The 9 Most Beautiful Butterflies in Nature

The Insecta class includes butterflies, which are some of the most representative examples of the diversity of colors in the animal kingdom. Here we show you the most beautiful of them all.
The 9 Most Beautiful Butterflies in Nature
Elsa M. de Arribas

Written and verified by the biologist Elsa M. de Arribas.

Last update: 17 May, 2023

Butterflies are classified within one of the orders that make up the class Insecta. Also called Lepidoptera, these animals belong to the second largest taxon among insects. Specifically, it’s estimated that there are more than 165,000 species, grouped into 127 families and, in turn, in 46 superfamilies.

Simply by observing their numerical diversity, we can see the great variety of colors, shapes and characteristics. However, it’s important to note that Lepidoptera include both diurnal and nocturnal specimens. Here we’ll show you the 9 most beautiful butterflies in nature, so don’t stop reading.

The 9 most beautiful butterflies in nature

We can find butterflies in any area of the world except for Antarctica. They’re an incredibly diverse group and essential in the pollination of plants. We have just a few examples to bring you, but, of course, there are so many more.

1. Emerald swallowtail (Papilio palinurus)

Topping the list is the emerald swallowtail, a species native to Southeast Asian islands such as Borneo and Sumatra. It’s easily recognizable by the bands of color that give it its name, as its body shows a black background on which iridescent green stripes stand out.

This greenish tone is due to the structural composition of its wings and the way in which they refract sunlight. Because of this quality, collectors appreciate them for their beauty, although this sentiment isn’t shared by citrus growers.

Beautiful butterflies.

2. Forest Giant Owl Butterfly (Caligo eurilochus)

Typical of South America in general, and Mexico in particular, the genus Caligo is notable for the presence of large butterflies, with wingspans of around 14-18 centimeters (6 to 7 inches). Not only do they share the same size, but all the species have ocelli of different diameters that resemble the eyes of an owl (and give them their name).

An owl butterfly.

3. Blue morpho butterfly (Morpho menelaus)

This butterfly is endemic to the tropical forests of South America and the metallic blue tone of its wings stands out enormously in the environment. Those who have been able to observe a specimen up close are dazzled both by its intense hue, bordered by black and white dots, and by its long wingspan.

However, its beauty has been its curse, as hunting has put this butterfly in grave danger of extinction.

A blue butterfly.

4. The question mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogations)

This butterfly’s name derives from the presence of a silver mark on the underside of its hind wing, which resembles a question mark.

Distributed throughout southern Canada, this species is found as far south as Florida. You can find it in urban areas where there are trees interspersed with open spaces.

Question mark butterfly.

5. Greta oto

Another specimen that can’t be missing from the list of the most beautiful butterflies goes by the name of Greta oto and stands out for its lovely (but extremely fragile) wings.

The wing of this species are completely transparent, except for the orange or brownish rim and some black dividing lines. But let’s not be fooled: although they appear to be delicate animals, these butterflies can support up to 40 times their weight.

Greta oto butterfly.

6. Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

The monarch butterfly is a must on this list, with its beautiful orange wings with black veins and white dots at the ends. Famous for its fascinating migratory movement, in which it travels across the United States all the way to Mexico, it’s a coveted collector’s item.

A monarch butterfly.

7. Zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia)

When observing this species, which was named Florida’s official butterfly in 1996, we will undoubtedly think of zebras. This is due to the curious pattern of its wings, black with white bands, reminiscent of this African mammal. However, both specimens are separated by the Atlantic Ocean and hundreds of thousands of kilometers.

Zebra butterfly.

8. The clipper (Parthenos sylvia)

If we go deep into the forests of South and Southeast Asia (and we’re lucky), we may come across the clipper butterfly. Its name is an allusion to the wavy sails of 18th-century ships, and it has some fascinating color patterns.

This species is made up of more than 30 subspecies with multiple chromatic variations.

Clipper butterfly.

9. Dead leaf butterfly (Kallima inachus)

We can’t finish this list without mentioning one of the most beautiful specimens as regards the fascinating shape of its body: the dead leaf butterfly or Kallima inachus. When it lands on the trunk of a tree, it takes on the color of a dead leaf, thanks to which it goes completely unnoticed by predators.

However, when it opens its wings, bright colors such as blue, red or yellow can be seen. What do you think of the evolutionary adaptation of this tropical insect from Asia and Africa?

A dead leaf butterfly.

In this short article, we’ve only been able to mention 9 of the most beautiful butterflies in nature. However, this list is far too short if we take into account just how many species make up this order. So, don’t hesitate to investigate more about this diverse group of insects and discover other fascinating species while you’re about it!

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