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:

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

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.

The largest butterfly in the world is the female Queen Alexandra Birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera alexandrae). It lives in New Guinea and has a wingspan up to 12 1/2 inches (32 centimetres), however, the male of this butterfly species is much smaller than the female.


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