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The Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly is a common sight in southern Canada and most of the United States except for the southern third of the country. This butterfly may be sighted on summer days when the temperature is warm or hot on many different flowers including milkweed, thistles, ironweed, dogbane, mountain laurel, verbena, vetch, bergamot, red clover, joe-pye weed, mints, butterfly weed, and purple coneflower. These butterflies like open, moist places including fields, pine and oak woods, conifer forest openings and meadows. We live in an opening in the middle of a conifer forest, and we spotted dozens of them flying to and from our flower planter box on our deck that is full of marigolds and petunias. They ignored the petunias and concentrated on the marigolds. One or two would land on marigolds, flit from flower to flower, and fly off. Then one or two more would come and land on marigolds.
This fritillary is a medium-sized butterfly ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 inches in width. It is generally orange in color, with the female being more of a tan color. It is easy to identify if you can see it holding still close up, and if you compare it to pictures on line or in books. There are two similar species: the Aphrodite Fritillary, the Atlantis Fritillary, and the Northwestern Fritillary.
This fritillary lays eggs on different kinds of violets. When the larva hatches, it feeds on the violet leaves. So, if you want this kind of butterfly around your home, let those violets grow!
By Martha Van Natta
Additional information: see Wikpedia - Great_spangled_fritillary