NABA-North Jersey Butterfly Club

Explanation of Species Accounts

One of the main goals of the NABA-North Jersey Butterfly Club website is to present a current picture of the status and distribution of New Jersey’s butterflies that can be easily updated periodically or as needed. The species list follows the North American Butterfly Association’s Checklist & English Names of North American Butterflies, Second Edition (2001), and includes detailed accounts of 124 full species of butterflies that have been reliably reported from NJ since 2000. Three NABA-recognized subspecies are also discussed. 'White Admiral' is included in the description of Red-spotted Admiral, and 'Summer' and 'Atlantic' azures are included in the description of Spring Azure.

The other main purpose of the website is to provide an easily accessible source of comprehensive information for professional biologists, photographers, amateurs, and students of all ages. We also hope that the website will spark an interest in butterflies in adults and children, and perhaps rekindle an engagement with these wonderful insects in other adults whose childhood fascination may have been eclipsed by other interests.

Each species account includes the following sections:

Identification: This section includes details about size, color and pattern. When appropriate, differences between males and females, and top and bottom wing surfaces are included. In describing the size of a species, absolute and comparative measures are often used. For example, we describe American Lady, which often basks with its wings spread wide open, as being approximately 3 inches from wingtip to wingtip and smaller than a Monarch (a species that most people are very familiar with and can readily picture in their minds). For other species (mainly grass-skippers, which do not bask with wings flat) the size given is the length of the forewing. We describe other very small species as about the size of a thumbnail, which gives the observer a reference literally at hand. Bear in mind that within a species size can sometimes vary considerably between, and even within, sexes.

We also include, where useful, some other helpful identification tips such as flight behavior and preferred nutrient sources (e.g., flowers, sap, dung).

NJ Status and Distribution: Resident species are known to overwinter in New Jersey at some stage of their life cycle. Most butterflies in NJ are residents. Immigrant species do not overwinter, but repopulate the state anew each year from the south. They may occur annually and in some numbers, such as Common Buckeye, Variegated Fritillary, and especially Monarch, or may be seen in fewer numbers (or even miss a year), such as Cloudless Sulphur, Little Yellow, and Long-tailed Skipper. Vagrants from other regions of the country stray only rarely into NJ, and are not expected to occur every year. They usually are seen in summer and fall and usually as single individuals or in very small numbers, such as Zebra Swallowtail and Dainty Sulphur.

Abundance is categorized as abundant, common, uncommon, or rare. Underlying all these categories is the assumption that that the observer visits an area of suitable habitat for at least half a day in good weather within the appropriate flight period—and the numbers cited should be taken as very rough estimates. Generally, a species described as abundant is likely to be seen in large numbers (more than 50) on most visits; a common species is also likely to be seen on most visits but in fewer numbers (10-30); an uncommon species might be seen on fewer than 50% of visits and/or in small numbers (1-5); and a rare species might be seen once or twice per year or not even every year. Sometimes “fairly” and “very” are used as modifiers. For example, the active observer might expect to see 5-10 individuals of a species that is described as fairly common. Of course, many species vary considerably in abundance from year to year.

Distribution is described as “throughout” the state (meaning all regions of the state but not necessarily every county), or as occurring only or primarily in North Jersey (from Mercer, Middlesex, and Monmouth counties north) or South Jersey (from Ocean and Burlington counties south). We have tried to be as precise as the available data allow. Many species are of local distribution, meaning that relatively few sites that appear to be suitable are actually occupied. Distribution by county is shown graphically for every species. These color-coded state maps also indicate the time period of every county record (pre- or post-2000), and the type of record (photograph or sighting). The pre-2000 records go back to 1992, when some club members began keeping daily butterfly notes.

A master summary list of species/county records is available. Please send any updates to Jim Springer. Historical county distributions are compiled in the “Atlas of New Jersey Butterflies,” by Iftner and Wright (1996).

Species classified as Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern by the State of New Jersey are so noted in red.

Habitat: This is a necessarily qualitative description of preferred habitats. Where appropriate, we distinguish between wetland and upland habitats, open versus wooded habitats, and mention disturbed environments where appropriate. We also indicate whether a species is likely to be attracted to flower gardens.

Flight Period: The time frame within which most adults of a species are flying and likely to be seen. Extreme dates are the earliest and latest dates an adult has been reported. For the most part these dates were derived from more than 20 years of observations beginning in 1992. For some species, these dates are given separately for North and South Jersey. Extreme dates are fluid and subject to change, especially in light of our warming climate. Therefore, a sighting of a species before or after its given extreme dates (especially by only a few days) should not be discounted. Conversely a sighting that exceeds an extreme date by several weeks may be a misidentification and should be documented with a photo if possible.

Larval Food Plants: Several sources (see Resources and Acknowledgements sections) were used to list at least the main plants in NJ that caterpillars are known to eat.

Overwintering Stage: We consulted several sources (see Resources) to determine the stage at which each species overwinters in NJ: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), or adult.

Best Locations: We list a few sites where members have consistently found a particular species. These lists are heavily weighted to North Jersey, and we hope to add more Central and South Jersey locations as this information becomes available. All sites are public, most have easy access and parking, and some have public restrooms. Some of the more popular locations are linked to detailed site descriptions elsewhere on this website. However, almost any public land may worth exploring. Information on species (even common ones) and numbers of individuals seen from little-explored areas are important. This is an opportunity for people to make real contributions to our knowledge of butterfly distribution and abundance in NJ. And be sure to take notes and photos!

Comments: This section includes some facts, observations and asides that the reader may find interesting.


All species accounts were prepared by Sharon and Wade Wander, and extensively reviewed by Tom Halliwell. Jim Springer also provided comments, and Dave Amadio reviewed most species and provided especially helpful input concerning South Jersey. Information for these accounts (especially on overwintering life stage, and larval food plants) was obtained from Cech and Tudor (2005), and Gochfeld and Burger (1997). We also referred to these and other sources (see Resources) in preparing other sections of the species accounts. Much of the information on status and distribution, habitat, flight period, and best locations comes from the personal experiences of the above authors and reviewers. Data on butterfly observations were also gleaned from field reports published in “The Pearly Eye,” the annual publication of the records of the NABA-North Jersey Butterfly Club, from the South Jersey Butterfly Project and from sets of personal records. The following people contributed most of the data used in this project:

Cynthia Allen, Dave Amadio, Pat Amadio, Mike Anderson, Pete Bacinski, Frank Bader, Allen Barlow, Scott Barnes, Marge Barrett, Ahmet Baytas, Tom Beattie, Pat Belardo, Cliff Bernzweig, Mike Bisignano, Denise Bittle, Mary Anne Borge, Pete Both, Dennis Briede, Joanna Burger, Joe Burgiel, Hank Burk, Deedee Burnside, Rick Cech, John Collins (2), Jack Connor, Jesse Connor, Vinny Corsello, Ellen Creveling, Megan Crewe, Mike Crewe, Jamie Cromartie, Keith Dedrick, Robert Dirig, Rhea Doherty, Deb Dowdell, Jim Dowdell, Michael Drake, Gail Dwyer, Vince Elia, Denise Farrell, Tom Fiore, John Flynn, Kathy Flynn, Amy Gaberlein, Sam Galick, Linda Gangi, Mark Garland, Lois Gebhardt, Jon Gelhaus, Jeffrey Glassberg, Steve Glynn, Doug Gochfeld, Michael Gochfeld, Pete Grannis, Elsa Greenstone, Lynn Groves, Jean Gutsmuth, Tom Halliwell, Mike Hannisian, Brian Hardiman, Liz Harding, Jenny Harrington, Dave Harrison, Regina Harrison, Chris Herz, Charles Huebner, Tom Jawidzik, Andy Jensen, Brian Johnson, Doug Johnson, Gabe Johnson, Karen Johnson, Fred Kahan, Jean Kahan, Nerses Kazanjian, Kevin Keating, Linda Keating, Sandra Keller, Will Kerling, Tiffany Kersten, Henry Kindervatter, Jonathan Klizas, Teresa Knipper, Walter Koenig, Alice Koster, Chip Krilowicz, J Labriola, John Lampklin, Ron Lane, Charlie Leck, Mary Leck, Schwinne Lee, Tony Leukering, Mike Logan, David Lord, Eileen Mahler, Glenn Mahler, Stephen Mason, Charlie Mayhood, Tony McBride, Jack McKee, David McNicholas, Kristen Meistrel, Susan Mitchell, Katie Montagnaro, Dave Moskowitz, Bert Murray, Patti Murray, Mike Newlon, George Nixon, Valerie Nixon, Michael O'Brien, Brendan O'Connor, Bridget O'Connor, Bill Olson, Jackie Parker, Keith Parker, Don Parlee, Linda Peskac, Fred Pfeifer, Patti Pfeifer, Charles Pierce, B.J. Pinnock, Michael Pollock, Beth Polvino, Peter Post, Rick Radis, Tom Reed, Eric Reuter, Gibson Reynolds, S Richart, Karla Risdon, Lew Rosenberg, Sheila Rosenberg, Joan Rottkamp, Lisa Ryan, Bill Schuhl, Edie Schuhl, Dale Schweitzer, Barb Sendelbach, Mark Sendelbach, Mary Ellen Shaw, Nancy Slowik, Jim Springer, Tom Sudol, Clay Sutton, Pat Sutton, Harvey Tomlinson, Chris Tonkinson, Don Torino, Donna Traylor, Guy Tudor, Shawn Wainwright, Kristine Wallstrom, Steve Walter, Sharon Wander, Wade Wander, Ann Watts, Fred Weber, Matt Webster, Dianna Wentink, Betty White, Chris Williams, Paula Williams, Larry Wilson, Ro Wilson, Ken Witkowski, David Wright, Jim Wright, Chris Wyluda, Ray Yaros, Jim Zamos, Louise Zemaitis

A committee consisting of Tom Halliwell, Jim Springer, Sharon Wander, and Christopher Williams reviewed many hundreds of photographs submitted by more than 20 contributors for inclusion in the species accounts. The committee selected photos from the following people, most of whom are club members:

Dave Amadio, Marjorie Barrett, Ahmet Baytas, Sam Galick, Jeffrey Glassberg, Tom Halliwell, Jenny Harrington, Alice Koster, John Lampkin, Glenn Mahler, Charlie Mayhood, David McNicholas, Mike Newlon, Sheila Rosenberg, Mark Sendelbach, Jim Springer, Sharon Wander, Wade Wander, Ann Watts, Christopher Williams.