Brush-footed butterflies

(Family Nymphalidae)

white admiral

Nymphalidae is a large family of butterflies known as brush-footed butterflies. These butterflies occur on every continent including Antarctica. There are currently about 6,000 described species in 544 genera worldwide, 209 species in North America north of Mexico, and at least 37 species in Minnesota. They are found in almost all terrestrial ecosystems.

Many species hold their wings flat while resting.


Most Nymphalidae are medium- to large-sized butterflies. The front legs on both sexes of most species are very short and cannot be used for walking. When at rest, the butterflies stand on just four legs, the front legs being curled up. This is the feature that gives the family one of its common names. Some species have a brush-like set of hairs on their forelegs. This is the feature that gives the family its other common name.

Many species have colorful upper wing surfaces while the lower wing surfaces are cryptically colored, providing camouflage. All species have three longitudinal ridges (keels) on their antennae, one on each side, and one separating two shallow longitudinal grooves. This feature is referred to a s “tricarinate antennae”.


Distribution Map



7, 21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 71, 75, 82.



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  


Papilionoidea (butterflies)  

Subordinate Taxa


Admirals, Sisters (Subfamily Limenitidinae)

Crescents, Checkerspots, Anglewings, etc. (Subfamily Nymphalinae)

Daggerwings, Map Butterflies (Subfamily Cyrestinae)

Emperors (Subfamily Apaturinae)

Heliconians and Fritillaries (Subfamily Heliconiinae)

Leafwings and relatives (Subfamily Charaxinae)

Milkweed Butterflies & Glasswings (Subfamily Danainae)

Satyrs, Morphos and Owls (Subfamily Satyrinae)

Snouts (Subfamily Libytheinae)

Tropical Brushfoots (Subfamily Biblidinae)






Common Names


brush-footed butterflies

four-footed butterflies








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Created: 6/27/2022

Last Updated:

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