Carl S. Lieb, UTEP Biodiversity Collections and Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso


This checklist grew out of desire to inform the public to what species of residential plants would prove to be the best attractants for butterflies in and about the northern Chihuahuan Desert sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. From the beginning I concentrated on the host plants for butterfly larvae, not nectar plants to attract adults. My expectation was that the information on the former would be harder for the public to access; general information on the latter (for native as well as non-native species) seems readily available through the local nursery trade. In fact, however, nectar plants may be quite specific; the user is referred to the butterfly references at the end of this checklist for detailed information on nectar plants of individual species. Would-be butterfly gardeners are warned that a both nectar and host plant attractants are usually necessary in constructing a successful garden assemblage.

Utilizing published sources (see references at end of checklist) internet resources (especially Opler et al. 1995), and the systematic collections of the University of Texas at EL Paso's Centennial Museum (Laboratory for Environmental Biology), I have assembled the distributional information on every species that had been found and identified at least once from a six county area centered on El Paso (Luna, Doña Ana, Otero Counties, New Mexico; El Paso and Hudspeth Counties, Texas; Municipio de Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua). Data on other Chihuahuan Desert species that occurred peripherally to this six county area in southern New Mexico, western Texas, and northern Mexico were gathered as well. Eventually this information on regional butterflies will be edited into species accounts available through the (Chihuahuan Desert Website)

For the present, however, what is offered here is a simple checklist that distills down (some would say destroys) much of the information into the simplest of formats. The list is broken down by butterfly family; within each family the genera and species are alphabetically listed by scientific name. Most butterfly books list the species in putative phylogenetic order; the users of this checklist will probably not be interested in such nuances, only in successfully locating a species on the list. I am by no means a butterfly taxonomist and thus do not know enough about lepidoptera systematics to have an informed opinion on any nomenclatural combination or phylogenetic hypothesis. Accordingly, the nomenclature for species names and common (English) names follows Opler and Wright (1999) because this field guide is current, readily available, and parallels the excellent Opler et al. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center website [editor's note: the site has changed to (, Butterflies and Moths of North America].

The checklist includes only species that thought to either frequent, been reported from at least once, or are ecologically suited to desert, desert-riparian, desert-grassland, and/or desert-mountain range habitats. The occurrence of each species is characterized in one of four ways:

PR: Probable Resident--Available evidence suggests that resident populations occur, or at one time occurred, in Chihuahuan Desert habitats in some or all of the six-county area. I have identified 80 regional desert species of butterflies in this category.

HPS : High Probability Stray--Available evidence indicates that this species reliably occurs in the six county area as stray individuals, migrants, or temporary colonizers (e.g., ephemeral populations that persist for one or a few seasons before extirpation). Thirty-five species have been identified in this category in the checklist. There are an additional three species whose resident/colonist distribution lies across the El Paso region (from maps of Opler and Wright, 1999).

LPS : Low Probability Strays--Records exist for the six county area, but the occurrence has either been a rare event (sometimes recorded only once) or is unexpected due to habitat/climatic constraints on the species biology.

MP : Montane Peripheral--The montane woodlands of southern New Mexico contain many species of butterflies that occur peripherally to Chihuahuan Desert habitats. Individuals of these occasionally disperse into lower elevations, especially at the foothill juniper and oak belt interfaces with desert communities. If such have been recorded from the six-county area, they are included in this category. Nevertheless, and attempt was made to exclude obligatory, high-elevation/forest species that occur in the Cookes Range (Luna Co.), Organ Mts. (Doña Ana Co.), and Sacramento Mts. (Otero Co.). These taxa seldom, if ever, descend into foothill areas. The regional butterfly locality data compiled by Toliver et al. (1994) were especially useful in making these judgments.

The Presumed Resident and High Probability Stray species have been put together in the checklist as "Group I" species; these 118 taxa represent the "participant" butterfly biodiversity that most observers can be expected to encounter in the area. The LPS and MP species are collected into "Group II" taxa; this second assemblage of species are included for the sake of having a complete checklist but are unlikely to be encountered with any frequency.

For all Presumed Resident species, and for the High Probability Stray forms that have a tendency to form temporary or summer colonies, representative host plants are indicated by number. The numbers refer to an alphabetical index of these plants by scientific name that follows the checklist. The plant species indicated in the checklist are in many cases only a partial list of potential host plants; I have emphasized the plants that occur locally in the six county area as northern Chihuahuan Desert native, naturalized, ornamental, or domesticated genera and species (Correl and Johnston, 1970; Lieb et al., 1996; Worthington 1987, 1989, 1998).

Group I: Participant species in El Paso/Cd. Juarez area butterfly biodiversity. PR = Presumed resident; HPS = High probability stray/temporary colonizer

Papilionidae - Swallowtails

Species Common Name Status Representative Host Plants
Battus philenor Pipevine Swallowtail HPS 15.1,15.2
Papilio cresphontes Giant Swallowtail HPS 95.0,100.1,105.1
Papilio multicaudatus Two-tailed Swallowtail PR 53.0,53.1,99.0,100.1
Papilio polyxenes Black Swallowtail PR 39.1,39.2,88.1,105.1,124.1

Pieridae - Whites, Sulphurs


Common Name


Representative Host Plants

Anthocharis cethura Desert Orangetip PR 40.0,121.0,125.0
Anthocharis thoosa Southwestern Orangetip PR 40.8
Colias eurytheme Orange Sulphur PR 19.0,77.1,78.0,78.1,89.0,110.0, 128.1
Colias philodice Clouded Sulphur PR 19.0,71.0,77.0,77.1,128.1
Euchloe lotta Desert Marble PR 13.0,40.0,67.0,121.0,125.0
Eurema boisduvaliana Boisduval's Yellow HPS 110.0
Eurema lisa Little Yellow HPS 31.1,41.0,110.0,110.1
Eurema mexicana Mexican Yellow HPS not colonizing
Eurema nicippe Sleepy Orange HPS 110.0,110.2
Eurema proterpia Tailed Orange HPS 42.0,98.0,110.0
Kricogonia lyside Lyside HPS 56.1
Nathalis iole Dainty Sulphur PR 22.0,22.1,45.1,57.0,84.0,122.0,126.6
Phoebis agarithe Large Orange Sulphur HPS 92.0,110.0
Phoebis sennae Cloudless Sulphur HPS 110.0
Pontia protodice Checkered White PR 13.0,24.0,27.0,40.0,67.0,125.0
Pieris rapae Cabbage White PR 13.0,40.0
Pontia sisymbrii Spring White PR 13.0,40.0,115.0,121.0
Zerene cesonia Southern Dogface HPS 9.0,38.0,38.1,77.0,77.1

Lycaenidae - Coppers, Hairstreaks, Blues

Species Common Name Status Representative Host Plants
Atlides halesus Great Purple Hairstreak PR 90.0
Brephidium exile Western Pigmy Blue HPS 20.0,32.1,106.0
Callophrys gryneus Juniper Hairstreak PR 64.0,64.1
Callophrys henrici Henry's Elfin PR 44.1,99.0,116.0,130.1,134.0
Callophrys mcfarlandi Sandia Hairstreak PR 83.0
Callophrys spinetorum Thicket Hairstreak PR 14.0
Celastrina ladon Spring Azure PR undetermined
Euphilotes rita Rita Dotted Blue PR 49.0,49.1
Fixsenia polingi Rounded Oak Hairstreak PR 101.2,101.4
Hemiargus ceraunus Ceraunus Blue HPS not colonizing?
Hemiargus isola Reakirt's Blue PR 2.1,2.2,19.0,38.0,38.1,41.0, 62.0,62.1,77.0, 78.2,79.0,98.0,98.1
Icaricia lupini Lupine Blue PR 19.2
Leptotes marina Marine Blue HPS 2.0,9.0,19.0,38.0,70.0,77.1, 89.0,94.0,98.0
Lycaeides melissa Melissa Blue PR 19.0,70.0,71.0,77.0,134.0
Ministrymon leda Leda Hairstreak PR 98.0,98.1
Strymon melinus Gray Hairstreak PR 44.1,54.0,56.1,66.1,73.0,89.0, 123.1
Zizula cyna Cyna Blue HPS unknown

Riodinidae - Metalmarks

Species Common Name Status Representative Host Plants
Apodemia duryi Mexican Metalmark PR 65.0
Apodemia mejicanus Sonoran Metalmark PR 49.0,49.1,65.1
Apodemia palmeri Palmer's Metalmark PR 98.1,98.2
Calephelis nemesis Fatal Metalmark PR 21.1,34.1,48.0

Libytheidae - Snout Butterflies

Species Common Name Status Representative Host Plants
Libytheana carinenta American Snout PR/HPS 29.1,29.2

Nymphalidae - Brushfoots

Species Common Name Status Representative Host Plants*
Adelpha bredowii California Sister PR 101.3,101.5
Agraulis vanillae Gulf Fritillary HPS not colonizing?
Anaea andria Goatweed Butterfly HPS not colonizing?
Anaea troglodyta Tropical Leafwing HPS not colonizing?
Asterocampa celtis Hackberry Butterfly PR 29.2
Asterocampa clyton Tawny Emperor PR 29.2
Asterocampa leilia Empress Leilia PR 29.1
Chlosyne acastus Sagebrush Checkerspot PR 72.0
Chlosyne definita Definite Patch PR 119.0,119.1
Chlosyne lacinia Bordered Patch HPS 58.1,132.1,135.1, 136.1,137.0
Dymasia dymas Tiny Checkerspot PR 114.0,114.1
Euptoieta claudia Variegated Fritillary PR/HPS 87.0,97.0,109.0
Gyrocheilus patrobas Red-bordered Satyr PR 82.0
Junonia coenia Common Buckeye HPS 3.0,11.0,28.0,69.0,76.1,80.0,93.0, 104.0,104.1
Junonia genoveva Tropical Buckeye HPS not colonizing?
Limenitis archippus Viceroy PR 96.0,107.0
Limenitis arthemis Red-spotted Purple PR 36.0,96.0,99.0,101.0,107.0
Limenitis weidemeyerii Wiedemeyer's Admiral PR 61.0,96.0,107.0
Mestra amymone Common Mestra HPS 127.1
Nyphalis antiopa Mourning Cloak PR 29.0,81.0,96.0,96.1,107.0,107.1 129.0
Phyciodes mylitta Mylitta Crescent PR 33.0
Phyciodes phaon Phaon Crescent HPS 91.1
Phyciodes picta Painted Crescent PR 18.0,35.1,63.0,114.0,114.1
Phyciodes texana Texan Crescent HPS 104.0,114.1
Phyciodes tharos Pearl Crescent PR 18.0
Phyciodes vesta Vesta Crescent PR 114.1
Polygonia interrogationis Question Mark PR 29.0,129.0,131.0
Texola elada Elada Checkerspot PR/HPS 10.1,114.0,114.1
Thessalia theona Theona Checkerspot PR 28.0,28.1,68.0,68.1
Thessalia fulvia Fulvia Checkerspot PR 28.0,28.1,28.2
Vanessa annabella West Coast Lady HPS 5.0,7.0,73.0,74.0,112.0,113.0 118.0,131.0
Vanessa atalanta Red Admiral HPS 86.0,86.1,131.0,131.1,131.2
Vanessa cardui Painted Lady HPS 33.0,58.0
Vanessa virginiensis American Lady HPS 16.0,33.0,55.0,58.0,133

Danaidae - Milkweed Butterflies

Species Common Name Status Representative Host Plants
Danaus glippus Queen HPS 17.0,108.0
Danaus plexippus Monarch HPS 12.0,17.0

Hesperiidae - Skippers

Species Common Name Status Representative Host Plants
Achalarus casica Desert Cloudywing PR 42.0
Agathymus aryxna Arizona Giant Skipper PR 4.4
Agathymus mariae Mary's Giant Skipper PR 4.1,4.2,4.3,4.5
Agathymus neumoegeni Orange Giant Skipper PR 4.2,4.3
Amblyscirtes aeneus Bronze Roadside Skipper PR 23.1
Amblyscirtes eos Dotted Roadside Skipper PR 85.2
Amblyscirtes oslari Oslar's Roadside Skipper PR in lab:37.1
Amblyscirtes texanae Texas Roadside Skipper PR 85.1
Ancyloxypha arene Tropical Least Skipper PR 46.1
Atalopedies campestris Sachem HPS 37.1,43.0,47.0,52.1
Atrytonopsis python Python Skipper PR unknown
Atrytonopsis viernecki Vierneck's Skipper PR unknown
Calpoides ethilius Brazilian Skipper HPS 26.0
Celotes nessus Streaky Skipper PR 1.1,5.1,118.0, 118.1
Chioides catillus White-striped Longtail HPS not colonizing?
Codatractus arizoniensis Arizona Skipper PR 51.1
Cogia hippalus Acacia Skipper HPS not colonizing?
Copaeodes aurantiacus Orange Skipperling PR 23.1,37.1
Erynnis brizo Sleepy Duskywing PR 101.3,101.5
Erynnis funeralis Funereal Duskywing PR 62.0,70.0,77.0,103.0,103.1
Erynnis meridianus Meridian Duskywing PR 101.0,101.1
Erynnis tristis Mournful Duskywing PR 101.2,101.4
Heliopetes domicella Erichson's White Skipper HPS not colonizing?
Hesperia pahaska Pahaska Skipper PR 23.2,50.2
Hesperia uncas Uncas Skipper PR 23.2,50.1,120.1
Hesperopsis alphaeus Saltbush Sootywing PR 20.0,20.1,32.0
Hylephila phyleus Fiery Skipper PR 37.1,43.0
Lerodea eufala Eufala Skipper HPS 30.0,37.1,46.1,111.0,117.1, 139.1
Megathymus ursus Ursine Giant Skipper PR 138.1,138.3,138.4
Megathymus yuccae Yucca Giant Skipper PR 138.2
Pholisora catullus Common Sootywing PR 8.1,8.2,32.1,32.2
Polites carus Carus Skipper PR possibly 23.2
Polygonus leo Hammock Skipper HPS not colonizing?
Pyrgus albescens White Checkered Skipper PR 5.0,25.0,60.0,74.0,118.0
Pyrgus communis Common Checkered Skipper PR 1.0,7.0,73.0,112.0,118.0
Pyrgus philetas Desert Checkered Skipper PR 74.0,112.0
Pyrgus scriptura Small Checkered Skipper PR 75.1,118.2
Staphylus ceos Golden-headed Scallopwing PR 32.3
Stinga morrisoni Morrison's Skipper PR unknown
Systasea pulverulenta Texas Powdered Skipper PR 1.1,1.2,6.1,119.1
Systasea zampa Arizona Powdered Skipper PR 1.0,59.0
Thorybes pylades Northern Cloudywing PR 9.0,19.1,42.0, 77.0,102.0,128.0