species is the Eastern-tailed blue butterfly (Cupido comyntas), you can see that this little guy is clearly purple. A lovely shade of lilac. Eastern-tailed blue butterflies come in a variety of blues, plus purple, pink, and gray.

7. White

John Tann via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

White is the combination of all colors, if you’re talking about light, or the absence of color, if you’re talking about paint. Shown here is a European cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae). They originated in Europe, Africa, and Asia, but are now found in North America, Australia, and New Zealand as well, probably introduced through caterpillars on imported vegetables. They feed on cabbage and various weeds of the mustard family.

8. Black

Glimmer721 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Black is the absence of color in light, or the combination of all colors in paint. Spicebush swallowtail butterflies (Papilio troilus) are large black butterflies that cover the eastern U.S. The black is a handy color, because these butterflies feed at night!

9. No Color

Liz West via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The real absence of color is transparency -no pigment at all. Then you’re talking about the glasswing butterfly (Greta oto). They are native to Central and South America, and feed off the nectar of rainforest flowers. We don’t quite understand how the membrane of its wings can be so transparent, but they are just as strong as any other butterfly wings.

Butterflies come in many other colors, too, like salmon, turquoise, and those lovely combinations of colors. Enjoy the butterflies in your flower garden this spring!