A Few New Mexico Butterflies and Moths


The following photographs represent my chance encounters. If you're looking for a systematic photographic survey, I recommend the Butterflies of New Mexico web site maintained by Joe Schelling.


The images are organized alphabetically, by family, genus, and species. When you encounter a slide show, you can hover your cursor over the images to control them. If you seen an error, please contact me via the Contact tab at the top of the page.



Herminiinae: Litter Moths

Herminiinae, Litter Moth, New Mexico
Rio Grande Bosque, Albuquerque, July 2020




Geometridae, inchworm, new mexico
Rio Grande Bosque, Albuquerque, July 2020

Many species of Geometer Moth caterpillars look like twigs, and hold themselves stiffly at a proper angle to complete the disguise. Which is what this one was doing when I found it on White Sweetclover—only the contrast between the brown caterpillar and green stem attracted my notice. The caterpillars are popularly known as inchworms, after their peculiar way of moving.



Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)

Notice how on this skipper, the undersides of the wings are spotted.


Taxiles Skipper (Poanes taxiles)


Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)



Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma)


Tent caterpillars are from a single genus, and my examples are probably L. californicum, the Western Tent Caterpillar. If you click on the thumbnail on the left, you'll see a Wikipedia photo of an adult (taken by Jerald E. Dewey, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org).



Western Pygmy Blue (Brephidium exilis or exile)

This is North America's smallest butterfly. The first three images show the same individual, which didn't leave as I zoomed in. Finally I pinched loose the dead branch tip where it sat for a better look. At that point it began moving—a little. After I took my photos, I very carefully put it back on the bush. The fourth image, taken a few days later, shows the wings partly open.


Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

At first I thought this was a Sandia Hairstreak, New Mexico's official butterfly. Both species have iridescent green wings, but the Juniper Hairstreak lacks an obvious second band of white at the wings' far edges. This one was sipping nectar from a Perky Sue.


Reakirt's Blue (Echinargus isola)


Marine Blue (Leptotes marina)

The upper sides of this species' wings are blue, hence the name. When at rest they always keep their wings folded, so that trait isn't readily apparent.


Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)



Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia)

Arizona Sisters supposedly prefer oak woodlands and settings with water. Both of those habitat values can be found in Hondo Canyon (at the south end of the Crest Trail), where I took my June 2019 photos. My September 2020 photos were taken in Juan Tabo Canyon, where there's plenty of oak but no water source that I know of.


Northern Checkerspot (Chlosyne palla)

In the first series of images (taken during a hike to San Miguel Mountain, part of Nacimiento Ridge in the Jemez Mountains) the butterflies are feeding from Chamisso Arnica flowers. The second series was taken during a hike up Redondo Creek in Valles Caldera National Preserve. In those photos, the butterflies are feeding from dandelions. The series also includes one photo from a hike on Mt. Taylor; those particular butterflies seemed more interested in each other than in feeding.


Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)


Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

When I encountered this butterfly lying on the stream bottom in San Lorenzo Canyon, I thought it was dead. After my first couple of photographs I tried to turn it over, and it fluttered off. Not very far—it must have been near the end. Still, one tough critter to have lasted so late into the fall.


Weidemeyer's Admiral (Limenitis weidemeyerii)

These gorgeous butterflies clearly aren't above sipping from fresh scat. If you look closely at the image from Sulphur Canyon, you can see a fly and a second insect just below the scat. The handheld butterfly from Mount Taylor was lying dead on the CDT when we came by.


Spiny Elm Caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa)


These intimidating-looking caterpillars morph into a rather lovely butterfly, known as a Mourning Cloak. Since I don't have a picture of the adult, I'll include an image from Wikipedia (by Pavel Kirillov).


Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)


Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)

When the Hoary Comma's wings are completely closed, it looks like a piece of dead leaf. Even the legs contribute to the camouflage, looking like tiny dry twigs. Then the wings open in a burst of orange.


West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella)

The West Coast Lady has three small but obvious eye spots in the underside of each hindwing. Also, compared to the Painted Ladies you see below, the black-and-white wing tip area is less elaborate.


Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady has four small but obvious eye spots on the underside of each hind wing. Each warm season, Painted Lady butterflies migrate northward from wintering grounds in northern Mexico. They're a common site in and near Albuquerque.



Two-Tail Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

New Mexico hosts three similar-looking swallowtails with yellow wings: the Anise, Western Tiger, and Two-Tailed.  I'm calling this one a Two-Tailed Swallowtail based on the second, smaller "tail" inboard of the main one on each wing. Also, the stripes are narrower. A sprinkler in a city park had left water in a gutter, and this butterfly came by for a drink.


Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)

Compared to the Two-Tailed (above), the Western Tiger has no second "tail" inboard of the obvious one, and the forewing stripes are bolder.


Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The two photos from June 2019—taken in low light, so grainy—show the black swallowtail's characteristic colors and wing outlines. The photo from a few weeks later shows just how ragged and colorless the wings can become. Although the butterfly in the July photo was no doubt near the end of its life, it was fluttering gamely along.



Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The second photo was taken as this butterfly prepared to fly off. The image is blurry, but it shows the orange wings (with dark margins) that distinguish the Orange Sulphur from other species in Colias.


Pine White (Neophasia menapia)


Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

I'm classifying these photos as showing Cabbage Whites because the wings have dots and because the undersides of the wings are speckled.


Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

The female Checkered Whites are more strongly marked than the males. As the males first flutter by, they look a lot like cabbage whites. As a close look shows, the markings on male Checkered Whites aren't spots, but a washed-out version of the pattern on females.



Bagworm Moth Caterpillar

On a morning walk I saw a Tree of Life leaf with a big hole munched in the middle. When I lifted the leaf, a pupa-like thing dangled beneath. It was a bagworm moth caterpillar's case. The caterpillars haul these travel trailers wherever they go, and retreat inside at the first sign of danger. They also pupate in the case, and the adult females lay their eggs in their cases so the eggs can overwinter. Later that same month I found hundreds of bagworm cases dangling from willows on a sandbar in the Rio Grande, each apparently full of eggs (I didn't disturb them).



White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

To see a YouTube video of these moths visiting my daffodils, click here.