Butterflies of New Mexico: Introduction and Index

by Steven J. Cary and Michael E. Toliver

INTRODUCTION (updated February 8, 2024)

Welcome to the Butterflies of New Mexico home page. It is graciously hosted by the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) in Los Alamos. The purpose of this site is to make available to the public much of what is known about butterflies in New Mexico. Below is a list that enables you to click and navigate to particular butterfly families. From each family you can click and link to individual species accounts. Other important content follows the interactive list.


Click on a link below for the butterfly family or subfamily you want to explore.

New Mexico is home to more than 300 different butterfly species, placing it in the top three states for butterfly species richness, alongside Texas and Arizona. Admittedly, various excellent published field guides (including Glassberg 2017 or Brock and Kaufman 2003) already cover all of New Mexico’s species. Comprehensive online resources exist as well, including Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) at www.butterfliesandmoths.org and Butterflies of America (BOA) here: http://butterfliesofamerica.com. One consequence of their continental or hemispheric geographic scope, however, is that they compromise on local details. For New Mexico, or any other state, they do not provide all of the hows, whys and wheres, the details one typically needs to actually go out and find, study or photograph many of those butterflies.

This present work will fill in some of the missing and critically interesting geographic details. When ‘Species A’ looks different in New Mexico compared to California or Florida, this site/book will illustrate that by using New Mexico images wherever possible; I think that will prove to be more than 90 percent of the time. Steve used mostly his photos to start with, but we know there are better photos out there for many species and subspecies. If you have one, especially from New Mexico, please share it with Steve and we will be happy to include those that improve the overall product. This volume already is using many butterfly photos generously contributed by these accomplished regional photographers (alphabetically): T. Jay Adams, David Anderson, Michael J. Andersen, Marc Bailey, Bob Barber, Tom Barriball, Jonathan Batkin, Bill Beck, Gordon Berman, Eric Bing, Jim Brock, Matt Brown, Jason Cole, Bill Dempwolf, Mary Lee Dereske, Jane Dixon, Stephanie Dzur, Amanda Favis, Johdan Fine, Bernie Foy, Meg Freyermuth, Bob Friedrichs, C. J. Goin, Chris Grinter, Bob Grosek, Elaine Halbedel, William Harmon, David Heckard, Cathryn Hoyt, Tom Johnson, Ken Kertell, Melissa LaFerriere, Rene Laubach, Robert Luke, James Lofton, Mary Maki, Patty Mann, Mark Meyer, Ralph Moore, Berry Nall, Christian Nunes, Douglass Rankin, Bryan Reynolds, Kelly Ricks, Janet Ruth, Holly Salvato, Joe Schelling, Bob Sivinski, Gak Stonn, Mike Toliver, Raymond VanBuskirk, Selvi Viswanathan, Jim Von Loh, Hira Walker, Mark Watson, Andy Warren, Natalie Wells, Rob Wu, Judy Lazarus Yellon and Dr. Dale Zimmerman.

Photos do not stand alone and it may be the text that proves most helpful to some users. In contrast with the overview level of presentation in my Butterfly Landscapes of New Mexico (2009), this present effort provides considerable detail for each species and for many subspecies. It discusses New Mexico habitats, New Mexico flight seasons, New Mexico host plants, New Mexico geography. For each species, text will describe how to identify it and variations likely to be encountered. Describing wing size, shape and markings requires use of anatomical terms which will be abbreviated for convenience; these include forewing (FW), hindwing (HW), dorsal (D) and ventral (V).

Mike Toliver is assembling wonderful distribution maps for each butterfly species, as he explains . . . “I use a base map from Wikipedia Commons (By SANtosito – Own work Based on File: USA New Mexico location map.svg Public domain data provided by the National Atlas of the United States of America, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=99508333). I then examine records from our work (Toliver, Holland, Cary; 2001); SCAN database; BAMONA (butterflies and moths of North America); and iNaturalist. I plot each record using lat/long coordinates (if available) and/or locality names (ex. Glenwood, Catron Co.) using Google Maps or internet search, placing a marker on the map using Adobe Photoshop. Black dots represent documented occurrences of each species. Other symbols are used to indicate type localities, uncertain records, and different subspecies, for example. Species that occur commonly and abundantly statewide do not get maps; their maps are laborious to make and, once made, only reveal the obvious. Mapping symbols cover a significant area, so one dot may include several different records (eg. Capilla Peak; New Canyon CG; 4.5 mi. W. of Manzano – all in the southern portion of the Manzano Mts.). Generally speaking, it’s not too hard to accurately place a record using these data, but areas which don’t have much topography (our Eastern Plains) can get a bit tricky. If any of you think I’ve misplaced a dot, let us know!”

This online effort is now and always will be a work in progress. New information comes in continually, whether from field observations during the warm season or from new scientific publications any time of year. We intend to update the contents of this volume on at least an annual basis to incorporate new information as it becomes available. That is one of the major advantages of this digital ‘book’ over a cellulose version, which would be out of date upon its printing. So, if you see something amiss, please contact Steve so he can fix what needs fixing. If you haven’t checked in on this volume for a while, come on back and see what’s changed.

Butterfly lovers come in a wide range of approaches, from photographers and gardeners to nature guides, students, scientists, artists and professional resource managers. The various needs and desires of such a diverse group cannot all be met here, or anywhere, for that matter, but we and PEEC hope this book adds significantly to the information that is already out there. We hope this present effort will help to connect each of you with your butterflies in a meaningful way. Feedback from you will be essential in making this volume as useful as possible. Please share your reactions; we want your feedback.

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