Butterflies are insects that are part of the order “Lepidoptera.” These colorful-winged creatures make up the entire superfamily “Papilionoidea” and have been flying around on the planet for at least 56 million years according to discovered fossils.
The final part of the complete 4-cycle metamorphosis that these insects undergo is without a doubt the most fascinating one. This is the time that the adult insect crawls out of the pupa, develops wings, and flies off with these aesthetically and visually appealing parts of their body.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most beautiful butterflies in the world. These are quite special because there are about 17,500 species of butterflies on the planet.
1. Blue Morpho Butterfly
The blue morpho (Morpho peleides) is a species of butterfly in the genus morpho. It has distinctive blue wings which appear to be brilliant, especially when the butterfly flaps its wings at a rapid pace. This defense mechanism is used to scare off predators.
This magnificent blue light effect is produced by millions of tiny scales. It’s also a relatively large species of butterfly with a wingspan of anywhere between 7.5 and 20 centimeters (3 and 7.9 inches).
2. Birdwing Butterfly
Birdwing butterflies (Trogonoptera, Troides, and Ornithoptera) are part of the swallowtail family of butterflies and there are about 36 recognized species.
Some of these can easily be considered some of the most beautiful butterflies in the world. Some species are among the largest butterflies as well, including the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing and the Goliath birdwing.
The sheer size of some of these colorful insects makes them appear to be beautiful birds flying around as they can have a body length of up to 7.6 centimeters (3 inches) and a wingspan of up to 28 centimeters (11 inches). They can be found in both Southeast Asia and northern Australasia.
3. Viceroy Butterfly
The Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) is a relatively common butterfly species in North America. Their range extends from the Northwest Territories of Canada, all across the western part of the United States, and south to Central Mexico.
They’re also common in the eastern part of North America with a range that extends from Nova Scotia in the north into Texas in the south. These small butterflies have a wingspan of just 5.3 to 8.1 centimeters (2.1 and 3.2 inches) and have a distinctive orange and black color pattern.
4. Glasswing Butterfly
The Glasswing is the common name of a butterfly known as “Greta oto.” This is one of the least colorful types of butterflies, but one of the most fascinating ones. That’s mainly because of their transparent wings which it uses to camouflage itself against predators.
The Spanish name of this creature is “espejitos” which means “little mirrors.” They are commonly found in the Central and Northern regions of South America, even though they are distributed in a much larger range, extending to Texas in the north and Chile in the south.
Don’t let their transparent wings fool you to think that these are fragile little insects because they are extremely strong. So strong that the glasswing butterfly can carry 40 times its weight, quite amazing.
5. Purple Emperor Butterfly
The purple emperor (Apatura iris) is a common butterfly in the woods of Europe and Asia. Their range extends from the southern part of England to the western part of China, covering most of the Palearctic region.
These are also relatively small butterflies with a wingspan of anywhere between 7 and 8 centimeters (2.8 and 3.1 inches). Even though their wings are dark brown with white bands, the male butterflies feature a distinctive purple section that gradually changes in color as the angle of the view changes.
This is a phenomenon known as “iridescence” and a remarkable feature, especially because the female purple emperor butterflies lack it.
6. Zebra Longwing Butterfly
The zebra longwing butterfly (Heliconius charithonia) has long wings that display these same black and white stripes like a zebra, a feature that made it quite easy to name this insect. They have a very wide range, extending from Texas and Florida to Central America and South America.
The main reason why their wings feature this remarkable color pattern is to serve as a sign for potential predators not to eat them. To us, the color pattern looks extremely wonderful on the eyes, making them one of the most beautiful butterflies in the world.
7. Common Buckeye
The common buckeye (Junonia coenia) is another common butterfly found just about everywhere in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and also in large parts of Mexico. They can often be found in low grasslands feeding on yellow flowers, a color they are particularly attracted to.
The most distinctive feature of these butterflies is their remarkable eyespots. These are yet another defense mechanism to scare potential predators. They are also relatively small with an average wingspan of anywhere between 5 and 6.5 centimeters (2 and 2.5 inches).
8. Eighty-Eight Butterfly
The eighty-eight butterfly (Diaethria anna) is also known as “Anna’s eighty-eight” and is world-famous for featuring wings with one of the most amazing color patterns. It features black and white stripes and an area that appears to depict the number 88.
Even though most individuals feature a nearly perfectly shaped number 88, some might also display the number 98 or even 89. These butterflies are only found in the wet tropical forests of Middle America.
9. Peacock Pansy
The peacock pansy (Junonia almana) is a wonderful-looking orange butterfly that can be found in South Asia and East Asia. Their range extends from India to Sri Lanka, all the way through to South East Asia, China, and Japan.
This butterfly has a wingspan of between 5.4 and 6.2 centimeters (2.1 and 2.4 inches) and is remarkable for featuring two distinctively different wing patterns based on the dry and wet season of their natural range. During the west season, they grow additional eyespots and lines.
10. Monarch Butterfly
The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is one of the most widely distributed butterflies in North America. It’s not just one of the most beautiful butterflies in the world but also one of the most important ones in its particular range, mainly because it’s a pollinator species.
The wings of these butterflies have a distinctive black and orange color pattern which also features white markings at the edges. It has a wingspan of between 8.9 and 10.2 centimeters (3.5 and 4 inches) and especially the females look magnificent.
The monarchs living in the eastern part of North America are famous for their yearly migration. When the temperatures in the southern part of Canada start to drop following the summer months, they head over to Florida and Mexico. This means that these magnificent creatures travel quite a bit during their lifetime!