Butterfly Families

When trying to identify a butterfly, it can helpful to know which family or subfamily it may belong to. Recognising certain characteristics about particular butterflies can narrow down the possibilities when looking up a butterfly in a guide. Many characteristics are true to certain families, however, in some families, further subgroupings are necessary.

Below, you will see an example of how the family Papilionodea is divided into five different families, each family having certain characteristics for which they have been categorized as you will discover by visiting each family.

Butterflies are classified in three superfamilies:

Papilionoidea or ‘true butterflies’
Hesperioidea, consisting of the ‘skippers’
Hedyloidea, consisting of the ‘moth-butterflies’

The five families of true butterflies usually recognized in the family Papilionoidea are:

  • Family Papilionidae, the Swallowtails, Apollos and Birdwings
  • Family Pieridae, the Whites and Yellows
  • Family Lycaenidae, the Blues and Coppers, also called the Gossamer-Winged Butterflies
  • Family Riodinidae, the Metalmark butterflies
  • Family Nymphalidae, the Brush-footed butterflies including the Monarch Butterfly

Follow the links to find out more about butterflies from the Papilionidae family.

  • Family Papilionidae
  • Family
  • Pieridae
  • Family Lycaenidae
  • Family Riodinidae
  • Family Nymphalidae

Skipper Butterflies (Family Hesperioidea)

The superfamily Hesperioidea comprises one family only. It is the large family of the skippers of family Hesperiidae. The superfamily Hedyloidea also consists of a single family Hedylidae with about 40 species.