Meet 5 Fritillary Butterfly species

The Dark green fritillary, Gulf fritillary, Aphrodite fritillary, Great spangled fritillary, and Variegated fritillary belong to the fritillary species of the family of brush-footed butterflies. They are mostly orange, and their range and host plants vary, but they usually frequent North America.

About Fritillary species

FamilyNymphalidae – brush-footed butterflies

Fritillary butterflies (Heliconiini) fall under the family Nymphalidae. The Nymphalidae is the largest family of butterflies, with about 6,000 subspecies. Fritillaries are also often mistaken for their cousins, Monarch butterflies.

Fritillary species colors and size

Most butterflies from the Fritillary subspecies are orange, with similar patterns of black or white checkerboard-arranged dots and areas all over their wings. Some have yellow wing edges, while others are darker or orange. They are attractive but hard to differentiate.

The typical wingspan for many subspecies is around 3 inches, but it can be smaller or larger. There are total of 14 Greater fritillaries (genus Speyeria) and 16 Lesser fritillaries (genus Bolloria). As their names indicate, the “Greater ones” are usually larger.

Top 5 bright orange fritillary species

The top 5 representatives of the Fritillary species include:

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  1. The Dark green fritillary
  2. The Gulf fritillary
  3. The Aphrodite fritillary
  4. The Great spangled fritillary
  5. The Variegated fritillary

1. The Dark green fritillary butterfly

Dark green fritillary
Dark green fritillary

The Dark green fritillary (Speyeria aglaja) has a wide range in the Palearctic realm (Europe, Morocco, Iran, Siberia, Central Asia, China, Korea, and Japan).

This butterfly is fiery reddish/yellow on the upper side, with the base area of males being a bit dull. Their markings are consistent and include a black margin, a row of thin marginal arks, a straight central row of dots, and in between 6 black transverse bands.

The Dark green fritillary loves pastures and flowery banks, possibly with its food plants — Viola canina and Viola riviniana.

2. The Gulf fritillary butterfly

Gulf fritillary
Gulf fritillary

The Gulf fritillary (Dione vanillae) frequents southern areas of the US, especially Florida and Texas. Adult butterflies overwinter in warmer areas of their usual range.

These butterflies are medium-sized. Females are distinctively larger than males. The undersides of the wings are brown, peppered with silvery dots. The upper side of the wings is deep orange with black streaks.

They live in open habitats and sunny areas. Passiflora plants and their preferred host plants.

3. The Aphrodite fritillary butterfly

Aphrodite fritillary
Aphrodite fritillary

The Aphrodite fritillary butterfly (Speyeria aphrodite) is native to North America.

This butterfly is also orange, with rows of dark spots on the wings’ edges and black lines nearby. Their upperside is orange with rows of white spots.

This Fritillary butterfly is sensitive to temperature changes, and there is a noticeable population decline in areas where the climate is warming up.

4. The Great spangled fritillary butterfly

Great spangled
Great spangled

The Great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) is also a North American butterfly.

Its wingspan ranges from 2.4 to 3.5 inches and is one of the larger Fritillaries. It’s also orange, with black dashes close to the forewing base and some irregular black dashes at the bases of the hindwings.

The female Great spangled fritillary lays eggs on violets, and various native violet plants serve as a larval host plants:

  • The round-leaf violet (Viola rotundifolia)
  • The arrow-leaf violet (Viola fimbriatula)
  • The common blue violet (Viola sororia)

5. The Variegated fritillary butterfly

Variegated Fritillary Butterfly
Variegated Fritillary Butterfly

The Variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) lives in North and South America.

It has an orange/black checkered upperside, with the forewings and hindwings containing a row of submarginal black spots and black median lines. The undersides of the wings are also orange, with some pale orange spots.

Their ideal habitat is open and disturbed — alfalfa fields, pastures, waste areas, roadsides, and mountain meadows.

Adults feed on the nectar plants such as dogbane, milkweed, aster, thistles, alfalfa, and red clover. Purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), is the preferred host plant.

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