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.

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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.

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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.

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Early spring butterflies

Almost 70 species of butterflies have been seen in Dickinson County, Iowa, and the time of year can be told from which ones are most active. In fact, you can tell when spring is making its appearance by which butterflies are hatching after overwintering in the chrysalis state or from spots further south. The mourning Read More »

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Butterfly ring *FREE template*

We love pollinators, and we love sharing that love with others through education and fun. At the 2019 Bee & Butterfly Festival, visitors could create a fun butterfly ring with a simple cardstock template and a pipe cleaner. You can create your own by downloading our free template below, and then all you need is Read More »

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Six facts about viceroy butterflies

You see a black-and-orange butterfly flitting around, but it looks too small to be a monarch butterfly. This butterfly has very similar markings, except for the black line across its hindwing. What could it be? It’s a viceroy! 1. Viceroys are mimics. Viceroy butterflies mimic monarch butterflies, and it was long thought that was because Read More »

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10 facts about red admiral butterflies

We’ve noticed a lot of red admirals lately. They might not be as big or as flashy as monarchs, but these little orangish-red and black butterflies are really neat. Here are 10 things that make red admiral butterflies (Vanessa atalanta) unique: 1. They like stinging nettle. We’ve all reached down to pull a weed and Read More »

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Make a coffee filter butterfly

It’s not any surprise that we love butterflies at the Dickinson County Nature Center. We also love butterfly crafts! This coffee filter butterfly is one that we made at the 2018 Bee & Butterfly Festival. It’s simple, but kids really love the colorful creations they can make. Plus, you can glue them to a magnet Read More »

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Native Iowa Butterflies and Moths: Monarchs and other brush-footed butterflies

Last fall, when black and orange butterflies were fluttering all around the area, many people were so excited to see the masses of monarchs in their yards. However, the butterflies weren’t actually monarchs. They were painted ladies. We may think we know all there is to know about monarch butterflies, but sometimes we have more Read More »

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Native Iowa butterflies and moths: Skippers and swallowtails

More than 70 species of butterflies have been spotted in Dickinson County. And yet, the order Lepidoptera is made up of about 90 percent moths. So between butterflies and moths, there is a lot of fluttering action going on around us. (Learn the difference between butterflies and moths.) During the first Pollinator Education Series program, naturalist Ashley Read More »

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Moth or butterfly? Can you tell the difference?

Is it a moth or a butterfly? It sounds like a simple question, and there are a few simple ways to answer it: If it flies during the day, it’s a butterfly; if it flies at night, it’s a moth. However, there are diurnal moths — those that fly during the day, and there are Read More »

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How do monarch butterflies find their way south?

Those wonderful orange-and-black butterflies that we love so much. They fly overhead this time of year, and we know they are headed to their overwintering sites outside of Mexico City. But how do they get there? Plenty of studies have been done throughout the years to try to figure out how a brain the size Read More »

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