Great spangled fritillaries are relatively large butterflies with a wingspan of 5.85 to 10.1 cm and a length of 9.1 to 9.9 cm. The sexes are colored differently. The females are paler with a dark blackish color on the rear half of their wings. This pattern is not seen as distincly in males. Both males and females have a pale orange color on the outside of their wings. Both sexes also have a pale orange underside with black spots on the forewings and broad, tan bands on the hindwings.
Great spangled fritillaries live in the temperate forests of Northern America. Their range includes almost all of Canada and the United States north of Georgia. (Carter, 1992)
Great spangled fritillaries live mostly in temperate climates but can be found in extremes from the arctic to the subtropical. They can be found in both open woodlands and prairies, preferring to be in moist climates. (Carter, 1992; Struttmann, 2004)
After hatching from their eggs, Speyeria cybele caterpillars overwinter and do not become active until the spring. Unlike most butterfly larvae, which molt five times, great spangled fritillary caterpillars molt six times, becoming bigger each time they molt until it they reach the final larval stage. (Carter, 1992; Scott, 1986; Struttmann, 2004)
During mating, males seek out females. A male will perch near a female and open and close his wings. This releases a "strong and spicy" scent from the male's scent scales that can attract females. Males are attracted to females based on their size, color, and how fast they flap their wings. Females have special scent receptors that help them identify the appropriate plants upon which to lay their eggs. The females lay their pale yellow eggs singly near food sources during their migration. These may be laid in late June and July, but the majority are laid in August or September. (Ahmad, 1983; Klots, 1951; Waldbauer, 1996)
After laying eggs, butterflies exhibit no parental care.
These caterpillars, after hatching from their eggs, overwinter and do not become active until the spring. They hide under leaves during the day and eat at night.
Unlike the larvae, the adults are diurnal and stay close to food sources during the day. The brood of great spangled fritillaries migrate once from mid-June to mid-September and are most active during July and August. It is on this flight that the females lay their eggs. (Carter, 1992; Scott, 1986; Struttmann, 2004)
Males use pheromones to attract females. Visual cues are also used in mate recognition. Females use chemical cues to find a suitable host plant on which to lay eggs. (Ahmad, 1983; Klots, 1951; Waldbauer, 1996)
As mature butterflies, great spangled fritillaries, due to their large size, prefer large flowers including violets and thistles.
Similar to many other butterflies, great spangled fritillaries have chemoreceptors on the bottom surfaces of their four walking legs. These allow butterflies to find nectar with their feet. In females, these receptors are adapted to assist in reproduction.
Speyeria cybele pollinates different types of plants.
Great spangled fritillaries do not have a negative effect on humans.
As most butterflies do, great spangled fritillaries, while feeding on nectar, pollinate the flowers they visit. This promotes diversity by making self-fertilization less likely. This benefits humans in that it keeps these species of flowers viable and alive.
Great spangled fritillaries have an extremely large range. Some of the temperate forests and rainforests within its range are threatened, but that has not had an effect on their numbers.
Great spangled fritillaries are the most common fritillaries in the Eastern United States. (Struttmann, 2004)
Matthew Wund (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Ellen Gass (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
union of egg and spermatozoan
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
animals that have little or no ability to regulate their body temperature, body temperatures fluctuate with the temperature of their environment, often referred to as 'cold-blooded'.
the state that some animals enter during winter in which bodily functions slow down, reducing their energy requirements so that they can live through a season with little food.
fertilization takes place within the female's body
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers
active during the night
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
uses sight to communicate
Ahmad, S. 1983. Herbivorous Insects. New York City, New York: Academic Press.
Carter, D. 1992. Butterflies and Moths. New York City, New York: Dorling Kindersley, Inc..
Klots, A. 1951. A Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Great Plains. Boston, Massachusets: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Struttmann, J. 2004. "Butterflies of North America/Butterflies of Nebraska" (On-line). Accessed 12/22/04 at http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/ne/74.htm.
Waldbauer, G. 1996. Insects through the Seasons. London, England: Harvard University Press.