Butterflies are members of the kingdom Animalia, phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, and order Lepidoptera. Generally, the order Lepidoptera is broken down into two sub-orders: Heterocera (the “varied-antennaed” moths) and the “club-antennaed” Rhopalocera, the sub-order to which the butterflies belong. The Rhopalocera sub-order includes 3 superfamilies: Hesperioidea (the skipper butterflies), Hedyloidea (the moth-butterflies), and Papilionoidea (the true butterflies). The true butterfly superfamily contains 5 families of butterflies: Papilionidae, Pieridae, Lycaenidae, Riodinidae, and Nymphalidae.
The Papilionidae include the large and colorful Swallowtail, Apollo, and Birdwing butterflies. The Pieridae family consists mostly of white and yellow butterflies that live in Asia and Africa. The 6,000 species of butterflies that compose the Lycaenidae family are also known as the gossamer-winged butterflies, and the blues, coppers, hairstreaks, and harvesters are the main Lycaenidae subfamilies. The 1,000 species making up the Riodinidae family often have metallic spots on their wings, giving them the name “metalmarks.” The Nymphalidae family is also called the brush-footed butterflies, and the underwings of the Nymphalidae butterflies are less vibrant or may even be darker and resemble dead leaves.
The Nymphalidae family includes many popular species of butterflies, including the monarch, tortoiseshells, emperor, fritillaries, and admirals. The genus and species of some of these popular Nymphalidae butterflies are: Monarch butterfly – Danaus plexipus, Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui, Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta, Small Tortoiseshell – Nymphalis urticae, California Tortoiseshell – Nymphalis californica, Blue Morpho – Morpho menelau, Question Mark – Polygonia interrogationis, Mourning Cloak – Nymphalis antiopa, Marsh Fritillary – Euphydryas aurinia, Peacock – Inachis io, and the Small Heath – Coenonympha pamphilus.