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41 Stunningly Beautiful and Rarest Butterflies

Butterflies are among the most aesthetically pleasing creatures on earth. Their delicacy, purity, and exquisite colors captivate people. Butterflies have large, often brightly colored wings, and a conspicuous, fluttering flight. Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts, signifying beauty, freedom and the coming of spring.
Unfortunately, many butterfly species around the world are struggling for survival due to habitat loss. In this post, we wanted to highlight a few stunning, rare butterflies that might end up going extinct soon.

1. Morpho 

rare-butterflies: Morpho
You’ll find these beautiful specimens in the canopies of the Central American forests. The Morpho butterflies are easy to spot thanks to their massive, bright, iridescent blue colored wings. The real beauty, though, is when the blue Morpho flies: the contrasting bright blue and dull brown colors flash, making it look like it is appearing and disappearing.

2. Banded Peacock

rare-butterflies: Banded Peacock
Found in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and parts of South Asia, the Banded Peacock (Papilio crino) is known as quite the fast flyer. Its name comes from the pattern of black and green wing bands, reminiscent of a peacock.

3. Monarch

rare-butterflies: Monarch
Every year in September, the orange and black Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) begin their migration to Mexico for the winter. The journey can be as long as 2,800 miles. Sadly, climate change is making winters in Mexico colder and wetter, and summer breeding grounds are becoming hotter and drier. This combined with the common use of herbicide in America has all but eliminated the Monarch’s primary food source -  the milkweed plant.


4. Golden Kaiser-i-Hind

rare-buterfly: Golden Kaiser-i-Hind

Found in China and Vietnam, the Golden Kaiser-i-Hind (Teinopalpus aureus) is considered an endangered species, and is quite threatened by the wildlife trade, despite being protected by Chinese law. 

5. Purple Emperor 

rare-butterflies: Purple Emperor
The Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) sports iridescent wings that shine blue or purple in the light. It used to be quite common in the British Isles. The Emperor’s diet is different to other butterflies - it eats the honeydew secreted by aphids, and occasionally feeds on dung and carrion.

6. Sapho Longwing

rare-butterflies: sapho longwing
These unique butterflies are native to Costa Rica but have also been spotted in rainforests in Belize. The Sapho Longwing (Heliconius sapho) is one of the few species of butterflies that breed on one specific plant. If the plant is gone, the Longwing will surely follow.

7. Common Buckeye 

rare-butterflies: Common Buckeye
The Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) is found in southern Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia and all parts of the United States except the north-west. It is especially common in the south, the California coast, and throughout Central America and Colombia. Its habitat is in open areas with low vegetation and some bare ground.

8. Bhutan Glory

rare-butterflies: Bhutan Glory
The Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis lidderdalii) is a member of the Swallowtail family, sporting a 5-inch wingspan. The wings have beautiful, large red patterns on its rear. The Glory is so rare, it was thought to be extinct, only to be “rediscovered” in 2011 in several locations in Bhutan.

9. Ceylon Rose

beautiful butterflies: bhutan glory
The Ceylon rose (Pachliopta jophon) can only be found in the south-western tropical rain forests of Sri Lanka. Also known as the Sri Lankan rose, this butterfly was initially classified as a subspecies of Pachliopta hector, the crimson rose. However, scientists later confirmed that it belongs to the swallowtail family. Ceylon roses can be found flying low in the morning and high in the afternoon. They are now critically endangered, owing to habitat destruction. The Sinharaja Forest Reserve in the country's Deniyaya area presently acts as an isolated refuge for this butterfly.

10. Chimaera Birdwing

rare-butterflies: Chimaera Birdwing
The Chimaera Birdwing’s (Ornithoptera chimaera) diet mainly consists of the nectar of hibiscus plants and African tulip trees in the rainforest of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. It got the name “Chimaera” due to its body’s unique shape, making it look as if it’s made of 3 amalgamated insects.

11. Glasswing   

rare-butterflies: Glasswing
The Glasswing (Greta oto) butterfly is quite large and got its name thanks to its magical transparent wings. Native to Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, these butterflies can spend hours feeding on a single flower bloom.

12. Island Marble

rare-butterflies: Island Marble
The Island Marble (Euchloe ausonides insulana) is known to inhabit only two small islands (San Juan and Lopez) in north-west Washington State, though it used to be native to Canada. These days, the Island Marble is one of the most endangered insects in the world because of habitat loss and extremely small, isolated populations.

13. Jamaican Swallowtail 

rare-butterflies: Jamaican Swallowtail
Native to the island of Jamaica, the Jamaican Swallowtail (Papilio homerus) is the largest butterfly species in the Americas. Sadly, its size and beauty make it prized among collectors. Adults grow to be about 6 inches across and are dark in color with yellow and blue bands and spots. The Swallowtail prefers to dwell in habitats that are remote and undisturbed.

14. Luzon Peacock

rare-butterflies: Luzon Peacock
The Luzon Peacock (Papilio chikae) was discovered in 1965, in the Philippines. The Peacock is mostly black, with fore and hind wings (which span 4 inches) splashed with the bright colored scales that earned it its name.

15. Mitchell's Satyr 

rare-butterflies: Mitchell's Satyr
The Mitchell's Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii) is a rare butterfly with a wingspan of up to 1.75 inches (4cm) and is distinguished by rows of orange-ringed, black circular eye-spots on each of its chocolate-colored wings. Sadly, urban and agricultural development has destroyed its natural habitat. Combined with contamination from pesticides, fertilizers and nutrient runoff, invasive species and even butterfly collectors, the population numbers have alarmingly shrunk.

16. Banded Orange Tiger

rare-butterflies: Banded Orange Tiger
It is quite obvious how the Banded Orange Tiger (Dryadula phaetusa) got its name. From Brazil through Central America to central Mexico, this butterfly is essential to the eco system as a primary pollinator.

17. Palos Verdes Blue 

rare-butterflies: Palos Verdes Blue
The Palos Verdes Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis) is the rarest butterfly in the world. Presumed extinct until 1994, when researchers discovered a population in San Pedro, California. A breeding program was initiated and seems to be successful, but there are still only several hundred in the wild.

18. Question Mark

rare-butterflies: Question mark
The little Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) hangs out in any area that has lots of trees and space. The name comes from the silver mark on the underside of the hindwing, which is broken into two parts, a curved line, and a dot, creating a ?-shaped mark.

19. Richmond Birdwing 

rare-butterflies: Richmond Birdwing
One of Australia’s largest butterflies, the Richmond Birdwing (Ornithoptera richmondia) has experienced a severe decline in numbers in recent years, thanks to habitat destruction, drought, and invasive species of vine, which causes 100 percent mortality rate among the Richmond Birdwing's larva.

20. Saturn

rare-butterflies: Saturn
Found almost exclusively in the dark shady forests of Singapore's nature reserves, The Saturn Butterfly’s (Zeuxidia amethystus) drab and cryptic undersides help camouflage it among the forest leaf litter while they forage for food.

21. Schaus' Swallowtail 

rare-butterflies: Schaus' Swallowtail
The Schaus' Swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus) is found in southern Florida with subspecies in the Bahamas, Hispaniola, and Cuba. Also known as the Island Swallowtail, it is named in honor of William Schaus.

22. Spicebush Swallowtail

rare-butterflies: Spicebush Swallowtail
The Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) prefers marshes, bogs, swamps and agricultural areas for its prime habitats. Sadly, such places are often subjected to development or suffer from an intensive use of herbicides and pesticides.

23. Wallace's Golden Birdwing 

rare-butterflies: Wallace's Golden Birdwing
The Wallace's Golden birdwing (Ornithoptera croesus) is named after British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who discovered the species in 1859. They live in the lowland areas of the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. Sadly, the area is suffering from an increase in logging, resulting in widespread destruction of its habitat.

24. Lange's Metalmark

Lange's Metalmark

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Lange’s metalmark (Apodemia mormo langei) is currently found only in the Antioch Sand Dunes in California. Originally discovered in 1933, these beautiful and fragile butterflies live only on buckwheat leaves and only in sandy areas along the southern bank of the Sacramento River. Loss of habitat has badly disrupted their population.

25. Queen Alexandra's Birdwing

Queen Alexandra's Birdwing

Image source: Reddit

Boasting a wingspan of around 27 centimeters (11 inches), the Queen Alexandra's birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) is the largest butterfly in the world,. It is found in the forests of the Oro Province in eastern Papua New Guinea and has been a victim of habitat destruction. The species was named after Queen Alexandra of Denmark in 1906.

26. Zebra Longwing

Zebra Longwing

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The amazing Zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia) has long, narrow, black wings with light yellow zebra-like stripes. It is a Neotropical butterfly that can be found across South and Central America, Texas, Florida, and beyond. Their distinctive stripes serve as a deterrent to predators.

27. Leona's Little Blue

Leona's Little Blue

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

First discovered in 1995 by Leona and Harold Rice in Klamath County, Oregon, Leona’s Little Blue butterfly (Philotiella leona) eats only buckwheat nectar and lays its eggs on buckwheat leaves. It lives only within six square miles of Klamath County. There are currently between 1,000 and 2,000 Leona's Little Blues in this particular colony, according to estimates.

28. Miami Blue

Miami Blue

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Native to southern Florida, the Miami blue (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) was once quite common, but its numbers have dwindled significantly over the years. In fact, their population was nearly wiped out completely by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The species was not seen again until 1999, when a photographer discovered 35 specimens scattered throughout the Marquesas Keys in Key West National Wildlife Refuge.

29. Callippe Silverspot 

Callippe Silverspot

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Callippe silverspot (Speyeria callippe callippe) was once found around the eastern, southern, and western sides of San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately, its numbers are now limited to just seven cities, primarily San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. The population of this medium-sized butterfly has collapsed as a result of the demise of its sole host plant, the Johnny Jump-up.

30. San Bruno Elfin 

San Bruno Elfin

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The San Bruno elfin (Calophrys mossii bayensis) is an endangered butterfly found only in three locations around San Francisco Bay, California: Milagra Ridge (San Mateo County), San Bruno Mountain (San Mateo County), and Montara Mountain (San Mateo County). Their population has been estimated at 1,000 or more adults in 15 subpopulations. The San Bruno elfin lives on rocky outcrops and cliffs and feeds exclusively on the leaves of its host plant, the broadleaf stonecrop.

Related: 18 Before and After Photos of Caterpillars and Butterflies

31. Macedonian Grayling

Macedonian Grayling

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Macedonian grayling (Pseudochazara cingovskii) is a rare European butterfly that’s listed as a critically endangered species on the IUCN Red List. Its present population is unstable and declining, with only around 3,000 adults living in the Macedonian hamlet of Pletvar. Its numbers have taken a hit because of quarrying in the area. Unfortunately, five of the seven locations where Macedonian Graylings are known to live are close to a working marble quarry.

32. Red Pierrot

Red Pierrot

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A small but striking butterfly, the Red Pierrot (Talicada nyseus) is found in peninsular India, the hilly regions of northeast India, and northern Myanmar. Pierrots are weak fliers and usually fly in short bursts very close to the ground. This beautiful butterfly faces the problems of habitat loss and climate change. 

33. Florida Leafwing

Florida Leafwing

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The endangered Florida leafwing (Anaea troglodyta floridalis) is native to the pine rockland habitat of South Florida. When at rest, the dark or gray underside of its lower wings gives this butterfly the appearance of a dead leaf. Leafwings were once abundant throughout Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, but now they only inhabit Everglades National Park. The specific causes of its population loss are unknown, but scientists assume that habitat damage, nonnative species introduction, pesticide usage, and butterfly collection are to blame.

34. Spotted Angle 

Spotted Angle

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Spotted Angle butterfly (Caprona agama) is found from southern India to Burma and in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, southern China, Java, and Sulawesi. Frederic Moore (a British entomologist and artist) described the species for the first time in 1857. The rare butterfly belongs to the family Hesperiidae.

35. Lilac Silverline

Lilac Silverline

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The rare Lilac Silverline (Cigaritis lilacinus) is found in India, Myanmar, and Thailand. It was thought to have been extinct in India for over 120 years before it was rediscovered in 2012 in the Hessarghatta Lake area of Bangalore. This species is legally protected in India under Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It appears that the traversal of a large number of vehicles indiscriminately across Hesaraghatta Lake is destroying its host plant.

36. Crystal Skipper 

Crystal Skipper

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Only a small portion of North Carolina's Crystal Coast, notably the area between Fort Macon State Park and Hammocks Beach State Park, is home to the Crystal skipper (Atrytonopsis quinteri). Initially, it was thought to be a variation of the Loammi skipper (A. loammi), but scientists later identified it as its own species in 2015. Researchers have said that preserving and restoring the Crystal Skipper’s host and nectar plants, the seaside little bluestem, will be critical in ensuring their population remains stable.

37. Palmking


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The rare and endangered Palmking (Amathusia phidippus), characterized by a brown color and dark bands, can be found in India and Southeast Asia. It was first recorded in South India by British scientist H.S. Ferguson in 1891. Palmking belongs to the Nymphalidae subfamily and feeds on palm, coconut, and calamus varieties of plants. Spotting this butterfly isn’t easy, as its wood color makes for easy camouflage. Moreover, it rarely spreads its wings.

38. Redbreast


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Redbreast (Papilio Alcmenor) is a species of swallowtail butterfly found in South Asia. This rare beauty was spotted for the first time in 110 years in the western parts of the Himalayas in October 2022. It's recognized by its bluish-black color with broad red stripes.

The rare species is legally protected in India under Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

39. Emerald Aguna

Emerald Aguna

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Emerald aguna (Aguna claxon) is a dicot skipper in the butterfly family Hesperiidae. It is found in Central America, North America, and South America. Its hindwing's underside features a silver-white median bar, while its forewing features a white median bar. Emerald agunas thrive in subtropical regions and feed on flower nectar.

40. Plain Tawny Rajah

Plain Tawny Rajah

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A rare butterfly from the Leafwings subfamily of the Nymphalidae, the Plain Tawny Rajah (Charaxes psaphon) is found in South India. It was first described by John Obadiah Westwood in 1847. The plain tawny rajah usually feeds on the fluid from rotten crabs, fish, tree sap, damp patches, and animal dung. It’s a fast-flying butterfly that travels at all levels through the forest.

41. Bay Checkerspot

Bay Checkerspot

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Bay checkerspot (Euphydryas editha bayensis) is native to the San Francisco Bay region of California, USA. Its population size has been extensively studied by researchers since the 1960s. Unfortunately, its numbers have been declining at an alarming pace since the 1980s. Scientists believe that fluctuations in the local climate have probably resulted in the fall of the butterfly’s numbers. A number of habitats are being managed to provide protection for the bay checkerspot butterfly.

The entire population size of the Bay checkerspot has never been measured since the number of butterflies living each year varies substantially.

Related questions

1. What causes butterflies to be endangered?

As you may have already understood upon reading the article, habitat loss and climate change are the two main reasons that cause butterflies to become endangered. Over the last few decades, excessive use of pesticides, particularly insecticides, has also caused harm to various butterfly species. Overgrazing and roadside mowing are also believed to play a part.

2. How do butterflies affect the environment?

Butterflies are fantastic for your garden since they are drawn to bright flowers and require nectar to survive. When they do this, their bodies gather pollen and transport it to other plants. This helps the production of new seeds in fruits, vegetables, and flowers. From apples to coffee, many food crops depend on butterflies for pollination. Pollination is necessary for 75% of the world's agriculture, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

3. What would happen if butterflies disappeared from the world?

Many blooming plants and butterflies are so inextricably intertwined that one cannot exist without the other. If butterflies became extinct tomorrow, these gorgeous plants would struggle to survive. Environmentalists also claim that extinction of butterflies would have a negative impact on many other organisms that feed on butterfly larvae and pupae.

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