Insect Identification
Insect Identification

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly - (Agraulis vanilliae)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 1/24/2014

The commonly seen Gulf Fritillary Butterfly is colorful, fast and a regional favorite in the warm, humid southern U.S..

This tropical butterfly has short hairs on its front legs, making it part of the 'brush-footed' butterfly family. They are fast flyers and usually stay at altitudes that are above human reach. In the warm climates that it lives in, many broods (generations) are likely to rise in one year and the butterflies are most active from spring to late autumn.

The caterpillar is reddish-brown with orange-brown stripes. It has two horns at the head and rows of sharp, black spines. It is not a caterpillar that lends itself to touching or handling. In addition to its foreboding appearance, the caterpillars, as well as the butterflies, are poisonous. The larvae feed on passion flower vines which contain a toxic chemical that stays in the body, rendering it lethal to anything that tries to eat it.

Sometimes, swarms of Gulf Fritillary Butterflies leave Latin America and fly into southern Texas and Florida, but this species is also a native to its U.S. range.

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Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common name: Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Scientific Name: Agraulis vanilliae
Other Names: Longwing Butterfly

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Lepidoptera
      Family: Nymphalidae
       Genus: Agraulis
        Species: vanilliae

Adult Size (Length): 65mm to 80mm (2.56in to 3.15in)

Identifying Colors: orange; white; black; brown; silver

Additional Descriptors: speckled, antennae, hairy

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Mexico

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.