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Butterflies, Moths & Skippers

What is the difference between butterflies, moths, and skippers?

Butterflies: drink and rest with their wings up, but sun themselves with their wings outstretched.  They have smooth antennae with a knob at the end.  Their body hardens into a chrysalis for metamorphosis.  They are active in the daytime.  Some can be quite colourful.

Moths: rest with their wings outstretched along their back, or tented.  Have feathery antennae.  They spin a cocoon with silk for metamorphosis, and some species are active during the night, while others are active during the day.  They are usually muted colours.  Their bodies are usually fuzzier and plumper than that of butterflies.

Skippers:  are often considered a mix of butterflies and moths. They rest usually with their wings angled upwards, sometimes outstretched, although parted, and rarely completely folded upwards.  Like butterflies, they are active during the day, and have smooth antennae with a club end, although the club is often hooked. Like moths they are often a muted colour, often have plumper bodies, and spin a cocoon for metamorphosis.

Newfoundland and Labrador have 55 butterfly species of the 293 found in Canada. 

List of Butterflies and Skippers* and some Moths

Family Common Name Scientific Name Found in:
Host Plant Nectar Source Images 
(All images are taken by Botanical Garden staff except where noted)

Skippers (Hesperiidae)
Arctic or Chequered Skipper  Carterocephalus palaemon NL Purple Reedgrass, Bromes Flowers including iris  
Common Branded/ Labrador Skipper  Hesperia comma NL Various grasses and sedges. Nectar from many flowers including asters, goldenrods, and blazing star  
European Skipper  Thymelicus lineola N (rare)  Timothy (Phleum pratense) and other grasses  Low-growing flowers including orange hawkweed, thistles, ox-eye daisy, fleabane, white clover, red clover, selfheal, Deptford pink, common milkweed, and swamp milkweed  European Skipper
Grizzled Skipper  Pyrgus centaureae NL  Wild strawberry, Canadian cinquefoil, varileaf cinquefoil, and cloudberry; all in the rose family  Nectar from flowers of low-growing plants including blueberry, wild strawberry, and Canadian cinquefoil.  
Peck's Skipper Polites peckius NL Rice cutgrass; probably bluegrass and others. Red clover, purple vetch, thistles, selfheal, blue vervain, common milkweed, swamp milkweed, dogbane, and New Jersey tea.  

Blues and Coppers (Lycaenidae)
Arctic Blue Agriades glandon NL Diapensia lapponica, Dodecatheon, and Androsace septentionalis. Flower nectar.  Arctic Blue Butterfly
Bog Copper  Lycaena epixanthe N Shrubby cranberries in the heath family Water from raindrops and nectar from cranberry flowers.  
Brown Elfin  Callophrys augustinus NL Heath family, including sugar huckleberry and Labrador tea. In the west, many other plants including madrone and dodder. Blueberry, and willow  
Dorcas Copper  Lycaena dorcas NL  Shrubby Cinquefoil Black-eyed
Greenish Blue  Plebejus saepiolus L Flowers of various clovers Flowers including clovers  
Northern Blue  Lycaeides idas NL  Plants of the heath family (Ericaceae) in the east; legumes of the pea family (Fabaceae) in the west. Yarrow, dogbane, orange hawkweed, and white, alsike, and hop clover.  
Silvery Blue  Glaucopsyche lygdamus NL Astragalus, Lotus, Lupinus, Melilotus, Oxytropis, Lathyrus, Vicia, and other species in the pea family. Shrubby cinquefoil and other cinquefoils  
Spring Azure  Celastrina ladon NL Woody shrubs and occasionally herbs including dogwood, New Jersey tea, meadowsweet, and Collinsia. Dogwood, dogbane, privet, New Jersey tea, blackberry, common milkweed, and many others  Spring Azure Butterfly

Butteflies (Papilionidae)
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail  Papilio canadensis N Leaves of birch (Betula), aspen (Populus), and black cherry (Prunus). Joe-Pye weed, Blazing star, Bergamot, Willow, and Ironweed   Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Catterpillar Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
Short-tailed Swallowtail  Papilio brevicauda NL Angelica, cow-parsnip, Scotch lovage, Milkweed Angelica, cow-parsnip, Scotch lovage, Milkweed  Short Tailed Swallowtail Caterpillar Short Tailed Swallowtail Butterfly



Common Name Scientific Name Found in:
Host Plant Nectar Source Images

Brushedfoot Butterflies (Nymphalidae)

American Lady Vanessa virginiensis NL Sunflower family, pearly everlasting Dogbane, aster, goldenrod, marigold, selfheal, and vetch  American Painted Lady Butterfly
Atlantis Fritillary Speyeria atlantis NL  Violets Mints, mountain laurel, crown vetch, burdock, boneset, ox-eye daisy, and spiraea  
Bog Fritillary Boloria eunomia NL Willow (Salix), alpine smartweed (Polygonum viviparum), and violets (Viola). Labrador tea and goldenrod  
Common Ringlet Coenonympha tullia NL Grasses and rushes Flower nectar  
Compton Tortoiseshell Nymphalis vaualbum Aspen and cottonwood (Populus), willows (Salix), gray birch (Betula populifolia), and paper birch (B. papyrifera). Sap, rotting fruit, nectar of willow flowers.  
Eastern Comma Polygonia comma N All members of the elm and nettle families including American elm, hops, nettle, false nettle, and wood nettle Rotting fruit and tree sap.  
Freija Fritillary Boloria freija NL Dwarf bilberry (Vaccinium caespitosum) and other plants in the heath family (Ericaceae).    
Frigga Fritillary Boloria frigga L Cranberry (Vaccinium) and bog rosemary (Andromeda), perhaps willow (Salix) and dwarf birch (Betula)    
Gray Comma Polygonia progne N Gooseberries (Ribes) and azalea (Rhododendron) Sap; rarely flower nectar  
Green Comma  Polygonia faunus NL Small pussy willow, black birch, alder, western azalea, and gooseberry Flower nectar, dung, carrion  Green Comma Green Comma Butterfly
Hoary Comma Polygonia gracilis L Currants and gooseberries, western azalea, and mock azalea Sap and nectar from flowers of sweet everlasting  
Jutta Arctic Oeneis jutta NL  Sedges, including cottongrass. Flower nectar  
Meadow Fritillary Boloria bellona  Violets Composites, black-eyed susans, dandelions, and ox-eyed daisy  
Melissa Arctic Oeneis melissa Sedges including Carex bigelowii and C. rupestris.    
Milbert's Tortiseshell Nymphalis milbereti NL  Nettles Thistles, goldenrods, and lilacs; sap and rotting fruit  Milbert's Tortoise Shell Butterfly Milbert's Tortoise Shell Butterfly
Monarch Danaus plexippus N (accidental) Milkweed (not native to Newfoundland) Milkweeds, dogbane, lilac, red clover, thistles, and goldenrods  Monarch Butterfly
Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa NL  Willows, American elm, cottonwood, aspen, paper birch Prefer tree sap, especially of oaks. Will feed on rotting fruit, and rarely flower nectar  Mourning Cloak Butterfly
Northern Crescent Phyciodes cocyta NL Asters, in the sunflower family (Asteraceae) Flowers of dogbane, fleabane, and white clover.  
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui NL More than 100 host plants have been noted; favorites include thistles, hollyhock, mallow, and various legumes. Prefers nectar from composites 3-6 feet high, especially thistles; aster, cosmos, blazing star, ironweed, and joe-pye weed. Flowers from other families that are visited include red clover, buttonbush, privet, and milkweeds.  Painted Lady Butterfly
Polaris Fritillary Boloria polaris      
Polixenes Arctic Oeneis polixenes NL  Grasses and sedges    
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis N Nettles and elms Rotting fruit, tree sap, dung, carrion. Only when these are unavailable do Question Marks visit flowers such as asters.  
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta NL Nettles Prefer sap flows, fermenting fruit, and bird droppings; visiting flowers only when these are not available. Then they will nectar at red clover, aster, and alfalfa  Red Admiral
Ross' Alpine Erebia rossii L      
Satyr Comma Polygonia satyrus Nettles Tree sap, rotting fruit, blackberry flower necar  
Silver-bordered Fritillary  Boloria selene NL  Violets Goldenrod and black-eyed susans  
Taiga Alpine  Erebia mancinus L Sedges or grasses    
White Admiral Limenitis arthemis NL Pin cherry aspen, poplar, oaks, hawthorn, birch, willows, and chuckley pear Sap, rotting fruit, carrion, dung, and occasionally nectar from small white flowers including spiraea, privet, and viburnum. White Admirals also sip aphid honeydew  White Admiral Butterfly
White Veined Arctic Oeneis bore L (accidental)  Grasses or sedges    
Sulphurs and Whites (Pieridae)      Clouded Sulphur  Colias philodice N Plants in the pea family (Fabaceae) including alfalfa (Medicago sativa), white clover (Trifolium repens), and pea (Pisum sativum). Flower nectar of many plants  
Hecla Sulphur Colias hecla L      
Labrador Sulphur Colias nastes Plants of the pea family including milk vetch and white clover    
Mustard White Pieris oleracea NL Mustard family plants Mustard family plants  
Orange Sulphur  Colias eurytheme Pea family plants and white clover  Dandelion, goldenrods, and asters  
Palaeno Sulphur  Colias palaeno L      
Pelidne Sulphur  Colias pelidne NL  Blueberries, wintergreen, and heaths    
Pink-edged Sulphur  Colias interior NL Blueberries and heaths Orange hawkweed  
Cabbage White Pieris rapae N Leaves or buds of: cabbage, Brussel sprouts, Bok Choy, kale, beets Mustards, dandelion, red clover, asters, and mints Cabbage White Butterfly
Family Common Name Scientific Name
Found in:
Host Plant   Nectar Source Images
Owlet Moths & Miller Moths (Noctuidae) Fingered Dagger Moth Acronicta dactylina   N Alders, birches, poplars, and willows    
Intermediate Cucullia Cucullia intermedia   N Wild lettuce    
Two-Spotted Looper Moth Autographa bimaculata   N      
Wavy Chestnut Y Moth Autographa mappa   N Nettles and blueberry    
Formosa Looper Moth Chrysanympha formosa   N (rare) Blueberry and dwarf huckleberry    
 Antler Moth Cerapteryx graminis  N      
  Trichordestra tacoma        
Two-spot Dart Eueretagrotis perattenta   NL      
American Brindle Lithomoia Xestia         
  Xestia oblata        
Boomerang dart Xestia perquiritata  NL      
Erebid Moths (Erebidae)       Virginia Ctenucha Ctenucha virginica  NL Grasses, irises, sedges    
Spotted Tussock Moth or Yellow-Spotted Tiger Moth Lophocampa maculata   NL Birches, maples, oaks, poplars, willows.    
St. Lawrence Tiger Moth Platarctia parthenos   NL Alder, birches, lettuce, willows, and other plants.    
Virginian Tiger Moth or Yellow Woolybear Moth Spilosoma virginica   N      
(White) Satin Moth Leucoma salicis   N      
Rusty Tussock Moth Orgyia antiqua   N Generalist feeders on the foliage of flowering trees in the Rosaceae, Fagaceae, Ericaceae, and Salicaceae.    
White-marked Tussock Moth Orgyia leucostigma  Over 140 known hosts, including alder, apple, balsam fir, birches, and larch.    
Family Common Name Scientific Name Found in:
Host Plant Nectar Source Images
Crambid Snout Moths (Crambidae) Wide-stripe Grass-veneer Moth Crambus unistriatellus   Grasses, grass roots (Poaceae)    
Small Magpie Eurrhypara hortulata   Urtica, Mentha, Stachys, Galeopsis, Marrubium, Convolvulus, Ribes    
Pterophorid Moths, Plume Moths (Pterophoridae) Morning-glory Plume Moth Emmelina monodactyla         
Geometer Moths, Looper Moths 
Pale Beauty Campaea perlata  NL       
Hemlock Looper Lambdina fiscellaria  NL  Firs, hemlocks, oaks, and spruces.    
Pale Metanema Metanema inatomaria       
Large Maple Spanworm Moth Prochoerodes lineola   N      
Sharp-lined Yellow Sicya macularia   N      
Dark Marbled Carpet Dysstroma citrata   NL      
White-banded Black Rheumaptera subhastata  NL  Alder    
White-striped Black Trichodezia albovittata  Impatiens    
Welsh Wave Venusia cambrica  NL   Leaves of mountain-ash, alder, apple, birch, mountain ash, serviceberry and willow.    
Hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms
Hummingbird moth Hemaris diffinis  N (L?) Honeysuckle, viburnum, hawthorn, snowberry, cherry, mint, and plum Dwarf bush honeysuckle, snowberry, orange hawkweed, thistles, lilac, and Canada violet  
Laurel sphinx Sphinx kalmiae N Mountain laurel, lilac, mountain holly Honeysuckle, and bouncing bet Laurel Sphinx


*Text source adapted from:

Additional text from Butterflies and Moths (.org) website: