Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (Agraulis vanilliae)
Detailing the identifying qualities of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly, including physical features and territorial reach.
Updated: 9/6/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The widespread Gulf Fritillary Butterfly is colorful, fast, and a regional favorite in the warm and 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.