Better with Butterflies: The Gulf Fritillary

Welcome back to our monthly butterflies blog!

Did you know that Florida is home to more than 150 species of butterflies? Another 200 species migrate through our state every year. There are in fact more species of butterflies than any other kind of insect except beetles.

Too Cold for Butterflies?

Butterflies are cold blooded and need morning sun to dry the dew off their wings and warm them up before they can fly. On days below 60 degrees you may not even see any butterflies even though they are around, because they cannot take to the wing at low temps.

It is therefore a good idea to put some large rocks in the part of your butterfly garden that gets the morning sun. And don’t forget to provide a windbreak such as some large plantings or a solid fence on the side of the prevailing winds.

The Gulf Fritillary

Gold Fritillary Larvae. UF/IFAS Photo by Dr. Jaret Daniels

The word fritillary is from the Latin for ‘checkerboard’ and with some imagination you can see such a pattern on their wings.

These deep orange, black streaked butterflies can be differentiated from the more famous monarchs by silvery spots on the underside of their wings, black rims and 3 small white spots on their forewings. They are 2.5-3.2” wide, with the female much larger than the male and darker striped. The caterpillars are also orange with small black spines.

Adult Gulf fritillary butterfly.

They migrate to our area from South Florida in the spring, spend their summers with us and fly back in fall to overwinter in frost free areas. So come spring, keep your eyes open and you may well see some of these beauties.

They prefer open habitats such as grasslands and parks. They like to feed on bee balm, butterfly bush and salvias and asters but they lay their eggs exclusively on passion vines.


Next month: Giant Swallow Tails; how giant are they and do they actually have tails?

For additional information please visit:

Blog post by Carin Ashman. UF/IFAS Extension Clay County Master Gardener Volunteer.


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Posted: January 31, 2022

Tags: Butterfly, Florida-Friendly, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Garden, Gardening, Landscape, Landscaping, Master Gardener Volunteer, Native, Pollinator

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