I smile whenever I see colorful wings flutter past me on a walk outside. There's just a simple joy in spotting an insect friend going about their duties. The most colorful ones are a little artistic treat. Even the drab butterflies and moths catch my interest, but I've always been fascinated with these insects. When I was little, I'd often gently catch one and hold it between cupped palms, or let it walk across my fingers before it flew away.

There are over 1,000 species of butterflies and moths in Washington State.

Isn't it amazing? Such an incredible variety of delicately painted wings grace our gardens and wander in the wilds. Each one has a specific niche in nature - specific plants and flowers it pollinates, specific species that prey on it for nutrients. Some have a very small population or range, while some are spotted state-wide.

Sometimes, butterflies and moths could use your help.

Once in a while, you might spot a butterfly on the ground. This is natural behavior - they're usually drinking some of the moisture from a tiny puddle or spill. You can gently puff at them or try to move them to make sure they're okay, if you're worried.

Left: butterfly drinking from ground water; right: butterfly with ripped wing
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But if a butterfly or moth is staggering or seems to have an injured wing, you might want to step in and help. Weak butterflies and moths can be given a little sugar water - just a light amount of sugar, about a 10% ratio - in a sponge or bottle cap. Give them a safe place to eat and recover and they should be on their way.

If they have broken or torn wing, there's not as much you can do. If you have the missing or torn piece of wing available, you can use light scotch tape to mend the wing together, or if you want to, take it home and apply contact adhesive (an extensive tutorial is here.) Wings do not regenerate, however, so this is a case where you might choose to let nature take its course instead.

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What are the most commonly spotted butterflies and moths in Washington?

Butterflies and Moths of North America keeps an online, ongoing database of user-submitted photographs and reports across all of North America (not just the United States). It serves as a great database for identifying local species, both for the curious citizen and the adept scientist keeping track of species ranges and populations.

The site maintains listings of the most commonly reported species in each region, including Washington. Those are listed below. And if you're frequently in the mountains, the Washington Butterfly Association has a guide to mountain species!

Common Butterflies and Moths of Washington

Looking to identify a butterfly or moth you spotted in Washington? Start here - these are the most common species as reported by the Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) project.

Gallery Credit: Jaime Skelton

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