Deciphering Butterflies: Fritillaries
Fritillaries are medium- to large-sized butterflies, mostly orange, black and silver colored. Of the nine fritillary species found in the state, five can be found somewhat consistently, but only two are found “statewide”. Much of the state need concern itself with Regal and Great Spangled Fritillaries only. Dorsal and ventral views of these butterflies are often needed when attempting to make an ID.
General Appearance – Large, dark butterfly
Range – Statewide, preferring wet meadows and prairies
Status – Locally common.
Dorsal Hindwing – Dark blue with two rows of spots, the outer cream colored in females, orange in males
Ventral Hindwing – largely unicolored with silver maculation, lacking a submarginal band.
Similar Species – None
Regal Fritillary species page
General Appearance – Medium/large sized fritillary (2.5 – 3.75 inches), brightly colored dorsally, radiant orange in males, Females are less bright and more darkly marked. Eyes are brown.
Range – Two rather distinct populations, the western concentrated in the panhandle and the eastern concentrated in the eastern 1/4 of the state.
Status – the western subspecies is common while the eastern has not been found in over 40 years.
Dorsal Forewing – male forewing with reduced black scales on veins toward the back of the forewing.
Dorsal Hindwing – little or no black on hindwing veins.
Ventral Hindwing – silver-spotted slightly elongated. marginal spots triangular, capped with brown or reddish brown, submarginal band yellowish brown, narrow or missing
Similar species – Great Spangled and Coronis Fritillaries
Aphrodite Fritillary species page
General appearance – Large pale yellow butterfly (2 1/2 – 3 3/8 inches) Eyes are grey-blue.
Range – Northwestern 1/3 of the state.
Status – Common/abundant in the panhandle, with numbers diminishing eastward.
Dorsal Forewing Bright elongated forewing with bold black border.
Ventral Hindwing The disc is gray to gray green with elongated silver spots capped with “green”. Submarginal band buff, narrow or lacking.
Similar Species – Callippe and Coronis Fritillaries
Edwards’ Fritillary species page
General Appearance – A smaller fritillary (2 – 2.8 inches), dark in appearance – smaller and darker than Aphrodite.
Range – Sioux County.
Status – Found only one time in 1901.
Dorsal – Orange-brown, often darker at base, with black outer margins especially on forewing; male has black scales on veins which are slightly thickened. Females have paler margins above. Ventral Hindwing – with basal disk or light brown orange-brown with pale narrow submarginal band; spots un-silvered to partly silvered. Marginal spots triangular and capped with reddish brown
Similar Species – Aphrodite Fritillary
Northwestern Fritillary species page
General Appearance – Large golden butterfly. Eyes brown.
Range – Absent from the southwest, otherwise statewide.
Status – Common around prairie/woodland margins.
Dorsal Forewing – Black scales on veins in males.
Ventral Hindwing – The discal region is red-brown with large silver spots, with wide blonde submarginal band, marginal spots triangular.
Similar Species – Aphrodite Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary species page
General Appearance – Medium sized fritillary (2 – 2.8 inches) not overly bright dorsally (as aphrodite) or ventrally. Zerene is slightly smaller and checkered in appearance.
Range – Restricted to the panhandle area.
Status – Found in varying numbers nearly every year.
Dorsal Forewing light orange, lacking the black border of edwardsii.
Ventral Hindwing – Brown or greeninsh brown in males, reddish brown in females, lacking the greenish cast of Callippe. Marginal spots rounded and capped with brown or greenish brown, protruding into light brown/buff submarginal band (triangular in Aphrodite). Other silver spots are large and elongated.
Similar Species – Edwards, Aphrodite, Zerene and Callippe Fritillaries
Coronis Fritillary species page
General Appearance – Medium sized fritillary (2 – 2 1/2 inches). Has a faded appearance, generally not as brightly colored as Edwards Fritillary.
Range – Western-most panhandle counties.
Status – Rare, 20 years often pass between sightings.
Dorsal Forewing – tawny with dark, evenly-spaced markings, border not black.
Ventral Hindwing pale green with triangular silver submarginal spots with narrow brown edging; other spots large and usually palely silvered.
Similar Species – Edwards’ Fritillary
Callippe Fritillary species page
General Appearance – This fritillary is smaller (1 1/2 – 2 3/8 inches) and has more rounded wings than the Coronis Fritillary.
Range – Dawes, Sioux and Scotts Bluff Counties.
Status – Rare, the Mormon Fritillary has been found four times in the last 120 years, most recently in 1985.
Dorsal – Tawny to orange-brown; male with no black scales on veins, black marks are clear and distinct.
Ventral Hindwing –Underside of hindwing orange-brown; base sometimes slightly darker or greenish giving it a light appearance. Spots smallish, usually silvered. Marginal spots triangular, slightly capped. Submarginal band is pale orange-brown.
Similar Species – Coronis Fritillary.
Mormon Fritillary species page