Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1¾ - 3¼ inches (4.5 - 8 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Tawny orange with thick dark veins and markings; black spots near outers edge; pale peach central band. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Mottled; blurry dots on hindwing; no silver spots. Hindwing edge slightly scalloped.

ID Tip: Closed wings are mottled tawny-orange and/or brown. No silver spots.

Egg: Creamy white; ribbed; cone shaped. Laid singly on host plant.

Caterpillar: Reddish orange; rows of white dashes interspersed with black dots form longitudinal stripes; black, branched spines. Head orange with black patches; two long black horns at top.

Chrysalis: Shiny, silvery white or light green; interspersed with black dots; rows of golden tubercles. The overwintering stage.

Variegated Fritillaries are common residents of open, sunny areas that support host and nectar plants, but they are rarely seen in large numbers. They are easily alarmed and are somewhat difficult to approach. Upper wing surfaces are strikingly orange, but when perched with closed wings, they resemble dried leaves and seem to disappear.

Variegated Fritillaries bridge the gap between the Greater Fritillaries (Speyarias) and the Longwings (Heliconias). Their rusty orange, rounded wings cause them to resemble the Greater Fritillaries, but they are considerably smaller.  Like the Greater Fritillaries, their caterpillars eat violets, but they also eat passion flowers, the sole host of the Longwings. 

Variegated Fritillaries range throughout much of the continental United States. In Alabama, they are widespread and have several overlapping broods. They will be documented in every county.

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 albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, 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):

  • 500 - Crenshaw - 8/15/2021
  • 76 - Baldwin - 9/14/2023
  • 71 - Baldwin - 10/2/2023
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
4 3 1 2 1 14 9 30 20 20 45 16 28 53 36 36 39 11 40 40 36 76 57 87 701 53 55 139 62 139 106 37 24 51 23 8 9 5 1

Habitat

Open areas and disturbed sites including fields. meadows, sandhills, flatwoods, and roadsides.

Variegated Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
County
© Sara Bright
Sunny field
Variegated Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
County
© Paulette Ogard
Meadow
Variegated Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
County
© Sara Bright
Field with nectar sources
Variegated Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
County
© Sara Bright
Sunny wet meadow
Variegated Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
County
© Sara Bright
Open field
Variegated Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
County
© Sara Bright
Grassy field
Variegated Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
County
© Paulette Ogard
Meadow

Host and Nectar Plants

Various passionflowers (Passiflora spp.) and violets (Viola spp.) are used throughout the range.

The following have been documented in Alabama:

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

Variegated Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
County
© Sara Bright
Common Blue Violet
Variegated Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
County
© Sara Bright
Purple Passionflower/Maypop

Landscaping Ideas

Plant passion flowers in your yard, and fritillaries will come! Including these vines in the landscape will support Gulf and Variegated Fritillary caterpillars. Purple Passion Flower (Maypop) grows in full sun. 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 repeatedly if there are no others in the vicinity. Caterpillars will eat all parts of the plant including fruits.

Violets are spring flowering, deer-resistant perennials. Although much maligned because of their tenacity and tendency to spread, they can function as a low-maintenance groundcover in difficult landscape situations. Consider using them to fill in among shady spots where turfgrass has failed to thrive. They are vigorous and form dense mounding clumps approximately 5 to 7 inches from the ground. Violets attract many forms of wildlife that delight in their seeds, leaves, and rhizomes. These include mason bees, songbirds, wild turkeys, grouse, bobwhites, and mourning doves in addition to fritillary butterflies.

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