Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
The Gulf Fritillary is a bright orange, medium-sized butterfly with elongated forewings. They are found during the summer months, especially in the open areas. The males of the species are smaller than their female counterparts.
Description and Identification
The mature larvae have a bright orange tone with innumerable black branched spines all over their glossy body, but they do not sting. The average duration of this stage is between 11 and 16 days, depending on the temperature of their environment. As a defensive mechanism, the larva is poisonous. Their toxic flesh provides them with excellent protection against predators.
The chrysalis is light to mottled brown with faint gray marking all over the body. Their coloration is an adaptation that helps them to camouflage easily amongst the branches of trees. This cocoon stage usually lasts for 7 to 12 days.
Sexual Dimorphism: Somewhat different
Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, the dorsal side of the wings show a bright orange coloration with black rounded and elongated markings towards the edges. The females of the species are somewhat browner or darker with more extensive markings. The cells of the primary wings display three white spots rimmed with black. When the wings are closed, the ventral side of the wings exhibits a brownish coloration with elongated silvery-white spots.
Average wingspan: 65 to 95 mm
Flight pattern: Medium to fast pace
Small, spherical and yellow, laid individually on or near the host plant leaves
|Distribution||Southern regions of the US, especially Florida and Texas, and also ranges southward through Mexico; they have two migrations during the spring and the fall, respectively|
|Habitat||Open lands including moderately sunny areas close to open grasslands, parks, as well as woodlands|
|Lifespan of adults||14 to 27 days|
|Host plants||Various passion vine and passion flower species|
|Adult diet||Flower nectar especially of zinnia, aster, thistle, verbena, lantana, butterfly bush, etc.|
Did You Know?
- This butterfly species has a defense mechanism in response to predator sightings during when they release odorous chemicals to ward off their enemies.