What is The Average Size Of a Butterfly?

Butterflies have different size ranges and wingspan variations among species, as various factors around their habitat influence their growth. The size of the egg and caterpillar also varies among these species, as some caterpillars are smaller than others if you observe some species growing in captivity.

What is The Average Size Of a Butterfly? The average size of a butterfly ranges from 1-3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm) but varies among all of their species because it depends on various factors, such as metamorphosis, food availability, temperature and weather, genetics, captivity or wild, and stress and diseases in their growing stages. However, some have wingspans of up to 11-12 inches. Male butterflies are usually larger than females, except for some species like Monarch butterflies.

Many lepidopterists and entomologists are studying the size variation among different species. However, their genes and the number of species in each group are so diverse that it is difficult to estimate their exact length or width.

However, some general and experimented ranges of their sizes for different species have been calculated, as these specialists have many ways to determine their weight, height, length, and width.

What is the average size of butterflies?

The size of a butterfly’s wingspan varies between 1-3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm), and the body length ranges from 0.59-0.98 inches (1.5-2.5 cm).

The average wingspan and the body length differ with each species because they are not the same size. Different factors affect their size, and they do not have the same body length and width.

For example, Monarch butterflies are medium-sized species, and the average size varies between 3-4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm).

I have a Painted Lady butterfly at home, and its wingspan is about 2.5 inches (6.3cm), while the pink lady butterfly in my friend’s house has a wingspan of 2 inches (5.8 cm).

I was surprised to hear this and asked my friend about the difference in their wingspan, and he told me that it is normal and common to vary in size because every species has a different genetic makeup.

Moreover, I studied that Red Admiral butterflies have an average wingspan ranging from 1.5-3 inches (3.8-7.6 cm). The wingspan also varies among the same species fellows, and these are not fixed values, as environmental factors affect their growth.

In addition, I was surprised to study the world’s largest butterfly because it has a wingspan of 8-11 inches (20.3-27.9 cm).

They are known as Queen Alexandra’s birdwing and can grow up to 12 inches, the most wingspan any butterfly can have.

Furthermore, the White Cabbage butterflies are widely found in different regions of America and have an average wingspan between 1.25-1.87 inches (3.1-4.7 cm).

Another famous species is Blue Morpho, which has an average wingspan size of 5-8 inches (12.7-20.3 cm). They look fascinating because blue butterflies are rare in urban areas.

Meanwhile, the wingspan of Mourning Cloak butterflies varies between 2.5 to 4 inches (6.3- 10.1 cm).

Average size of butterflies with their scientific names and wingspan in inches and centimeters

Type of butterflies Scientific name Average wingspan (cm) Average wingspan (inches)
Western Pygmy Blue Brephidium exilis 1.2-1.8 cm 0.5-0.7 inches
Monarch butterflies Danaus plexippus 7.6-10.2 cm 3-4 inches
Queen Alexandra’s birdwing Ornithoptera alexandrae 20.3-27.9 cm 8-11 inches
Painted Lady butterflies Vanessa cardui 5.8-6.3 cm 2-2.5 inches
Red Admiral butterflies Vanessa atalanta 3.8-7.6 cm 1.5-3 inches
White Cabbage butterflies Pieris rapae 3.1-4.7 cm 1.25-1.87 inches
Blue Morpho Morpho menelaus 12.7-20.3 cm 5-8 inches
Mourning Cloak butterflies Nymphalis antiopa 6.3- 10.1 cm 2.5 to 4 inches

What factors affect the size of a butterfly?

The wingspan and body can vary among many species because they do not experience the same environmental conditions.


They lay eggs on the leaves to provide a secure environment for the eggs to hatch and the caterpillars to grow.

The caterpillars undergo metamorphosis and start developing different body organs. Various factors affect the growth of the caterpillar and the next phase, known as pupa.

It is one of the most significant stages, as the butterfly comes into shape in this phase. Therefore, it influences the size of the adult that emerges from the chrysalis in different environmental circumstances.

Food availability

Food availability greatly affects their overall growth and size when they enter adulthood from the developing stages.

For example, I studied that the food available to caterpillar during the metamorphosis influences the overall size of the species when it comes out of the chrysalis because the caterpillar breaks the body tissues and the pupa uses the nutrients that the caterpillar stores and eats in its growth weeks.

The species having more access to host plants and a nutrient-rich diet have more chances to grow to their full sizes and increase the wingspan in the chrysalis phase, as it needs more energy and nutrients stored by the caterpillar.

I did not know this, as I thought the wingspan or size was fixed for every species, but I was surprised to study that it varies with the food availability of caterpillars in metamorphosis.

For example, the two species from the same group, such as Purple Emperor, can be slightly different in their wingspan because the caterpillars are exposed to varying food resources in their growing stage.

Temperature and weather conditions

The role of temperature and weather changes during the caterpillar and other metamorphosis stages significantly influence their body sizes and wingspans.

For example, my best friend told me about the effect of different temperature conditions during the metamorphosis.

He said that the species exposed to warmer weather during the metamorphosis have a small body size, as scientists discovered that the increase of one-degree warmness causes the size reduction by 1%.

I was astounded to hear this because I did not know that temperature and weather fluctuations can cause a significant change in their body size.

He further said that the species that grow in cold weather or low-temperature conditions usually have more wingspan because temperature affects the metamorphosis.


Genetic factors also have an effect in determining the average shape and size of the wings because some species genetically grow to an extended limit and have short overall body sizes.

However, some butterflies can genetically grow larger wingspan. Therefore, genes influence the wingspan’s colors, size, and patterns.

My neighbor told me there is a significant variation in their wingspan due to the more diverse genes in different parts of the world, as he visited and studied many facts about their genetic diversity.

Captivity and wild

The caterpillars and pupa in captivity are more secure and face fewer challenges than in the wild because they have access to food resources and suitable habitats.

They do not face high predation and can grow to their full extent without any pressure. Therefore, some of their species have large bodies in captivity compared to their fellows in the wild.

A few weeks ago, I went to a tropical forest on a wildlife research trip and encountered a blue morpho butterfly. I was surprised to see that it had a smaller wingspan than my blue morpho in captivity.

I caught it carefully and placed it in a net habitat to measure its wingspan. It amazed me because there was a difference of 1.8 inches in their wingspan.

Stress and diseases

Stress and diseases during the metamorphosis can affect the size of the butterfly because parasitic diseases cause abnormal growth or deformities in different phases.

The pupa and caterpillar cannot grow to their maximum size when exposed to stressful situations, such as poor habitat conditions and parasitic infections.

It causes them to reduce their growth, and they emerge with small-sized bodies from chrysalis. Therefore, provide a stress-free and hygienic environment for caterpillars and pupa if you raise them in captivity.

How big are butterflies?

They can grow to various sizes, depending on the factors explained above, as they are sensitive to these factors and stop development in severe conditions.

They can grow up to 11-12 inches, such as the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, and the species in this group can have large wingspans.

For example, the largest butterfly species include the Goliath Birdwing, Giant African Swallowtail, Wallace’s Golden Birdwing, Chimaera Birdwing, and Rippon’s Birdwing.

In addition, my colleague also told me some of their large species have a wing span of 6.7-7.5 inches (17-19 cm).

These butterflies include Miranda Birdwing, Magellan Birdwing, Buru Opalescent Birdwing, and Palawan Birdwing.

These species genetically have larger wingspans, and some species from other groups also have broader wingspans among their fellow members.

Are male butterflies larger than females?

Female butterflies are usually larger than the male species because they carry a lot of eggs and, therefore, eat more food to obtain energy to reproduce.

They feed more on the flower nectars and restore energy because they invest a lot of strength in laying eggs. It causes them to look bigger and have more weight.

Moreover, some male butterflies, such as Monarch butterflies, are larger than females. The male flying insects have huge wingspans, but you cannot distinguish the difference at first glance.

The migrating monarchs have larger wingspans than the non-migrating species because they have to cover long distances to reach suitable habitats in winter.

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