Discover 11 Butterflies That Live in Alabama

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Published: April 2, 2023
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Alabama is home to a variety of beautiful fauna, including butterflies. These fluttery critters can easily brighten your day, are often symbols of loved ones, and serve as an idyllic example of metamorphosis.

Whether you call The Heart of Dixie home or you just love butterflies as much as we do, you’re in the right place. We’ve found some of the most interesting, common, and gorgeous butterflies in the state!

Painted Lady

Painted Lady on flower with wings spread
The painted lady has the longest migration route of any butterfly.


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Long-distance migrants like the painted lady are responsible for the most impressive butterfly migrations in Britain and Ireland. It recolonizes continental Europe and extends northward from the desert margins of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, eventually reaching Britain and Ireland. 

It can be a common butterfly, visiting late-summer gardens and other flowering areas. Typically, the first adults start laying eggs in June. It can occasionally be quite abundant locally due to massive migrations from these deserts that periodically flood other parts of the nation.

On the leaves of numerous different food plants, the female butterflies lay single pinhead-sized pale green eggs. The spiny caterpillars are greyish brown or purple-black with yellow lateral bands and chrysalis-like structures, hatching after three and five days. Once fully grown, they are black, orange, and yellow with white and black spots near the top of the wings.

Red Admiral

red admiral butterfly on flowers
The red admiral butterfly has a large wingspan of nearly three inches.


The red admiral butterfly is a big, powerful flyer that frequents gardens. In fact, you may find this recognizable and unique insect all around Alabama. The medium-sized red admiral, sometimes known as the red admirable, is a distinctive butterfly with dark wings, red streaks, and white spots. Also, its wingspan is roughly two inches. 

The upper half of this butterfly is black with white specks at the apex. The summer form is bigger and livelier with an unbroken forewing band, whereas the winter form is smaller and paler. 

The red admiral flies quickly and very erratically. In the late afternoon, males hover on ridgetops to wait for females, who lay their eggs one at a time on the ends of host plant leaves.


As one of the most recognizable butterflies, you may see these if you’re in Alabama.

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The monarch is the most recognizable butterfly and can be spotted in Alabama! Caterpillars devour leaves and flowers while the females lay their eggs individually beneath the host leaves. 

From August to October, adults fly thousands of kilometers south to hibernate near the coast of California and in central Mexico. A few spend the winter on the southern Atlantic or Gulf coast. Monarchs halt along the journey to consume flower nectar and gather at roosts at night. 

The back wing has an area of scent scales, while the upper side of the male is bright orange with broad black borders and dark veins. Females have an orange-brown upper body with broad, smudged black borders and veins. 

On the margins and apex, both sexes bear white dots. These butterflies can live in a variety of open environments, such as fields, grasslands, weedy areas, wetlands, and roadside vegetation.

American Lady

An American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) visits a coneflower. Raleigh, North Carolina.
Two eyespots on the underside of American ladies’ hindwings distinguish this species.


Another butterfly you’ll be able to spot in Alabama is the American lady. This species has irregular brown, yellow, and orange patterning on the upper side. Their forewings have a white bar at the periphery, a small white patch on the orange field underneath the patch, and a dark apical spot. 

Two sizable eyespots on the underside of the hind wing can also be a way to distinguish this butterfly. The summer form is bigger and has brighter colors, whereas the winter form is smaller and dull. 

Males rest on hillsides in the afternoons or, in the absence of hills, on low vegetation. On top of the leaves of the host plant, females lay one egg at a time. Caterpillars are isolated creatures that live and feed in nests made of leaves and silk. 

Adults go into hibernation. These animals favor open areas with little vegetation, such as dunes, meadows, parks, empty lots, and the borders of forests.


Animals that use mimicry – viceroy butterfly
Viceroy butterflies use Batesian mimicry to defend themselves against predators.

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A monarch butterfly and the viceroy butterfly are frequently confused. The viceroy’s orange and black upperside is similar to that of the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), with the exception of a long row of white spots in the black marginal strip and a black band running across the hindwing. 

Viceroys eat aphid honeydew, carrion, manure, and rotting fungi in the early part of the season when there aren’t many flowers to choose from. Subsequent generations tend to eat more frequently on flowers, preferring composite plants such as Canada thistle, aster, goldenrod, joe-pye weed, and shepherd’s needle.

The edges of lakes and swamps, willow stands, valley bottoms, damp meadows, and roadside vegetation are just a few examples of places where they can be found. After hatching, caterpillars consume their eggshells before consuming leaves and catkins at night.

Hackberry Emperor

Hackberry Emperor butterfly (Asterocampa celtis) resting on a lush green bush.
Woodland streams, meadows, and riverbanks are where you’re most likely to find hackberry emperors.


Throughout Alabama, hackberry butterflies soar in a quick and irregular manner. They can be found lying on tree trunks, upside down. In sunny places, males sit on tall objects to keep an eye out for females. 

Clusters of eggs are laid, and the juvenile caterpillars share food. Caterpillars assemble in bunches inside rolled-up dead leaves to spend the winter. They have a reddish brown top part. 

One submarginal eyespot, a ragged row of white dots, one solid black line, and two distinct black spots may be found on the forewing’s cell. Hackberry butterfly habitats include woodland streams, meadows, and riverbanks as well as towns and wooded roadside areas.

Mourning Cloak

Mourning cloak butterfly on tree bark
Mourning cloak butterflies get their name from their wings’ striking, cloak-like design.

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Adult mourning cloak butterflies from Alabama that overwintered reproduce in the spring. The males wait for suitable females in the afternoons by perching in sunny apertures. Groups of eggs are placed around the branches of the host plant. 

In June or July, the caterpillars pupate and hatch as adults. Caterpillars spend their lives in a communal web and feast on tender leaves together. The adults feed briefly before going dormant until autumn when they resurface to feed and gather energy for hibernation. 

In the fall, some adults relocate to the south. Mourning cloaks favor tree sap, particularly oak tree sap. They descend the trunk to the sap and eat from the bottom up. They will sometimes consume flower nectar, but they will also snack on rotten fruit.

Pearl Crescent

pearl crescent
The pearl crescent butterfly prefers open spaces.


Next, we’ll talk a bit about the beautiful butterfly known as the pearl crescent. Black antennal knobs are typically present on male pearl crescents. Their upper region is orange with black borders, and small black marks run across the postmedian and submarginal regions. 

Pearl crescents have a light-colored crescent in a black bordering band underneath the hindwing. Undersides of the hindwings of spring and fall broods (form marcia) are gray-mottled. These butterflies can be found in open spaces all around Alabama, including pastures, road edges, bare lots, fields, and open pine forests.

Question Mark

Question Mark butterfly
The question mark butterfly lives throughout a large portion of the United States.

©Chris Hill/

If you see a stunning orange and black butterfly with tilted wing margins and small, tail-like extensions, that’s a question mark. There are brown hues underneath their wings. It resembles both the hoary comma and the eastern comma butterflies. 

From North Dakota through Texas and east to the Atlantic coast, the question mark covers the eastern two-thirds of the United States. This butterfly can frequently be found in parks, wetlands, moist woodlands, and suburban settings. 

Adults who hibernate during the winter can reawaken on warm, sunny days in warmer regions. This species gets its name from an apparent question mark formed by a silver curved line and adjoining dot. 

With their wings closed, they resemble dried-up, withered leaves.

Eastern Comma

eastern comma
Eastern comma butterflies are bright orange with white trim.

©Special Beauty/

The majority of the Eastern United States, northeastern Texas, and southern Canada are all home to the eastern comma (Polygonia comma). Because of its liking of hop leaves, it has earned itself the nickname “Hop Merchant.”

It is distinguished by a silver “comma” on its rear wings that resembles tree bark and makes it smaller than the related question mark butterfly. From above, it is orange with deep brown markings and patterns. 

The hoary comma and the eastern comma are comparable in size and appearance. Elm trees, fake nettle, and hop vines are examples of hosts. The Butterfly Bush is a preferred nectar plant.

Common Buckeye

common buckeye on purple flower
The common buckeye butterfly will fly away hastily if they sense approaching motion.


The common buckeye (Junonia coenia) butterfly has a brown upper surface. Two orange streaks and two sizable black eyespots are present on the forewing. The top eyespot on the hindwing, which is the bigger of the two and features a magenta crescent, is the biggest. 

Buckeyes prefer broad, sunlit spaces like fields and clearings. When they sense approaching motion, they fly fast while being tense and vigilant. In the spring, it quickly migrates northward to the majority of the United States and southern Canada since it cannot survive in subfreezing conditions. 

In the fall, as people migrate south, the population grows. You can discover them on a number of nectar plants, including Hydrangea, Butterfly Bush, and Zinnia. Furthermore, mud and wet sand provide fluids for buckeyes.

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The Featured Image

An American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) visits a coneflower. Raleigh, North Carolina.
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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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