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Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (Agraulis vanilliae)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly



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The widespread Gulf Fritillary Butterfly is colorful, fast, and a regional favorite in the warm and humid U.S. and Mexican states near the Gulf of Mexico.



Updated: 06/10/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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 heights 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 Gulf Fritillary is orange with black markings and white spots. The front edge of the top side of the wings have three white dots with black rings; one is solitary, but the other two are paired. Three prominent black dots sit near the middle of the forewings and a larger black comma sits on the hindwings. The underside of the forewings has a blush of red near its base. The same white spots on the top side are visible on underneath as well. Each hindwing is covered with oblong white shapes, one of which is broken. The long, slender orange body has narrow white stripes running down the length of it. The head has white freckles at the crown, orange eyes, and a white jaw that extends upward.

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 a native to southeastern U.S. and eastern Mexico, where established populations thrive.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect antennae icon
Hairy insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Nymphalidae
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          Genus: Agraulis
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            Species: vanilliae
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Agraulis vanilliae
Other Name(s): Longwing Butterfly
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 65mm to 80mm (2.55" to 3.14")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: orange; white; black; brown; silver
Descriptors: speckled, antennae, hairy

Gulf-Fritillary-Butterfly Video(s)




A Gulf Fritillary Butterfly taking nectar from a hyacinth bean vine.
A Gulf Fritillary Butterfly taking nectar from a pink butterfly bush.
Moving from branch to branch on a Buddleia bush.
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 65mm and 80mm
Lo: 65mm
Md: 72.5mm
Hi: 80mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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