This study provides a novel systematic comparative analysis of the species characteristics affecting the range margin shifts in butterflies towards higher latitudes, while taking phylogenetic relatedness among species into account. We related observed changes in the northern range margins of 48 butterfly species in Finland between two time periods (1992–1996 and 2000–2004) to 11 species traits. Species with positive records in at least ten 10 km × 10 km grid squares (in the Finnish National Butterfly Recording Scheme, NAFI) in both periods were included in the study. When corrected for range size change, the 48 butterfly species had shifted their range margins northwards on average by 59.9 km between the study periods, with maximum shifts of over 300 km for three species. This rate of range shifts exceeds all previously reported records worldwide. Our findings may be explained by two factors: the study region is situated in higher latitudes than in most previous studies and it focuses on the period of most prominent warming during the last 10–15 years. Several species traits exhibited a significant univariate relationship with the range margin shift according to generalized estimation equations (GEE) taking into account the phylogenetic relatedness among species. Nonthreatened butterflies had on average expanded their ranges strongly northwards (84.5 km), whereas the distributions of threatened species were stationary (−2.1 km). Hierarchical partitioning (HP) analysis indicated that mobile butterflies living in forest edges and using woody plants as their larval hosts exhibited largest range shifts towards the north. Thus, habitat availability and dispersal capacity of butterfly species are likely to determine whether they will be successful in shifting their ranges in response to the warming climate.