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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 ¬©

  Gulf Fritillary Butterfly  
Picture of Gulf-Fritillary-Butterfly

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.

Picture of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Picture of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Information

Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common Name: Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Scientific Name: Agraulis vanilliae
Other Name(s): Longwing Butterfly

Taxonomy Hierarchy

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

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 65 mm to 80 mm (2.535 inches to 3.12 inches)
Identifying Colors: orange; white; black; brown; silver
Additional Descriptors: speckled, antennae, hairy

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

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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