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Butterflies and Moths Photographed in their Natural Habitat

Butterflies and Moths

Order Lepidoptera contains 126 families in 34 superfamilies (Learn About Butterflies Ref 19). The classification is subject to controversy, review and revision and depending on source 42, 46 or 47 (Catalogue of Life Ref 12) superfamilies may be recognised.

Most sources agree that there are only two superfamilies of butterflies: Papilionoidea (true butterflies) with five families, six if Hedylidae (American moth-butterflies) are included and Hesperioidea (skippers), which has only one family. The other superfamilies are macro-moths and micro-moths that contain around 95% of the species.

Estimates of the number of Lepidoptera species vary but is more than 150,000 most of these are moths. New species especially micro-moths are regularly discovered while others become extinct. The number of butterflies is between 17,00 and 19,000.

The butterfly image galleries feature four families from the superfamily Papilionoidea (true butterflies): Papilionidae (swallowtails), Pieridae (whites), Lycaenidae (gossamer-winged butterflies) and Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterflies) together with the superfamily Hesperioidea, which has one family Hesperiidae (skippers).

Riodinidae (metalmarks butterflies) belongs to Papilionoidea family, they are primarily found in South America.

The final gallery features six families of moths from four superfamilies: Bombycoidea (Hawk-Moths), Geometroidea (Geometer Moths), Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths) and Zygaenoidea (Slug Moths).

Some images of butterflies and moths that I photographed in the nineties were originally captured on Kodachrome K64 slide film.

Brush-footed Butterflies

Nymphalidae family are commonly known as brush-footed butterflies are generally brightly coloured. They are distinguished by the small or reduced forelegs, which don't have feet just hairy legs that resembling brushes. Most are medium-sized with wingspans in the 35mm to 90mm range, with a few species being much larger. About 6,000 species, that's about one third of butterfly species, are distributed thought the world.

I've photographed sixteen species of brush-footed butterflies. The tropical species in Singapore, Mauritius and Trinidad were significantly larger than the temperate European species in England and France. However, there is some size overlap for example the tropical region chocolate pansy is smaller than the temperate region silver-washed fritillary.

Habitats in the tropical regions were at the edge of secondary forest or clearings in mangrove swamp while in the temperate regions they mainly in meadows, grassy areas and gardens.

Featured Nymphalidae (Brush-footed butterflies) family

Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirteana) {M} & {F}

Brilliant Blue (Junonia rhadama)

Chocolate Pansy (Junonia hedonia ida)

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

Common Palmfly (Elymnias hypermnestra agina)

Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja)

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe)

Julia (Dryas iulia)

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

Palm King (Amathusia phidippus phidippus)

Purple Duke (Eulaceura osteria kumana)

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia)

White Admiral (Limenitis camilla)

Woodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa)

Gossamer-winged and Swallowtail Butterflies

Gossamer-winged butterflies belong to the Lycaenidae family. There are more than 4,500 species of these small butterflies with wingspans in the range 10mm to 30mm, but a few species are medium sized with larger wingspans.

Papilionidae family are commonly known as Swallowtails, there are around 590 species worldwide. They have medium to large wingspans in the 50mm to 120mm range.

I photographed the tropical species in Singapore and the European species in France. The tropical habitats were public gardens, parks and at the edges of secondary forests. The temperate habitats were meadows and roadside verges.

Featured Lycaenidae and Papilionidae families

Gossamer-winged butterflies

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis)

Chalk Hill Blue (Polyommatus coridon)

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

Cycad Blue (Chilades pandava)

Tropical Swallowtails

Banded Swallowtail (Papilio demolion demolion)

Blue Helen (Papilio prexaspes prexaspes)

Common Jay (Graphium doson)

European Swallowtails

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)

Iberian Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthamelii)

Whites and Skippers

Pieridae (whites) includes yellows and orange-tips and belongs to the superfamily Papilionoidea (true butterflies) and has over 1,000 species worldwide. The featured species have medium wingspans and were photographed in England, France and New Zealand. The small white is an introduced species (pest) in New Zealand. Apart from the brimstone, which I photographed in woodland, the whites were in open grassy or hedgerow habitat.

The Hesperiidae (Skipper) family with over 4,000 known species has been sub-dived into several subfamilies including Hesperiinae (Grass Skippers), which is the largest subfamily containing over 2,000 species. They are mostly chocolate or brownish grey in colour and the featured images are of butterflies with wingspans less than 35mm. The butterflies were photographed in England, France and New Zealand in hedgerow or open grassy habitat.

Featured Pieridae and Hesperiidae families


Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)

Small White (Pieris rapae)


Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)

Oberthur's Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus armoricanus)


The gallery features images of ten species four superfamilies of moth. These superfamilies are described in many references including the Encyclopedia Britannica (Ref 20) which gives data on species numbers.

Saturniidae and Sphingidae families belong to Bombycoidea superfamily of hawk-moths, which has over 3,400 species of large to very large moths. I photographed a female day flying atlas moth in Singapore's Pasir Ris Park, a golden emperor moth at Fraser's Hill in Malaysia and a hummingbird hawk moth in Provence France. The atlas has the largest wing surface area of all moths but only the second largest wingspan. The females are bigger than males with fatter bodies, a wingspan up to 30cm and a weight of around 25g. Wingspan and weight are grater than the largest species of hummingbird. Golden emperor moths are nocturnal with wingspans around 9.5cm, the diurnal hummingbird hawk moth is much smaller.

Geometroidea (geometer moths) superfamily has nearly 22,000 species most of which are in the Geometridae family. The gallery features three species: two nocturnal with large wingspans; Coremecis nigrovittata and curve-toothed geometer or dead-leaf moth that I photographed in Fraser's Hill and the smaller diurnal magpie moth I photographed in France.

The largest superfamily is the Noctuoidea (owlet moths) with almost 52,000 species in eight families. These moths have the greatest diversity in colour, wingspan and habitat. Two images of the diurnal jersey tiger moth from the Arctiinae family are featured.

The Zygaenoidea or slug moth superfamily has about 2,500 species in four families. Images of the day flying six-spot burnet and eastern burnet moths from the Zygaenidae family that I photographed in the Tarn Georges in France feature in the gallery.

Featured Moths, Lepidoptera order

Arctiinae (Tiger Moths) family

Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria)

Geometridae (Geometer Moths) family

Coremecis nigrovittata

Curve-Toothed Geometer (Eutrapela clemataria)

Magpie Moth (Abraxas grossulariata)

Unidentified species possible from Geometridae family

Saturniidae (Giant Silkworm Moths) family

Atlas moth (Attacus atlas)

Golden Emperor Moth (Loepa katinka)

Sphingidae (Hawk Moths) family

Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

Zygaenidae (Burnet or Forester Moths) family

Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae)

Eastern Burnet (Zygaena carniolica)


{M} Male, {F} Female

Page Contents

Brush-footed Butterflies

Gossamer-winged and Swallowtail Butterflies

Whites and Skippers


Palm King (Amathusia phidippus phidippus), Pasir Ris Park, Singapore, 2011 Female, Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirteana), MacRitchie Nature Trail, Singapore, 2011 Male, Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirteana), Paula Urbin, Singapore, 2015 Common Palmfly (Elymnias hypermnestra agina), Pasir Ris Park, Singapore, 2015 Chocolate Pansy (Junonia hedonia ida), Pasir Ris Park, Singapore, 2015 Julia (Dryas iulia) Butterfly, Discovery Trail, Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad, 2015 Brilliant Blue (Junonia rhadama), Grande Gorges River, Parakeet Trail, Mauritius, 2014 Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Eden Project, Cornwall, UK, 2010 High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe), Bouisse, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2004 Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia), Bouisse, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2004 Comma (Polygonia c-album), Bouisse, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ,2004 Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus), Peyreleau, Tarn Gorges, France, 2002 Purple Duke (Eulaceura osteria kumana), MacRitchie Nature Trail, Singapore, 2011 Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina), Peyreleau, Tarn Gorges, France, 2002 Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja), Meadow, Hampshire, UK, 1994 White Admiral (Limenitis camilla), Bouisse, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2004 Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia), Bouisse, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2004 Woodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa), Peyreleau, Tarn Gorges, France, 2002 Banded Swallowtail (Papilio demolion demolion), Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore, 2011 Cycad Blue (Chilades pandava), Singapore Botanic Gardens, 2015 Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus), Peyreleau, Tarn Gorges, France, 2002 Chalk Hill Blue (Polyommatus coridon), Bouisse, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2004 Common Jay (Graphium doson), MacRitchie Nature Trail, Singapore, 2015 Blue Helen (Papilio prexaspes prexaspes), MacRitchie Nature Trail, Singapore, 2015 Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius), Provence, France, 1999 Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Peyreleau, Tarn Gorges, France, 2004 Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France, 1996 Iberian Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthamelii), Bouisse, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, 2004 Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris), Hedgerow, Hampshire, UK, 1994 Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus), Peyreleau, Tarn Gorges, France, 2002 Small White (Pieris rapae), Sinclair Wetlands, Otago, New Zealand, 2015 Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), Hedgerow, Hampshire, UK, 1996 Oberthur's Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus armoricanus), Peyreleau, Tarn Gorges, France, 2002 Large White (Pieris brassicae), Le Moulin Du Bousquet, River Aveyron, France, 2002 Small White (Pieris rapae), Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway Coastline, New Zealand, 2012 Female Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas), Pasir Ris Park, Singapore, 2011 Female Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas), Pasir Ris Park, Singapore, 2011 Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria), Bouisse, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ,2004 Eastern Burnet (Zygaena carniolica), Tarn Gorges, France, 2002 Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) feeding on nectar Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria), Tarn Gorges, France, 2002 Magpie Moth (Abraxas grossulariata), Le Moulin Du Bousquet, River Aveyron, France, 2002 Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae), Tarn Gorges, France, 2002 Golden Emperor Moth (Loepa katinka) at Fraser's Hill in Malaysia Curve-Toothed Geometer moth (Eutrapela clemataria) at Fraser's Hill Coremecis nigrovittata moth at Fraser's Hill in Malaysia Unidentified Moth at Fraser's Hill in Malaysia