The Diverse and Spectacular Butterflies of Thailand

Thailand is home to over 1,100 species of butterflies. They can be seen anywhere: in Thailand’s National Parks, in the city and suburban gardens, in beach-side resorts and all over the countryside. It is probably one of the easiest to observe groups of Thailand’s animals.

Most National Parks in Thailand are good spots for butterfly watching, especially during the dry season, when the last remaining puddles attract hundreds of butterflies during the heat of the day. My favourite butterfly-watching National Parks are Khao Yai, Khao Sok, and Khaeng Krachan.

The following is a very brief introduction to the more common butterflies of Thailand, which you are more likely to encounter in your travels.

Butterflies in Kaeng Krachan National Park
Butterflies congregating at a puddle in Kaeng Krachan National Park
Swordtail butterfly
Emerald Peacock butterfly in Khao Yai National Park
Paris  Peacock butterflies in Khao Yai National Park

But the beauty of watching butterflies in a country like Thailand is that you rarely need to go far from home to find them. I photographed over a dozen species in a single afternoon in front of my house in rural Kanchanaburi.

Butterflies of Thailand - Lacewing
The Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina)
Butterflies of Thailand - Lime butterfly
Lime butterfly (Papilio demoleus)
Butterflies of Thailand - Lime butterfly
Lime butterfly (Papilio demoleus)
Butterflies of Thailand - Green Dragontail
Spotted Jay (Graphium arycles sphinx)
Butterflies of Thailand - Common Jay
Common Bluebottle
Butterflies of Thailand - The great eggfly
The Great eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina)
Butterflies of Thailand - Peacock pansy
Peacock pansy (Junonia almanac)
Butterflies of Thailand - Peacock pansy
Peacock pansy (Junonia almanac)
Butterflies of Thailand - Lemon pansy
Lemon pansy (Junonia lemonias lemonias)
Butterflies of Thailand - Lime blue
The Lime blue (Chilades lajus)

On particularly hot days (which are most days in summer) the butterflies flock to any available water sources, often congregating in large numbers. A dripping tap of the garden house starts looking like a site of Monarch migration in Mexico by midday.

Butterflies of Thailand - Common naab
Common Naab
Butterflies of Thailand - Common Helen
Yellow Helen
Butterflies of Thailand - Intermediate maplet
Intermediate maplet
Butterflies of Thailand - Indian cupid
Indian Cupid (Everes lacturnus lacturnus)
Butterflies of Thailand - Peablue
Zebra Blue (Lampides boeticus)
Butterflies of Thailand - Hedge cupid
Hedge Cupid (Brothrinia chennelli celastroides)
Butterflies of Thailand - Lycaenidae
Lycaenidae spp
Butterflies of Thailand - Common Fourring
Common Fourring (Ypthima huebneri)
Butterflies of Thailand - The Great crow
Great Eggfly
Butterflies of Thailand - The Great orange tip
The Great Orange tip (Hebomoia glaucippe glaucippe)
Butterflies of Thailand
Butterflies of Thailand - Yellow immigrant
Orange Emigrant
Butterflies of Thailand - Butterflies sipping water from a drying puddle
Butterflies sipping water from a drying puddle

One of my favourite species however is the Indian Leaf butterfly (Kallima paralekta). You see it fluttering in the air as a sudden splash of colour and then it lands and disappears in front of your eyes. It took me quite a while why I couldn’t see it. This amazing butterfly closes its wings and becomes virtually indistinguishable from a dry leaf.

Then, slowly, it opens its wings up and becomes a vibrant splash of blues and yellows again. Until it closes its wings again.

Fun facts about butterflies

Butterflies are fascinating creatures that float into existence for as little as one week. According to the Butterfly site, the average lifespan of a butterfly is about a month, ranging from one week for the smaller species to about nine months for the larger ones.

The size variation is quite staggering in butterflies. The smallest species grow to all of 1/8 of an inch and the largest, up to 12 inches.

Given that nectar is their primary food source, butterflies are equipped with colour vision, so they can identify different plant species. They can also see ultraviolet light.

Butterflies are not built for speed. Most species fly about 8 to 20 km per hour. However, the Skippers, the fastest butterflies, can speed up to 50 km per hour.

To function, butterflies need to maintain a body temperature of about 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit). And since they are cold-blooded creatures, they draw most of their energy from the sun. This is why you often find butterflies sitting still with their wings open – they are basking in the sun.

Big thanks to Iain Whitaker for his help with identifying species in this post. 

More on Thailand Wildlife and National Parks

5 thoughts on “The Diverse and Spectacular Butterflies of Thailand”

  1. Hi,
    Thank you for sharing this :)
    I’m looking for recommendation about a book on butterflies in Thailand. More like a field guide as I can see the second edition of Butterflies Of Thailand seems like a pretty large book to carry around..I guess that’s what you get with 1100 species but if you have any recommendation I would be very happy.
    Thanks for your time.

    • Hi David, I know what you mean about the Butterflies of Thailand book – not exactly a pocket guide. But you are right, with that many species, a pocket-sized guide would not be very useful. I only used the large volume for identifying the butterflies in Thailand.

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