The occurrence of butterfly species on an island is determined by the origin of the island (continental or vulcanic), the distance from the mainland and the presence of suitable habitats. On vulcanic islands, endemic species of the flora and fauna originate as a result of mutations and lack of gene exchange. This is also true for butterflies. The butterflies of the Canary Islands – islands of vulcanic origin – are discussed. There are 26 species to be found, four of which are endemic and 20 have colonized the islands from populations in Southern Europe and/or Northwest Africa. Four butterflies are highlighted; the Monarch ( Danaus plexippus), originating from North America, Gonepteryx cleopatra which has two endemic subspecies, and Vanessa vulcania and Pararge xiphioides which are both endemic in the Canary Islands.