VARIEGATED Fritillary & GULF FRITILLARY

Variegated Fritillaries are gorgeous butterflies. When seen in full sunlight, they remind me of stained glass. They are larger than Meadow Fritillaries, but smaller than Great Spangled Fritillaries.

This Variegated Fritillary was photographed along the Great Miami River in Miamisburg. Variegated Fritillaries are migrants to our area. Riverways are good places to look for migratory species, such as these gorgeous butterflies. 

Ventral view of a Variegated Fritillary. This species can be distinguished from Great Spangled and Gulf Fritillaries by the lack of white spots on the undersurface of the wings. Also, on the dorsal surface, note that a Variegated Fritillary has two light-colored ovals on either side of its head. 

Variegated Fritillaries prefer open, sunny, and grassy habitat such as meadows and prairies. Their numbers fluctuate from year to year. In a good year, I can find them by the dozens, especially along the Great Miami. In a down year, I might only see two or three individuals all season. 

This butterfly is a Gulf Fritillary. This species is common in the southern U.S., but a rare stray to Ohio. The female at left is my only sighting of this species in Ohio. I photographed her at Cox Arboretum on August 14, 2019. 

Gulf Fritillaries have large white spots on the ventral surface of their wings. This butterfly is the same individual as the one above. She was nectaring on zinnias in a garden at Cox Arboretum, and also ovipositing on several large passionflower vines. Passionflower is this species' host plant. A warming climate might bring more Gulf Fritillaries to Ohio in the years to come.