Mariposas de México, Yucatan e Quintana Roo
by Douglass Allen

Am presently uploading many of Ian Lawson's excellent Quintana Roo photos from November 2016.  Also, many updates, corrections, improvements in navigation,and 30+ new species (mostly Ian Lawson's).  In addition several Richard Hoyer photos have been added.  Your corrections and comments are appreciated.

Friends, Split-banded Owlets, above and lovers, Malachite, below- both Jardin Botanico

The Yucatan Peninsula has more visitors than any other part of Mexico.  Now in one location, you can find the butterflies of this popular tourist, birding, and butterflying area. The photographs are taken by Doug Allen and others as indicated. 


Butterfly Species

This field guide shows over 230 of the most common butterflies of the Yucatan peninsula, actual photographs of butterflies taken in the Mexican states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan which are bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on the north, the Caribbean Sea on the east, the countries of Belize and Guatemala to the south, and the state  Campeche to the southwest.  Quintana Roo is Mexico's most visited state by tourists. It is home to Mexico's most popular tourists area, Cancun, and its  largest island, Cozumel, tourist destination for its reefs and snorkeling.

According to the Swift Guide to Mexican Butterflies by Jeffrey Glassberg, the first field guide to document with pictures and range maps all known butterflies of Mexico, there are about 1750 Mexican species of butterflies, about 10% of the world's butterflies. From Glassberg's tentative range maps, there may be 400 species that occur or are hypothetical on the Yucatan peninsula.  Some twenty species outside his tentative range maps have already been documented, and perhaps others shown are absent or only occur as strays.


My butterfly field work has taken place mostly in the Cancun-Tulum corridor of northern Quintana Roo and on the nearby island of Cozumel, areas most frequented by tourists. This field guide probably shows the great majority of butterflies that any visitor to those areas is likely to see. A field trip November, 2015, to southern Quintana Roo added over 30 new species to this field guide. A  March 2016 trip to the state of Yucatan was just completed and added 25 new species. A trip to the Yucatan Peninsula state of Campeche is planned for spring 2018.

Mexican birds and butterflies

I began visiting Mexico with birding friends in the 1980's. In the 1990's when I lived in Colorado, I drove to Mexico and sometimes Belize every winter.  Like so many birders, my attention turned to butterflies only in recent years, and I have visited the Yucatan looking for and photographing butterflies nine times as of December 2016. Should health and finances permit, I'll continue to visit Yucatan Peninsula twice a year in the coming years.

I presently teach 2 science courses at the Furman University OLLI program. My educational background includes graduate work in biology (but no entomology), and I have conducted field work and nature programs for adults and children for many decades This present effort to document the butterflies of the Yucatan might better be called citizen science, and your contributions are appreciated.

Jardin Botanico, Puerto Morelos, and Cozumel

The two areas in Quintana Roo (QR)  I have visited most frequently are Jardin Botanico, an oasis of natural flora and fauna preserved by the state and federal government, in what has become a coastal tourist megalopolis, and the nearby Ruta de las Cenotes west of Puerto Morales.  

In 2014 and 2015, I visited Cozumel, wondering if endemic butterflies might exist there (I saw the three endemic bird species there years ago).  You can read about that by clicking Butterflies of Cozumel, top of this page. 

Erato Heliconian, San Gervasio, Cozumel

Neotropical Butterflies

I invite anyone with knowledge of or interest in these studies to contribute. I am also including links to the Quintana Roo butterfly field work of others with photographs where possible. Neotropical butterfly taxonomy is an area where new discoveries and understandings will undoubtedly occur in the coming years.  Some families, such as the Metalmark scintillants are, as described by Glassberg,  in "a very confused state."

Of the some 400 butterfly species that may occur in Quintana Roo, I have observed about 250 and have so far photographed over 220 for this field guide.   Please contact me if you would be willing to share additional or better photographs.    I also encourage you to support Jardin Botanico in Puerto Morelos (between Cancun and Playa del Carmen) with a visit when you are in the area. With such keen interest in both birding and butterflying by so many tourists, I am hoping that Jardin Botanico will make itself even more hospitable to butterfly species by planting additional native butterfly nectaring and host plants in one or more of their several native Mexican gardens.  I think Jardin Botanico might draw hundreds, probably thousands more visitors each year by emphasizing the birding and butterflying opportunities there.  This, of course, would contribute to its principle preservation and educational activities.

Butterfly Field Guide 

Over 90% of the photographs herein are my own, taken of free flying butterflies in the Yucatan Peninsula. Increasingly, others are contributing their photos and knowledge.  Thank you!  This non-profit site is for educational use and research, and provides an easy way to learn about Yucatan Peninsula butterflies.

Distribution and abundance-  I have started to indicate, very tentatively, relative abundance and distribution based on my own limited experience. Some Yucatan, especially Cozumel forms, may differ from other areas.  New sub-species and species are possible. I've suggested possible new forms herein and in the companion Cozumel field guide.

A word about species.  I prefer a dynamic, snapshot in time, view of species.  Following Ernst Mayr (1942) and others: species are "populations of organisms that can reproduce with one another and that are re-productively isolated from other such similar populations." 

Determining if and when similar populations are isolated from one another is always tentative.  It's actually a fluid situation with concepts of race, species, and superspecies useful, but not always definitive. A number of species shown in this guide appear to be variations of the species Glassberg depicts and may even even hybrids or new species.


Return to top of page 1 

PART 1- Swallowtails  Note: This is the order of families from Glassberg's Butterflies of Mexico with page number references

PART 2- Whites then Yellows: all to p. 35

PART 3- Hairstreaks then Blues: all  pp. 36- 55

PART 4- : Metalmarks all pp. 57- 77

PART 5-  Brushfoots:  Fritillaries to  Checkerspots, p. 78-85

PART 6-  Brushfoots: Crescents through Admirals p. 85-111

PART 7- Brushfoots: Crackers, Owls, Satyrs, Monarchs  pp. 112- 145

PART 8-  Spreadwing Skippers   pp.146-204

PART 9- Grass Skippers: all     


Additional Puerto Morales Jardin Botanico  photography is found  here.  The "ruta de cenotes" west from Puerto Morales to Leona Vicario is the best butterfling area near Cancun.

 Species in red are hypothetical or unidentified.

Please visit my  Upstate South Carolina Butterfly guide and Butterflies of Cozumel field guide. 

How common are Yucatan butterfly species? When in the correct habitat, abundant refers to seeing many in a day, common refers to seeing several in a day, fairly common refers to seeing one or more every other day, and uncommon refers to seeing the species only occasionally.  


Cozumel unidentified-

Doug Allen
Doug Allen


Page numbers refer to Swift Guide to Mexican Butterflies by Jeffrey Glassberg.

Abreviations are QR= Quintana Roo;  JB= Jardin Botanico; COZ=Cozumel;  LRGV= Lower Rio Grande Valley;  SF = south Florida, sQR (south of Tulum)