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Who doesn't know them, the colorful heralds of summer. They dance from blossom to blossom on the colorful summer meadow, the butterflies (Lepidoptera). Just in time with the first rays of sunshine in spring, they can be seen again. Wherever there are flowering plants, there is sweet nectar for them. There are numerous species of butterflies that differ in color, shape and size. However, many of these colorful "summer birds" are threatened by changes in their environment.

Butterfly species in Germany

There are around 170,000 different species worldwide, which means that butterflies are by far the largest and most well-known group of insects, second only to beetles. Around 3,700 of these species are native to Germany. However, almost 50 percent of them are at risk. Two percent of butterfly species have already become extinct in the last few decades.

The botanical name Lepidoptera is derived from the Greek and means "scale wing" or scale wing. The reason for the chosen name is that the color of each butterfly species is composed of fine color scales. Below we present 11 of the most beautiful butterflies in Germany. If you are lucky, you will be able to observe them in your own garden.

Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

This is a migratory moth. It is at home in the Mediterranean region and from there it also reaches Germany. He prefers to stay here in forests, on meadows, in parks and gardens. The greenish to brown caterpillars have short thorns and feast on stinging nettles. Annually, the Admiral produces two to three generations, with the last migrating south.


  • Occurrence: May to October
  • Body length: 2 cm
  • Wing span: 6 cm
  • Forewings pale brown in colour
  • dark brown tip with white and bluish dots
  • red transverse band over brown areas of forewing
  • bluish spots on rear wing tip
  • brownish, yellowish and bluish marbling underneath

Aurora butterflies (Anthocaris cardamines)

The moth is widespread. It prefers to fly at the edges of forests and damp meadows. The blue-green, slender caterpillars have a white flank. In late autumn they pupate and overwinter.


  • Occurrence: March to July
  • Body length: 1.5 cm
  • Wing span: 4.5 cm
  • Females have white wings with black wingtips
  • Males have white wings with a black eyespot and
  • orange coloring of part of the forewing
  • Underside of hind wings marbled greenish brown

C moth (Polygonia c-album)

This moth likes to stay at the edges of forests and sparse areas in mixed and alluvial forests. It produces two to three generations a year. The last overwinters and is already very active in March. The black caterpillar has reddish stripes, thorns and a white spot on its back. This is very reminiscent of bird droppings, so it can scare off its predators. The caterpillars feed primarily on nettles.


  • Occurrence: March to October
  • Body length: 2 cm
  • Wing span: 5 cm
  • Wing surfaces orange-red
  • Slightly yellowish towards the edge
  • strongly jagged, dark brown offset wing edge
  • numerous red-brownish to black bands and spots on upper side of wings
  • Underside dark brown, towards the edge greyish
  • single orange and white spots
  • bright white "C" on underside of hind wing

Large Cabbage White (Pieris brassicae)

In Germany, this butterfly species can often be found. As a cultural follower, it can be found from the coast to the mountains, preferring fields, meadows and gardens. Depending on the weather, there are two to three generations. As the name suggests, the caterpillar feeds on all types of cabbage. Occurring in masses, this can lead to major feeding damage. It pupates before the start of winter and is often the victim of parasitic wasps.


  • Occurrence: April to October
  • Body length: 2 cm
  • Wing span: 6 cm
  • white wings
  • black tip on forewings
  • Females two additional black spots on forewings
  • Underside of hind wing greyish to greenish
  • black spots on wings absent in males

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

These butterflies love open terrain. They are often found on cultivated land, meadows, gardens and fields. The common blue sucks not only on flowers, but also on moist soil. The caterpillar is quite inconspicuous, it is greenish in color with short hair and feeds on clover and alfalfa species. The caterpillars overwinter and then pupate the following spring.


  • Occurrence: May to September
  • Body length: 1.5 cm
  • Wing span: 3 cm
  • male and female animals colored differently
  • Upper wing surface of male intensely blue to violet
  • wing edge white
  • females brownish in colour
  • Slightly bluish shimmering towards the side of the body
  • semi-circular, delicate orange spots on the edges of the wings
  • Wing undersides brownish on both with greenish inside
  • also semi-circular orange spots on outer edges

Little Fox (Vanessa urticae)

In this country, this specimen is most common, from northern Germany to the mountains. The moth prefers to live near nettles, such as forest clearings, bushes and hedgerows, meadows, fallow land, but also in parks and gardens. Its food includes flower nectar. The females lay their eggs on the nettles. Black and yellow caterpillars develop from this. Two to three generations are born each year. The last of them overwinters.


  • Occurrence: March to October
  • Body length: 2 cm
  • Wing span: 5 cm
  • Basic coloring upper side strong orange-red
  • Fore wings black and yellowish spots and spots
  • Side of hind wing with brownish hairs
  • black colored base
  • two bands on the pointed edge of the wing
  • inner band consists of blue dots bordered in black
  • outer band yellowish
  • bluish band along edges on underside of wings
  • otherwise undersides tinted brown to ocher
  • Confusion with large fox possible

Checkerboard (Melanargia galathea)

The eye moth prefers low mountain ranges as a habitat, but can also be found on plains. The greenish to brownish caterpillar is hairy with a reddish-brown head. Their diet consists primarily of soft grasses. They are mainly represented on meadows and ridges. The caterpillars overwinter.


  • Occurrence: May to August
  • Body length: 2 cm
  • Wing span: 5.5 cm
  • Upper side of wings white to champagne colored and mottled with dark spots
  • resembles pattern of a chessboard
  • Underside pattern paler
  • eye-spots indicated on underside of hind wing

Swallowtail (Papilio machao)

These butterflies are spread all over Germany. They prefer to live near bodies of water, forests and flowering meadows. They are good fliers and cover great distances. Its food includes flower nectar. The initially black-red caterpillars later turn shiny green with orange-black bands. They are hairless and feed on umbelliferous plants such as parsley, dill and carrots. Before hibernating, the caterpillar pupates. The swallowtail is one of the largest species in Central Europe.


  • Occurrence: April to September
  • Body length: 2.5 cm
  • Wing span: 8 cm
  • Upper side of wings pale yellow
  • Patterns of black spots and lines present
  • pale blue banding on hind wing margins
  • a red eyespot on each hind wing
  • similar coloring and markings on underside, somewhat paler
  • characteristic tips at the wingtips
  • reminiscent of tail spears of barn swallows

Peacock butterfly (Vanessa io)

The peacock butterfly can often be found in moist mixed forests, alluvial forests, on meadows and by water, in gardens and parks. These butterflies love red to violet flowers and feed on their flower nectar. The female lays her eggs on nettles. There are usually two generations a year. The second of these overwinters in cool buildings and basements. In warm rooms, it quickly withers, since the energy reserves are quickly used up due to the greater activity.


  • Occurrence: March to October
  • Body length: 2 cm
  • Wing span: 6 cm
  • Upper side of wings colored red to rusty brown
  • Hind wings yellowish to orange towards the body
  • pointed wing edges
  • gray to dark brown band along the edges
  • one large blue eyespot on the entire upper side of the wings
  • Eye spot provided with red and yellow markings
  • reminiscent of the tail feathers of the peacock
  • Undersides of wings black-brownish colour
  • occasional colored sprinkling

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

Bautsch, Kootenay.Mourning cloak.P1023221, crop from Plantopedia, CC0 1.0

The mourning cloak is more common in southern Germany than in the north. It prefers light mixed forests and meadows and sucks on tree sap, overripe fruit and fallen fruit, as well as on moist soil areas. Adult moths usually live for a year. After hibernating, they lay eggs. In the summer, when the new generation appears, their hour has come. The caterpillar is black with numerous thorns and likes to feed on willow and birch plants. The conspicuous butterfly is hardly to be confused with other butterfly species.


  • Occurrence: March to October
  • Body length: 2.5 cm
  • Wing span: 7 cm
  • Wing surface intense dark brown colour
  • band framed in black at the edges with blue to violet dots
  • typical yellow banding on the outer edge
  • Wing edges pointed
  • Undersides of wings brownish
  • on edges turquoise and outer white band

Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni)

These butterflies are still widespread compared to other butterfly species. Mainly they live at forest edges, in wet areas, gardens and parks. The butterfly can live for almost a year. In late autumn it settles on green plants and overwinters there. Therefore it is also the first butterfly in spring. The green, hairless caterpillars have a white pattern on the flanks. It prefers to feed on buckthorn trees.


  • Occurrence: March to October
  • Body length: 3 cm
  • Wing span: 6 cm
  • Upper and underside of wings lemon yellow in males
  • orange-red spot on top of fore and hind wings
  • Underside of this patch grey
  • Faint grey, thin lines present on top and bottom
  • Females same drawing
  • however wings pale greenish to whitish

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