Discover the official California state bug (it doesn’t live anywhere else!) 

You can only find this beautiful yellow, orange and black Dogface butterfly in California. This sweet little bug reigns supreme as the California state bug and awards California state driver’s licenses and a U.S. seal. California assigned the dogface the California State Insect title in 1972. You can only find the insect between north central California and Baja California and between the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges. Scientists consider this species of butterfly to be very rare and local throughout its range.

Dogface Butterfly

Beautiful southern Dogface butterfly, Colias cesonia, feeding on a pink zinnia flower
This butterfly prefers its habitat in hilly areas, chaparral, oak or coniferous forests.

© Sari ONeal /

Zirin Eurydice

The California Dogface is produced by the large family Pieridae, which is bright yellow and orange in colour. Arthropods are endemic only to the United States in California. This butterfly prefers its habitat in hilly areas, chaparral, oak or coniferous forests. Its predators include birds, frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, ants, and wasps.


The California face moth lays eggs that start out green or yellow and then turn crimson as they continue to grow. The eggs appear ribbed and flat on one side. Caterpillars hatch from the eggs and eventually turn into adult butterflies.


The dog-faced caterpillar is bright green with light to distinct horizontal white to pale green stripes, often with black borders all over the body. As a caterpillar, Dogface mainly feeds on the leaves of the false indigo plant.


Dogface pupa is also green, just like the caterpillars. It is a bright green because it can easily camouflage itself in the nature that calls it home. When Dogface completes its larval stage, it turns into a cocoon where it hangs from strands of silk. The larval stage lasts about two weeks.

Butterfly adults

This species of butterfly experiences extreme displays of sexual dimorphism, with each sex appearing distinct. The male dog-face butterfly is brighter and more colorful than the females. The male’s forewings have a yellow to peach coloration similar to that of a dog’s face with a dark purple to black tint along the edges. The hindwings are orange with a yellow edge near the belly.

The forewings of females are entirely yellow with a black spot. The female Californian Terrier’s face is only one color on her flanks: pale cream on all four branches with a small black dot on each wing. The females are much larger than the males of this species, about an inch larger than the males of their own species. The adult butterfly’s diet consists of flower nectar from plants of the mustard family. The dog-faced butterfly has large eyes and scaly wings that help it fly and insulate. Most of this butterfly’s body is covered with tiny hairs called hairs that Dogface uses to sense vibrations.

The dog-faced butterfly’s incubation period lasts from April to July, peaking in June. The second brood flies between August and October. These butterflies are rare and impossible to see because they fly 10 to 20 feet above the ground. Except if it is feeding on a low flower, you will rarely see it near the bottom. It also doesn’t help that it’s fast.

The dogface is an important pollinator of many plants native to California, including the California buckeye, thistle, and long blue verbena.

Adult butterflies are attracted to areas with soil that is so moist that they can feed on several types of flowers. This butterfly is particularly fond of blue fringes, sunflowers, and thistle flowers.

Breeding occurs between early spring and late summer, with an average of one hundred eggs per season. These butterflies start their flight at 7 am and fly until late afternoon.


Threats to the dog-face moth come from wildfires across California, which are closing off habitat openings and may eventually lead to very severe fires that wipe out populations. Although Dogface is rare, domestic, and subject to some threats, this butterfly is present in many events. The number of events for Dogface ranges from 81 to 300.

California Wildfire
Threats to the dog face moth come from wildfires across California.

© / Dimple Bath

Fun facts about Dogface

  1. California dog-faced butterflies fly so fast that it’s almost impossible to get a picture of the insect with its wings spread open.
  2. Its name, “dogface”, comes from the male butterfly’s wing pattern. Some people think that wings look like a silhouette of a dog’s head and that wings look like a dog’s face.
  3. In 1977, a 13-cent California Butterfly Terrier postage stamp was issued in the United States. One of the stamps is still in the National Postal Museum.
  4. These butterflies love the purple flowers and are easily attracted to them.
  5. California was the first state to choose the state insect; Thus, Dogface was the first ever.
  6. The state butterfly was elected by the class of the fourth grade.

You can check out the other California state codes here.

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