Native Iowa Butterflies and Moths: Sulphurs and blues

As our Pollinator Paradise addition to the Dickinson County Nature Center wraps up construction and we look forward to finishing fundraising for exhibits and adding some children's museum-quality displays, we have butterflies and bees on the mind.

That's why we're taking a look at some of the most common types of butterflies and moths in Dickinson County during this blog series.

(Read about skipper and swallowtails here.)

Whites and Sulphurs

Six species in the family Pieridae reside in Dickinson County. They are small- to medium-sized butterflies, usually with white, yellow or orange wings, which makes them some of the most visible butterflies around.

Clouded sulphur

The clouded sulphur might be one of the most well-known butterflies in the area because of its pretty yellow color and that it is seen from April-October. It feeds on dandelions, milkweed and verbena, and clouded sulphurs also are attracted to the salt found in puddles.

We often talk about the need to keep some "weeds" in your yard as habitat and food sources, and the clouded sulphur needs two of the most dreaded "weeds." Adults love dandelions, and its caterpillar's host plant is white clover. So helping the clouded sulphur is a great excuse to leave dandelions and clover in your yard.

Coppers, blues and hairstreaks

Twelve species in the family Lycaenidae call Dickinson County home. This is the world's largest family of butterflies and the third largest family in Iowa --- the largest family is Nymphalidae.

blue butterfly

Eastern tailed-blue

You will find the eastern tailed-blue in meadows as well as along roadsides and forested paths. It loves white sweet clover and wild strawberries because it flies low and has a short proboscis --- mouthpart --- so it feeds on flowers that are close to the ground and open or short-tubed.

Next week, we will delve in to the world of Nymphalidae, which are brush-footed butterflies. In this family you will find question marks, commas, red admirals, painted ladies and monarchs. 

Keep a handy field guide with you to identify some of the most common moths and butterflies in Dickinson County. Click on the photo below for a free, downloadable PDF.

butterflies and moths of Dickinson Countyopens PDF file