Variegated Fritillary

I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to see this variegated fritillary butterfly. If I’d started cooking supper, instead of taking a few minutes to walk around the yard, I would have missed seeing it.

Its appearance shows it’s not a newly-emerged butterfly. Then add its behavior of flitting low, stopping often to check for host plants to lay eggs on, tells me it’s a female making her way north and laying eggs as she goes. So, she wouldn’t have stayed in the yard for long. Usually this species doesn’t arrive in southern Illinois until later in the summer.

Some butterfly species, like this variegated fritillary, do what’s called emigrate, meaning they have a northward movement during the year. Their year round range covers southern states and down into Mexico. They lay eggs as they go north and establish new populations. The emigration ends up populating most of the U.S. All these butterflies from the northern movement don’t survive the winter, unless it’s a warm one. The ones emigrating next summer will populate the areas again.

Variegated fritillary nectaring on daisy fleabane

Variegated fritillary is a species of open disturbed habitats like fields, pastures and roadsides. They lay their eggs on violets, pansies, passion flower, purslane (Portulaca) and stonecrop (Sedum). They have a 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 inch wingspan.

I didn’t see her laying any eggs, but she might have found some of my violets. So it will be interesting to see if I see any more of them in my yard. It is a species I rarely see.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Therese on May 18, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Stunning! Thanks for the lesson too! You are GOOD!!!!


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