The superfamily Papilionoidea contains all the butterflies except for the skippers, which are classified in superfamily Hesperioidea.

Some authors treat this grouping as a series (Papilioniformes) within a single superfamily that also includes the skippers. However, all are agreed that, although all the butterflies constitute a single monophyletic clade, a distinction needs to be made between the skippers and the rest of the butterflies. Compared with the skippers, in the families that are here counted within Papilionoidea:

  • the body is smaller and less moth-like
  • the wings are larger
  • the antennae are straight and clubbed (rather than hooked as in the skippers)
  • the caterpillars do not spin cocoons to pupate in
  • the pupae are angular rather than rounded.

The families of Papilionoidea are:

  • Swallowtails and Birdwings, Papilionidae
  • Whites or Yellow-Whites, Pieridae
  • Blues and Coppers or Gossamer-Winged Butterflies, Lycaenidae
  • Metalmark butterflies, Riodinidae
  • Snout butterflies, Libytheidae
  • Brush-footed butterflies, Nymphalidae