Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 2½ - 3¾ inches (6.3 - 9.5 cm). The upperside is bright orange with black markings; there are 3 black-encircled white dots on the forewing edge. The underside is brown; the forewing has orange at its base; both wings have elongated, iridescent silver spots. Females are darker above and have heavier black markings.

ID Tip: Elongated silver spots on underside are distinctive.

Egg: Yellowish, ribbed and oblong in shape.  Laid singly on leavese and tendrils of host plant.  Sometimes laid on other plants near host plant.

Caterpillar: Brownish orange with black, branched spines.  These spines are not harmful to humans.

Chrysalis: Elongated, curved; mottled beige in color.  Resembles a dead, curled leaf. 

Gulf Fritillaries are not true fritillaries. They are actually classified as longwings (or heliconians).  Their forewings are not as elongated as some members of the family, but the classic shape is evident when they bask with outstretched wings. Lke the other longwings, they use passionflowers (maypops) as their caterpillar hosts.  

Gulf Fritillaries are not tolerant of freezing weather, so each year they recolonize most of Alabama after wintering further south.  By late summer, they are common butterflies in virtually every county. When day lengths shorten in the fall, massive flights occur as northern butterflies travel through Alabama to the Gulf coast and southward into Florida. 



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 High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

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

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox, Winston

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 200 - St. Clair - 9/29/2016
  • 190 - Mobile - 10/14/2017
  • 151 - Jefferson - 9/14/2019
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
7 5 2 1 1 5 3 1 1 1 2 3 4 8 31 12 16 26 29 42 57 147 136 127 269 201 334 403 762 814 837 851 1139 892 1234 440 535 338 173 116 102 61 49 39 41


Open fields, disturbed sites, and suburban gardens. 

Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary (Dione incarnata)
© Sara Bright
Yellow Passionflower

Host and Nectar Plants

Various passionflowers (Passiflora spp.) are used throughout its range.

In addition to the plants higllghted in blue below, this tropcial passionflower has also been documented as a Gulf Fritillary host in Alabama:

  • Blue Passionflower (Passiflora caerulea)

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary (Dione incarnata)
© Sara Bright
Purple PassionFlower
Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary (Dione incarnata)
© Sara Bright
Yellow Passionflower

Landscaping Ideas

Plant maypops in your yard, and they will come! Including Maypop vines in the landscape will support Gulf and Variegated Fritillary caterpillars.  These fast-growing vines need supporting structures like an arbor or fence.  They tend to sprout near the original planting location, and these shoots may be potted up and shared with friends.  By late summer, be prepared for lots of caterpillars: female fritillaries lay their eggs singly, but will return to the same plant over and over again if there are no others in the vicinity.  Caterpillars will eat all parts of the plant including the fruits.

Nearby nectar sources are also important: fall blooming flowers such as gayfeathers/blazing stars (Liatris spp.), Mistflower (Conaclinium coelestinum), and asters (Symphyotrichum spp.) are nectar magnets for many butterflies, including Gulf Fritillaries.