PO Box 9021, Wilmington, DE 19809, USA
E-mail: font@focusonnature.com
Phone: Toll-free in USA 1-888-721-3555
 or 302/529-1876


in the 
Canary Islands

noting those seen during 
 Focus On Nature Tours  

A List of Canary Islands Butterflies 
compiled by Armas Hill

Upper right photo: PAINTED LADY 
(photograph by Doris Potter)


Numbers noted as (C:xx) refer to pages in "A World of Butterflies", with text by Brian Cassie, and photographs (superb) by Kjell Sandved

Numbers noted as (F:xx) refer to pages in "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Butterflies", by Dr. John Feltwell  

Numbers noted as (S:xx) refer to pages in the "Smithsonian Handbook, Butterflies & Moths", by David Carter

Status of the butterflies in Europe:

critically endangered
(en):  endangered 
(vu):  vulnerable
(nt):   near-threatened

In Europe, nearly 9% of the butterflies are threatened, and another 105 are near-threatened. 
Almost a third (31%) of the butterflies of the continent are known to have a declining population. 

Geographical Codes, relating to the Canary Islands:

EH:   found on El Hierro
  found on Fuerteventura
GC:  found on Gran Canaria
LG:  found on La Gomera 
found on La Palma
   found on Lanzarote
TE:   found on Tenerife 

Throughout the world, there are over 180,000 described species of butterflies and moths (in the order Lepidoptera). 

In the Canary Islands there are about 600 species of Lepidoptera (butterflies & moths). More than a quarter of these are found nowhere else in the world. 
Among the endemic butterflies, there are 4 restricted to the western islands of the archipelago.   
Most of the butterflies of the Canary Islands are of Palaearctic origin, 75%. 16% (5 species) are Ethiopian. 6% (2 species) are Nearctic, and 3% (1 species) has Oriental affinities.

In the following list of Canary Island butterflies, 35 species are included.  

Links to Groupings in this List:

Gossamer Wings:  Family Lycaenidae     Brushfoots:  Family Nymphalidae

Skippers:  Family Hesperiidae     Moths


"Get a guidebook, take a few years, and you'll still make mistakes. Butterfly identification has an initial, deceptive simplicity. 
Individuals in a species vary naturally, an eyespot slightly larger, a color brighter.
Males and females of a species can be strikingly dissimilar.
So can genetic morphs or forms within a gender.
In a single species, butterflies that live in a range of habitats can vary in appearance and produce different populations or geographical races, each better adapted to its environment.
Species can also produce generations of distinct morphs in the same place at different times of the year."

The above commentary taken from the book, "An Obsession with Butterflies", by Sharman Apt Russell (a wonderful read).  

Other Links:

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Europe     

Butterflies & Moths of Europe 
(with some photos)     Birds of the Canary Islands

Mammals & Marine Life of the Canary Islands     Amphibians & Reptiles of the Canary Islands

Interesting Plants of the Canary Islands

Directory of Photos in this Website

A List of Canary Islands Butterflies:

          Family PIERIDAE: 
most are predominantly white, yellow, or orange in color, 
          and are often referred to as WHITES, YELLOWS, SULPHURS, or MARBLES

Worldwide, approximately 1,000 species of whites & sulphurs have been described.  


          Subfamily COLIADINAE: SULPHURS  300 species worldwide

Genus COLIAS: 
A large group of "YELLOWS", "SULPHURS", and "CLOUDED YELLOWS"  
          mostly in the Northern Hemisphere (in North America & Eurasia), but also in Australia, Africa, 
          and South America. 
          Sexes are dimorphic. 
          Many of the species are strong migrants. 
          They breed extensively on members of the Leguminosae, the pea family.


  1. Colias crocea  ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LP  LZ  TE
    Clouded Yellow
    (Range: in central & southern Europe)

    Genus EUCHLOE

  2. Euchloe belemia  ______  FV  GC  LG  TE  (with a subspecies endemic to the Canary Islands)  
    Green-striped White

  3. Euchloe charlonia  ______  FV  LZ

    Genus GONEPTERYX: 
    Extending from Europe to Asia, large yellow and pale green butterflies. The wings are broad and slightly hooked, and the underside is fairly cryptic.  

  4. Gonepteryx cleobule  (vu)  ______  LG  LP  TE  (species endemic to the Canary Islands)
    Canary Brimstone



  5. Catopsilia florella  ______  FV  GC  LG  LP  LZ  TE
    African Migrant

    Catopsilia florella was first found in the Canary Islands about 1965.  

    Genus PIERIS (or said to be in the Genus ARTOGEIA)  

    PIERIS is a widespread and successful genus in North America. Europe, and Asia, and with introductions to South America (as well as into North America) and into the Australian region. Some species are strong migrants.    

  6. Pieris brassicae  ______  LZ
    (or Cabbage) White
    (Range: widespread across Europe, and in north Africa)

    Pieris brassicae has been found in the Canary Islands very infrequently, starting in 1991. 

  7. Pieris (or Artogeia) rapae  ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LZ  LP  TE  (C:39) (F:106) 
    Small White
    (also called: Small Cabbage White or Sharp-veined White)
    (Range: in much of the Northern Hemisphere, including Eurasia & North Africa, and in North America where introduced; also Australia & Hawaii.) 

    Pieris rapae probably colonized in the Canary Islands in historical times, with the introduction of favored food-plants.

    Two photographs of Small Cabbage Whites
    (photos by Marie Gardner)

  8. Pieris cheiranthi  (en)  ______  LP  TE  (species endemic to the Canary Islands)
    Canary Islands Large White 

    The introduction of alien parasites might be the cause of the decline of the Canary Islands Large White, Pieris cheiranthi. It is considered "endangered".

    Genus PONTIA

  9. Pontia daplidice  ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LP  LZ  TE
    Bath White
    (Range: from central & southern Europe across Eurasia, also North Africa)  

    Throughout the world but mostly in tropical and subtropical regions. The sexes often differ in coloration, and the undersides usually differ from the upper surfaces.
    Among several distinct groups are the HAIRSTREAKS, with tails and bright eyespot markings on the hindwings, creating a "false head" at the rear, to divert attackers. 
    Thus far, worldwide, about 5,000 species in this family have been discovered and named. Caterpillars of many of these species are closely associated with ants.

    Genus CALLOPHRYS:  Small-sized HAIRSTREAKS, occurring in Europe and Asia, and in North and South America. Many species breed on a variety of plant families.
    Small-sized HAIRSTREAKS, occurring in Europe and Asia, and in North and South America. Many species breed on a variety of plant families.

  10. Callophrys rubi  ______  TE
    Green Hairstreak
    (Range: across Eurasia, and in North Africa)

    Widespread in Europe and Asia, with some in North America and Australia. They occur mostly in temperate climates. Their colors are in the coppery and orange range, and the undersides often have dark spots. 

  11. Lycaena phlaeas   ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LP  LZ  TE   (C:31) (F:251) 
    (or Small) Copper
    (Range: across Eurasia, also in western & eastern temperate North America) 

    Lycaena phlaeas is a widespread species that frequents wild habitats as well as urban sites, and breeds on docks which are very common as weeds. There are, throughout its vast range, a number of subspecies.

    A Small Copper photographed during a FONT tour in Sweden
    in September 2007
    (photo by James Scheib)

    Genus CACYREUS 

  12. Cacyreus marshalli  ______  FV
    Geranium Bronze

    Genus ARICIA

  13. Aricia agestis  ______  EH  GC  LG  LP  TE
    Brown Argus
    (Range: temperate northern Europe)

    Genus LAMPIDES:
    A genus with one species which has colonized much of the world. 

  14. Lampides boeticus  ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LP  TE  (F:246) 
    Pea Blue
    (or Long-tailed Blue)
    (Range: in Mediterranean Europe & North Africa)

    Lampides boeticus is one of the most successful of butterflies. This migrant breeds on many leguminous plants. The tail and eye-spot on the underside of the hindwing mirror the head and antennae to confuse predators. Females are a darker blue. Both sexes have a rippled underside pattern.


  15. Polyommatus icarus  ______  FV  LZ  TE
    Common Blue
    (Range: across Eurasia, and in North Africa)

    The only colonies of Polyommatus icarus in the Canary Islands are on the eastern islands of Lanzarote (known since 1890) and Fuerteventura (known since 1965), where Cyclyrius webbianus is absent.
    There have been single records on the western islands, demonstrating that the species is able to reach them, but until now has been unable to colonize them.    

    Genus LEPTOTES

  16. Leptotes pirithous  ______  FV
    Lang's Short-tailed Blue
    (or Common Zebra Blue)


  17. Cyclyrius webbianus  ______  GC  LG  LP  TE  (in EH historic records(species endemic to the Canary Islands)
    Canary Blue

    Cyclyrius webbianus
    is a ubiquitous species in the Canary Islands, not bound to a particular habitat, and it is common from sea level up to the higher altitudes.  
    There are huge population densities with millions of individuals at various places. Said to be the most ancient Canary Island endemic butterfly. It is without a strong flight. Strangely, no inter-island variation has been discovered.     

    Cyclyrius webbianus is usually the only Lycaenidae in the Canary Islands in natural habitats. 

    The nearest relative of Cyclyrius webbianus seems to be Cyclyrius mandersi, an endemic of the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.   

    Genus ZIZERIA 

  18. Zizeria knysna  ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LP  LZ  TE
    African Grass Blue

    Genus AZANUS

  19. Azanus ubaldus  ______  GC       

    Azanus ubaldus was first found in the Canary Islands about 1982.  


    Cosmopolitan, with subfamilies range from 8 to 25, depending upon taxonomic treatment

    This is the most diverse family of butterflies, with approximately 6,000 known species worldwide. Brushfoot butterflies appear 4 rather than 6-legged as their 2 front legs are much reduced.  


  20. Hypolimnas misippus  ______  GC  LP  TE
    (or Diadem, or Danaid Eggfly)

    Hypolimnas misippus seems to reach the Canary Islands at irregular intervals.  

    Genus ISSORIA

  21. Issoria (formerly Argynnis) lathonia  ______  GC  LG  LP  TE
    Queen of Spain Fritillary
    (Range: from North Africa into Europe and Asia)  

    Issoria lathonia has been observed crossing the ocean between the Canary Islands.


  22. Pandoriana (or Argynnis) pandora  _______  EH  LG  LP  TE
    (Range: in southern Europe and in north Africa & western Asia) 

    A widespread grouping of strong fliers, sometimes migratory, with bright oranges and reds.

  23. Vanessa atalanta  ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LP  LZ  TE
    Red Admiral
    (Range: across the Northern Hemisphere, in Eurasia, North Africa, & in North America) 

    Red Admiral
    (photo by Karl Frafjord)

  24. Vanessa virginiensis  ______  TE (in LG & LP old records)

    Vanessa virginiensis probably colonized in the Canary Islands in historical times, with the introduction of favored food-plants.

  25. Vanessa vulcania  ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LP  TE  (species endemic to the Macaronesian islands)
    Canary Red Admiral

    The sister species of Vanessa vulcania is Vanessa indica in the Orient. There is a vast distributional gap between the two species.
    An explanation: There is evidence of warmer and more humid conditions around what was the Tethys Sea (what is now the Mediterranean Sea) back during the Pliocene, supporting laurel forests similar to those of the Canary Islands.
    Since both species can be vagrants with a strong flight, and adapted to laurel forests, their common ancestor could have been able to colonize the present gap in distribution.     

    Genus CYNTHIA: 
    Representatives of this grouping occur in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Many are powerful migrants, such as Cynthia cardui, the Painted Lady. This genus is very closed related to the genus VANESSA. 

  26. Cynthia cardui  ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LP  LZ  TE  (C:27) (F:140) (S:141) 
    Painted Lady
    (Range: widespread around the world, but more common in warmer climes)

    Cynthia cardui is the most widespread of the world's butterflies. Its range is worldwide, except for Australia and New Zealand. It is a very powerful migrant. Throughout is vast range, this species is quite uniform in its pattern and coloration, although some subspecies do exist. A reason for its success is that it breeds on a wide variety of plants. These include common members of the mallow and daisy families, especially thistles.

    Painted Lady
    (photo by Howard Eskin)

    Genus DANAUS

  27. Danaus plexippus  (*)  ______  EH  FV  GC  LG  LP  TE

    Danaus plexippus was first found in the Canary Islands about 1887. The species has been observed crossing the ocean between the Canary Islands.

    (photo by Rise Hill)

  28. Danaus chrysippus  ______  GC  LG  LP  FV  (in TE no recent records)
    African Monarch  (or Plain Tiger)   

    Subfamily SATYRIDAE: 


  29. Hipparchia bacchus  (vu)  ______  EH  (species endemic to the Canary Islands)
    El Hierro Grayling

  30. Hipparchia tilosi  (vu)  ______  LP  (species endemic to the Canary Islands)
    La Palma Grayling

  31. Hipparchia wyssii  ______  GC  TE  (species endemic to the Canary Islands)
    Canary Grayling

  32. Hipparchia gomera  ______  LG  (species endemic to the Canary Islands)

    Genus MANIOLA

  33. Maniola jurtina  ______  EH  GC  LG  LP  LZ  TE
    Meadow Brown
    (Range: across Europe, into Asia) 

    Genus PARARGE

  34. Pararge xiphioides  ______  GC  LG  LP  TE  (species endemic to the Canary Islands)
    Canary Speckled Wood  


    A very large family (3,000 species throughout the world) of stout-bodied short-winged butterflies that resemble day-flying moths. The adult butterfly's flight resembles a 'skipping' motion when going from flower to flower. Their forewings are closed above their back when they are settled.


  35. Thymelicus christi  ______  EH  GC  LG  LP  TE   (species endemic to the Canary Islands) 
    Canary Skipper

    Thymelicus christi
    was considered a subspecies of Thymelicus acteon, the Lulworth Skipper.  

To Top of Page.