The family tree of butterflies

The famliy tree have its seeds in the binominal nomenclature by Carl von Linné (1707 – 1778). All animals on earth are represented in this clearly and precisely systematics. Because of the religion of Carl Linnaeus the binominal nomenclature (Linnaean taxonomy) was defeloped for a constant fauna and flora. The Linnaean taxonomy was ahead of the times.

Some corrective actions to be the result of the defelopment of the theory of evolution and the genetic engeneering. And the corrective actions are not finished at this day about of the continouos defelopment of science. Because of this dynamic Linnaean taxonomy it is possible that the systematic (family tree) on this homepage is incorrect. But I´m working to delete mistakes and I´m pleased for every tip.

The family tree of butterflies can be find in binominal nomenclature as follows.


  • Kingdom:    ANIMALIA
  • Phylum:    ARTHROPODA
  • Class:    INSECTA
  • Order:    LEPIDOPTERA
  • Suborder:    DITRYSIA
  • Superfamily:    PAPILIONOIDEA


All butterflies are members of superfamily PAPILIONOIDEA. The superfamily cuts into four families.


  • LYCAENIDAE (Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks)
    This is the species-rich butterfly family and its members are small scale butterflies with flouresce colour (e.g. blue or red). Many species of this family has one to two tails on its backwings. Larvae need high protein foods e.g. seed or larvae of ants.
    Typical members of LYCANENIDAE are the Large Copper (Lycaena dispar), the Adonis blue (Lysandra bellargus) and the Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus)

e.g. Morpho rhetenor; Photo © by Thomas Neubauer

NYMPHALIDAE (Admirals, Emperors, Tortoiseshells)
This family contain over 6000 species and its the second-largest butterfly family on earth. All members of NYMPHALDAE have only four legs for walking, because the first pair of legs is atrophied to small brushes. Therefore the members of this family are often called brush-footed butterflies. The scale of Nymphalidae are medium to large and the coloured drawings on wings are very beautiful. Typical members of this butterfly family are the Peacock (Inachis io), the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and the Common Tiger (Danaus plexippus).


e.g. Papilio blumei; Photo © by Thomas Neubauer

PAPILIONIDAE (Swallowtails, Swordtails, Birdwing butterflies)
Members of this family are best-known and well-investigated. The largest butterflies on earth are belong to PAPILIONIDAE. They have often brillant colours and tails on its beackwings. The species of this family are a symbol for perfect beauty in nature.
Typical members of PAPILIONIDAE are the Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), the Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) and the Apollo (Parnassius apollo).


e.g. Hebomoia leucippe; Photo © by Thomas Neubauer

PIERIDAE (Whites, Yellows, Sulphurs)
In general members of this family are bear the colours white, yellow and orange. The scale of these butterflies are small to medium but some species are large. Many members of PIERIDAE are common and widespread and often there larvae are eating our vegetables e.g. cabbage.

Typical members of PIERIDAE are the Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), the Large White (Pieris brassicae) and the Clouded yellow (Colias crocea).


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Apatura iris
Inachis io
Nymphalis antiopa
Apatura iris
Vanessa atalanta
Papilio machaon
Pierides sp.
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