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We spent the weekend in the mountains of northeastern Arizona chasing butterflies with some members of the Central Arizona Butterfly Association.

tiger swallowtail


fritillary flying

Some of the butterflies were not ready to pose.

common ringspot

painted lady

Others were very cooperative.

Although I learned a lot about butterflies this weekend, I mostly learned how little I know. There are many more butterfly species out there than I ever imagined.

For more information, try:

Dave Powell has Arizona Butterflies, identified to species.

Finding Butterflies in Arizona: A Guide to the Best Sites by Richard Bailowitz, Hank Brodkin (Author, Photographer), Priscilla Brodkin (Photographer), Kenn Kaufman (Foreword)

Butterflies of Arizona: A Photographic Guide by Hank Brodkin, Priscilla Brodkin and Bob Stewart

Arizona Butterflies & Moths: An Introduction to Familiar Species (A Pocket Naturalist Guide) by James Kavanagh and Raymond Leung (Illustrator)

Butterflies through Binoculars: The West A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Western North America (Butterflies and Others Through Binoculars Field Guide Series.) by Jeffrey Glassberg

You also might be interested in our list of butterfly and moth books for children at Science Books for Kids.


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Looking for something fun to keep the kids busy indoors? How about some butterfly crafts? They are pretty and fun to do. Although butterflies may not seem to be in keeping with the season, sometimes we just need a reminder that summer is on the way. 🙂

Our tried-and-true favorite craft is making a coffee filter butterfly.


  • Basket-style coffee filters
  • Markers (not permanent)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Water
  • Newspaper or paper towels
  • Large paper clips
  • Chenille stems (pipe cleaners)
  • Yarn (optional)

Lay some newspapers or paper towels on a waterproof work surface to prevent marker stains. Have the children color on the coffee filter with the markers. Then lightly “paint” over the marker with water. The colors should spread together. Allow the coffee filters to dry while you read a favorite story about butterflies. Then find the middle of one side of the coffee filter and start to feed the filter into the paperclip. Gather the center into the paperclip, forming a body. In the past I had used chenille stems (pipe cleaners), but found the paper clip forms a more stable body that allows for the attachment of the antennae, which is piece of chenille stem (pipe cleaner) twisted on. You can also attach a fairly long piece of yarn (1 ½ or two feet) so the butterfly can hang in front of a window or “fly” along behind a child. You might want to make a whole bunch.

coffee filter butterfly

By the way, did you know chenille is French for caterpillar? Seems appropriate.

If you want to add some science, take a look at some pictures of butterflies. Notice that butterflies often have spots or patterns at the edges of the wings. Some people have suggested that those spots help protect the butterfly because they entice birds to peck at the margins of the wings, allowing the butterfly to escape.

gulf fritillary

If you are ready for more, Enchanted Learning has a lot of butterfly crafts for the younger set.

For the older set, this video might give you some ideas. making paper butterflies

Hope this gives you some good ideas. Enjoy!

It’s all about energy this morning.  I stepped outside to recharge my batteries and found painted lady butterflies everywhere. This time to year the painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) are migrating south, with rest stops in places like Phoenix where they can bask in the sun and drink lot’s of nectar from the pretty flowers everyone plants.

It’s in the low 50’s this morning, so the first butterflies I saw were basking on a wall with their wings directed to catch the sun. They are like mini-solar panels.

painted lady

Why are they basking? Insects bask in the sun to warm the flights muscles prior to flying.

I knew where there were some lantana plants in the sun, so I went to see what was going on there.

painted lady

More painted lady butterflies basking and drinking nectar. They weren’t cooperative at first, but after sitting still on a cold sidewalk for a few minutes, I was able to get a few good shots.

painted lady

painted lady

painted lady

Here's one basking on a Texas sage.

painted lady

Seeing all these beautiful butterflies was a real charge for me. I hope other people notice them too.

If you are interested in learning more, or if you see painted ladies migrating and you'd like to participate in a study, check out the 2008 Vanessa Migration Project. Updated 2019:  The study is now at Iowa State