As the springtime and warmer weather approaches, nature lovers everywhere rejoice in the season’s new beginnings. Flowers bloom, animals are born, and, in one of the most beautiful times of the year, butterflies fill the air. According to the Smithsonian Institution, there are around 750 species of butterflies in the United States, each with its own unique colors, markings, and flight patterns.
However, as it turns out, some states are better than others for spotting these beautiful and striking bugs.
Interestingly, a new report from Michigan Bulb identified the best states to be a butterfly aka seeing butterflies in the country, based on the number of native species in each state. Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia came out on top. Each state was home to a whopping 54 species of native butterflies.
Pennsylvania is known for its gorgeous scenery and diverse wildlife, and its offerings for butterfly lovers certainly do not disappoint. Some of the top places to find butterflies in Pennsylvania include the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden at Tom Tudek Memorial Park whose website boasts the garden’s over 30 resident butterfly species, as well as the Butterfly Atrium at Hershey Gardens, whose website highlights the tropical butterflies available to be seen in its indoor space. In addition to these two centers, there is a whole range of butterfly centers and public gardens to spot butterflies throughout the state.
Far from the wooded mountains of Pennsylvania, the heat and resilient greenery of Texas attracts a wide range of butterflies. They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and with native species like the Giant Swallowtail, the Monarch Butterfly, and the Queen Butterfly, Texas’ native butterflies certainly live up to their large-sized environment, according to this profile from Texas A&M’s Agrilife Extension. Of course, the most famous of these is the Monarch Butterfly, a species whose miraculous migration passes through Texas each year. Those interested in seeing the migration can check out the Cockrell Butterfly Center and NABA International Butterfly Park as these are some of the best places to check out butterflies.
Virginia’s and West Virginia’s claim to butterfly fame is similarly linked to the great migration of the Monarch Butterfly. According to the Haywood County Tourism Development of Haywood, North Carolina, the famous monarch butterfly migration passes through the Appalachian region each year, making the Virginian mountains the perfect places to spot butterflies. However, there are also plenty of places to see butterflies outside of the Appalachian Trail. In Virginia, butterfly lovers should head to the coast where the Bristow Botanical Garden and the VA Zoological Park have special butterfly gardens. In West Virginia, the West Virginia Botanic Garden is famously filled with beautiful flowers and butterflies that flock to them.
The Best Environments for Butterfly Spotting
Even in the best states for spotting butterflies, certain environmental conditions make for better chances of spotting a butterfly. There are some tips that butterfly-spotting hopefuls should keep in mind.
For the best chances at spotting butterflies, you should know that time matters as much as place. As different butterfly species have different migration and hatching patterns, throughout the season and well into the summer, there may be spikes in different types of species across different areas. Checking in with your local nature centers and reading up on butterfly watchers guides are both great ways to make sure you don’t miss a beautiful butterfly right in their own backyards.
Speaking of your own backyards, it’s also possible to create a butterfly hub in your home garden. After getting to know the butterflies in your area from local guides, you can pick out flowers and greenery that is especially attractive to any local species. Flower variety is crucial for attracting a wide variety of butterflies. However, any butterfly enthusiasts should check out the National Wildlife Foundation which suggests nearness to sunlight, absence of insecticides and plenty of green leaves for young caterpillars indicate optimal butterfly-spotting zones.
For those especially keen on watching butterflies grow, there’s also the option to raise butterflies in your own backyard. Thanks to the internet, it’s so easy to order butterfly eggs and butterfly raising kits online. You can keep your kit in sunlight and fill it with greens as you watch the butterflies grow from eggs to caterpillar to cocoon larva before becoming butterflies.
A Note on Butterfly Conservation
Having fallen in love with the hobby of watching and studying butterflies, you may find yourself researching a lot of facts about the beautiful insects. Unfortunately, according to a report from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, there have been five species extinctions in the United States since 1950, and another twenty-five butterfly species are endangered. It’s so important that individuals concerned with the welfare of their beloved butterflies get involved in habitat restoration and continued research of butterflies.
On a positive note, the butterfly advocacy community is strong and uniquely bonded by shared passions. According to the same report mentioned above from Michigan Bulb, seven species of butterflies are found in all 50 of the United States including the Red Admiral, the Spring Azure, and the Painted Lady butterflies. In online communities, individuals can share pictures and observations of our national native species to generate excitement in individuals that want to protect butterflies.
Overall, whether you’ve been watching butterflies for years or are just getting started with butterfly watching as a safe hobby in 2023 (great for social distancing), there is a tremendous community waiting for you. More importantly, no matter which state you live in, there are so many amazing butterfly species just waiting to be spotted. Check out the Michigan Bulb report to see which butterflies call your state home, then get out there and get spotting!