Butterfly Identification

Butterfly Identification

Butterflies are one of the most conspicuous insect groups, with wonderful colour and shapes. However, sometimes their identification is not easy and we need precise keys to identify butterflies.

First, it is important to differentiate butterflies (Rhopalocera) from moths (Heterocera) and then determine the proper family an individual belongs.

butterfly families

In Europe, we have 6 different families:


  1. Hesperiidae - Skippers
  2. Papilionidae - Apollos, Festoons and Swallowtails
  3. Pieridae - Whites and Yellows
  4. Riodinidae - Metalmarks
  5. Lycaenidae - Blues, Copper and Hairstreaks
  6. Nymphalidae - Fritillaries, Admirals, Emperors, Gliders, Browns and Heaths



Identification with Field Guides


There are many materials and resources to help in butterfly identification like websites, books and field guides. This last one can be a good support in the field providing the essential characteristics to find the correct butterfly species.

In the ABLE project, we produced several Field Guides per region reducing the number of species and doing easily the identification of butterflies in a concrete area. You can download the pdf and print directly the Field Guide. 

You can find all these Field Guides, species list per country and region and more information on the eBMS website


A Photographic Guide - Butterflies of Central Europe & Britain


 This Field Guide contains information to identify 269 butterfly species occurring in Britain, Western and Central Europe. With detailed pictures of identification characteristics and precise pointing marks, this Guide will help you to identify difficult and similar species.

Author Peter Gergely. A hardcopy can be bought at the Dutch Butterfly Conservation.



 Butterflies of the Iberian Peninsula


This interesting resource Butterflies of the Iberian Peninsula by Paul R. G. Browning (pdf English) is a revised version that contains a lot of information covering Portugal and Spain's butterflies. This photographic record and field Guide can be found on the European Butterfly Group (EBG) website together with more information to help in butterfly identification:  different butterfly identification guides per group of species:


Identification on the website


There are many websites on the internet that could help a lot in butterfly identification in different languages. Here we give a list of the best website to help you identifying butterflies and moths: