Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies have always seemed to me to be friendly but too carefree to become fast friends.  A good part of their time seems to be spent simply enjoying flying.  Some of them soar and sail, never seeming to land.  Others flit from flower to flower with the intensity of a honeybee.  But friendly or not, butterflies are among the most familiar and beautiful animals.

Moths are closely related to butterflies, but are not as familiar because most are active only at night.  Moths are more numerous than butterflies, and most scientists believe there are at least ten times as many.  Based on new species discoveries, we can project that most moth species have not been identified

Butterflies, moths, and other bugs on the land and in the air and soil, are necessary for life on earth.  Plant pollination, down and dead recycling, and consumption and transformation of standing plants, are familiar services that bugs provide.  Without butterflies, moths, and all the other small creatures, we mammals would not last long.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopia)

The photograph shows a Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa).  I nominate this species to become the emblematic butterfly for the Agua Fria River Basin.  The Mourning Cloak is truly at home among the willows and cottonwoods growing along the Agua Fria River in the heart of the Basin.  Mourning Cloaks mate in early spring, but I have seen adults flying beside the river on sunny days in all months of the year.______________

Butterflies and moths are sensitive to human-caused changes in the environment.  They are, of course, killed directly by the insecticides sprayed on crops, golf courses, and yards.  They are also harmed by the loss of native plants on which they depend for reproduction.  Monarch butterflies for instance, do not lay many eggs if there aren’t any milkweeds around.  Milkweeds are routinely treated as weeds and killed with herbicides and mowers in the Agua Fria River Basin.  The accelerating removal of earth’s native vegetation is the greatest threat to survival of butterflies and moths.

The Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) website lists 266 species for Yavapai County, which is 28% of the 967 species found so far in Arizona.  BAMONA is actively encouraging submission of sighting records.  Contributions are verified by experts before they are added to the website.  From 2008 through 2011, the number of species listed for Arizona grew by more than 30%, from 735 to 967.

The BAMONA web site is designed to produce species checklists for counties, states, and 12 North and Central American countries, including Cuba.  Species in the lists are linked to well-organized pages with photographs and information that covers identification, size, life history, flight dates, caterpillar hosts, and more.  Checklists can be copied and pasted into a word processor for printing and field use.  Of course, internet enabled phones, book readers, and mobile computers can be used to directly access the checklist and species information online.

The International Lepidoptera Society provides species lists and discusses standardization of common names.  The North American Butterfly Association is a good source of additional information.  The Gardens With Wings website has a zip-code guide to common butterflies that can be attracted to butterfly gardens.  Glassberg’s butterfly field guide is excellent.


World Butterflies

World Moths

US (combined)

AZ (combined)

Yavapai Co (combined)






*Scoble (1995), LAB (online, 2011)  **BAMONA (154 butterflies in Yavapai Co.)


Butterfly References and Notes

Bailowitz, R., and J.Brock.  1991.  Butterflies of southeastern Arizona.  Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute.  Tucson, AZ.  364 p.

BAMONA (Butterflies and moths of North America):  http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/.

Gardens With Wings:  http://www.gardenswithwings.com/index.html.

Glassberg, J.  2001.  Butterflies through binoculars: The West.  Oxford University Press, New York, NY.  374 p.

International Lepidoptera Society:  http://tils-ttr.org.

LAB (Learn About Butterflies):  www.learnaboutbutterflies.com.

North American Butterfly Association:  http://www.naba.org/.

Scoble, M.J.  1995.  The Lepidoptera:  Form, function, and diversity.  Oxford University Press, Oxford.  416 p.

4 thoughts on “Butterflies and Moths

  1. Declining habitat greatly affects the monarch butterflies that migrate through AZ. Besides herbicides for their removal in the Agua Fria basin that you mention, the Forest Service is also asked to remove milkweed in allotments to ranchers for cattle grazing. As part of Monarch Watch’s Bring Back the Monarch Campaign and now as a conservation effort of the SW Monarch Study we are working with organizations and government entities to replant native milkweeds to boost the monarch population in the state of AZ. You can see some of our efforts on my blog: http://monarchsinthedesert.blogspot.com/
    and also on the SW Monarchs public Facebook page:
    I am also working with local growers to produce more milkweeds for forestry and landscaping use and have native milkweed seeds available. A grower in Cottonwood will have milkweed available for central and northern AZ and hopefully others will soon.

    Gail Morris
    SW Monarch Study Coordinator
    Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist


  2. Pingback: Arizona Amphibian Checklist

  3. Pingback: Butterflies and Moths of Arizona Conservation Status | Garry Rogers


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