Friday Fellow: Gulf fritillary

by Piter Kehoma Boll

I decided that it is time for me to introduce my favorite butterfly here, Agraulis vanillae, commonly known as Gulf fritillary.

The Gulf fritillary is a butterly in the tribe Heliconini and is found in the Americas, from southern United States to northern Argentina. It is easily recognizable by a series of large silvery spots on the underside of the wings. The upper side is orange with black marks.

An adult of Agraulis vanillae. Photo by Piter K. Boll.

An adult of Agraulis vanillae on a head of Zinnia elegans. Photo by Piter K. Boll.*

This orange and black pattern serves as a warning for potential predators, especially birds, about the butterfly’s unpalatability. When disturbed, they produce a complex secretion from abdominal glands that has a strong odor.

As all Heliconini, the Gulf fritillary feeds on species of passionflower in the caterpillar (larval) stage. The adults feed on nectar of several flowers and have been demonstrated to learn to associate a specific color to a better food resource.

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Ross, G. N.; Fales, H. M.; Lloyd, H. A.; Jones, T.; Sokolski, E. A.; Marshall-Batty, K.; Blum, M. S. 2001. Novel chemistry of abdominal defensive glands of nymphalid butterfly Agraulis vanillaeJournal of Chemical Ecology27 (6): 1219-1228. DOI: 10.1023/A:1010372114144

Wikipedia. Gulf fritillary. Available at < >. Access on April 14, 2016.

Weiss, M. R. 1995. Associative colour learning in a nymphalid butterfly. Ecological Entomology20: 298-301.

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*Creative Commons License
This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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Filed under Entomology, Friday Fellow

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