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Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae

Q: Most of the butterflies have gone but I still see one that is rust colored. What is it?

A:The butterfly you have been seeing is probably the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. The upper side of the wings is bright orange with black markings.The forewings have 3 black-encircled white dots along the leading edge.The underside is brown with silvery, white spots.The larvae or caterpillars feed on varieties ofpassion-vine including maypops (Passiflora incarnata) and running pop (P. foetida). Hundreds of larvae have totally consumed the passion vines in the Nassau County Extension demonstration garden, which was one of the reasons we planted it.We need not worry about all the leaves of the passion vine being eaten or the plant being destroyed, it will reappear next spring.The larvae are red with black spines, which makes them appear menacing but they do not sting.Adult gulf fritillaries feed on nectar from such plants as lantana, shepherd’s needle, cordias, and composite flowers. Gulf Fritillary habitat is generally pastures, open fields, the edge of forests and, of course, city gardens