Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 3 7/16 - 4 7/16 inches (8.7 - 11.3 cm). Large. Upperside of male wings is orange at outer portions and black/brown at base; females are black with blue on outer part of hindwing. Undersides do not have spot pattern.

ID Tip: Male: On open wings, the outer edge has a wide orange band with small rows of dots.  It surrounds the inner three-fifths, which is black/brown.  When closed, hindwings are are two-toned brown and tan.  Forewings resemble the dorsal pattern.  Female: On open wings, inner wings are dark blue/black.  Outer edge has blue and white markings. On closed wings, the hindwing is two-toned blue/brown. Forewings resemble the dorsal pattern.  There is no orange on any wing.

Egg: Small, creamy white globes; usually scattered near violets.

Caterpillar: Mature caterpillars are large and velvety black with several rows of black spines emerging from red/orange bases. First instar caterpillars look like tiny black fuzz balls. Immediately after hatching, they hide in the leaf litter near violets and go into diapause for the winter.  Very early the following year, as violet leaves begin to sprout, the larvae begin to nibble.

Chrysalis: Chunky and brown.  Hangs in a loosely constructed silken tent.

Like all Greater Fritillaries, Dianas are single brooded.  Males display the typical fritillary color palette and emerge in early summer, usually several days before their female counterparts.  Females mimic distasteful black-and-blue Pipevine Swallowtails. When they emerge, mating occurs and the male life cycle runs its course.  Females live on in a state of reproductive diapause; during July and August they are seldom seen as they hide in nearby woodlands.  In late summer, females become more active and deposit eggs in the vicinity of violets. First instar caterpillars overwinter, waiting to eat until the following spring when violets flush with new growth.

Typically expected in Alabama’s northeastern mountains, Diana Fritillaries also turn up in unexpected spots and range as far south as Lee County. Dianas' survival requires a complex combination of habitats that must combine open, sunny areas with nearby deciduous forest.  In addition to their violet hosts, a succession of crucial nectar plants such as milkweeds and thistles must also be accessible.  An alarming range-wide decline in Diana populations over the past 50 years makes gathering information about Alabama populations important, particularly since our state is the southern limit of their known range.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, DeKalb, Jefferson, Randolph, Talladega, Tallapoosa

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2 35 6 2 6 1 1 3 1 6 8 1

Habitat

Rich, deciduous woodlands and adjacent sunny, open areas.  However, exact habitat requirements remain a mystery; there appears to be much suitable habitat that does not support populations of Diana Fritillaries.

Host and Nectar Plants

Violets (Viola spp.) are used throughout its range.

Specific violets have not yet been verified in Alabama.

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

If Diana Fritillaries are in the area, a combination of violets and their preferred nectar sources may draw them to your landscape.  Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) and thistles (Cirsium spp.) are favorites.