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10 Most Beautiful Butterfly Species

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All butterflies share various attributes. They all have large scaly wings, six jointed legs, two antennae, three body sections, compound eyes and an exoskeleton. Butterflies' two forewings and two hind wings attach to the thorax. Among the most beautiful and fascinating creatures to behold in nature, a few butterfly species stand out among the 150,000 in existence today.

Latin America's Blue Giant

The blue morpho (Morpho peleides) inhabits tropical rain forests from Mexico to Columbia, spending the majority of his time on the forest floor. Wing coloration can vary from pale blue to cobalt, with black edges. Wingspan is between 5 and 8 inches, placing the blue morpho among the largest butterflies in Latin America. The undersides of the blue morpho's wings are dowdy brown to provide clever camouflage against would-be predators. While his wings are folded and he is at rest, he blends in with his tropical surroundings.

Call Me BD

The BD butterfly (Callicore cynosure) inhabits lowland tropical rainforests of the Amazon Basin throughout Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. The upper wings are black with vivid red bands, and the underside of the wings are primarily black with an intricate pattern of yellow and white markings that appear to form the letters B and D, giving the Callicore cynosure his nickname.

He's Called Goliath for a Reason

The second-largest butterfly in the world, the goliath birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera goliath) has an impressive wingspan of 11 inches. Found in New Guinea, this butterfly has a green forewing with black stripes and edges, and a yellow hind wing with green lines, black edges, and green and black eyespots. The underwing is blue-green near the thorax, fading to yellow outer regions with black edges and spots.

Leopard Lacewing Butterfly

Historically seen from India to Thailand and in southern China, the leopard lacewing butterfly (Cethosia cyane) appeared in the Malay Peninsula around the year 2000 and was first recorded in Singapore in 2005. The top of this butterfly's wings are a vivid, deep orange with black edges and a white stripe near the outer tip of the forewings. His underside is an intricate pattern of black, white and light blue against an orange background.

All Hail the Monarch

Also called the king of butterflies, the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is perhaps the most easily recognized in North America. Black edging and wing stripes stand out against a deep russet background. The monarch cycles through four generations of butterflies in a single year, with the first three living only two to six weeks after emergence from the cocoon. The fourth generation, emerging in September or October, flies to the warmer climates of California and Mexico to hibernate. In February or March, he awakens and flies north to mate and begin the cycle anew.

The British Peacock

The peacock butterfly (Inachis io) is a strong flyer who inhabits England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Fairly large, with spans reaching up to 3 inches, his wings are deep red with black markings and prominent eyespots on the tips of all four wings. He is said to be the most easily recognized butterfly in his home range.

Purple Spotted Swallowtail

Found only in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the purple spotted swallowtail butterfly (Graphium weiskei) is primarily black with shimmering spots. The larger spots, located on the forewings, fade from purple to pink and back again. The smaller spots, on the hind wings, transform from blue to purple.

The Rainbow Butterfly

Possessing perhaps one of the most elaborate color schemes of any butterfly species, the red lacewing butterfly (Cethosia biblis) is bright red closest to the thorax and yellow toward the outer regions of the wings, with a complex pattern of pink, yellow, black and white stripes, spots and bands. Found in subtropical forests, the red lacewing butterfly lives in central India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, China, the Philippines, Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Bali, Sulawesi and Ambon.

The Ambassador of Queensland

Also known as the blue mountain swallowtail, the Ulysses butterfly (Papilio Ulysses) is the official emblem for tourism in Queensland, Australia, and is protected by the Australian government. The tops of his wings, which span 5 to 6 inches, are shimmering blue-green outlined in black. The undersides are brown. The Ulysses butterfly lives in Australia, New Guinea, the Moluccas and the Solomon Islands.

America's Swamp Zebra

As his name implies, the zebra swallowtail (Protographium marcellus) has a series of black stripes against a pale greenish-white background. His hind wings have extra long tails, making him easily recognizable. Found primarily in damp environments in the southeastern United States, he prefers to live near swamps and rivers.