Great Spangled Fritillary

Great spangled fritillary … sounds like royalty, doesn’t it?


It’s a common butterfly here in southern Illinois … except for this year after a harsh winter.


They’re a large butterfly, measuring from 2.6 to 3.5 inches. They also go by the scientific name Speyeria cybele cybele.


The silver spots on the underside of their hindwings are quite distinctive.

IMG_1792  crop

There’s a single generation of them a year, and the adults fly from mid-May to early October.

Now here’s the interesting thing … the caterpillars feed only on violets. The adult lays an egg near a violet plant. The egg hatches, and the teeny caterpillar burrows into the ground. It stays there all winter without eating. The caterpillar comes out of hibernation in the spring, and then it starts eating on the young violets.


The variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)  is much less common in southern Illinois. They start migrating north in April. They also feed on violets, pansies, passion-flower and maypops.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Beautiful shots and informative posting. We’ve had lots of Great Spangled Fritillaries this year here is Northern Virginia.


  2. I’ve seen quite a few of these this year along with eastern tiger swallowtails. I didn’t know they fed on violets. We have plenty of those so maybe that’s why there are so many of the butterflies here.
    You got some great shots of them!


    • Thanks. It’s interesting that you have so many more butterflies than we do. I haven’t been out because of the heat. I haven’t seen any out the picture window when I’m here working. The heat’s to let up in a couple of days.


  3. Wonderful photos and info. Love the Variegated and Gulf fritillary that we have in Texas. I have planted passion vine for the frits but only the Gulf Fritillary has used it as a host plant.


  4. Thank you so much for the information. I have seen a few of these in northwestern Illinois, but they certainly are not common. Next spring I will make sure to look for the larva on violets. Your photos are beautiful!


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