Speyeria aphrodite
Aphrodite Fritillary

Family Description:

Caterpillar: The caterpillar is dark brown and covered with spines. Most of the spines are yellowish brown except for those on the rear portion along the back, which are dark brown. All are black at the tips.
Adult: The Fritillaries as a group are very similar in appearance, and the differences between individual species are often minor and difficult to see. Positive identification to the species level is difficult and requires detailed examination. This is a large butterfly, with a wingspan of 2 to 3 1/4 inches. Its appearance varies between regions. The upperside is bright orange to orangish brown, and is outlined with either a thick black line or two thin black lines. The bases of the wings may appear clouded with brown or blackish brown. The forewing is marked with short, wavy black lines, three or four of which are nearly parallel on the leading edge. There is also a row of black spots, followed by a row of black, inverted "v"-shaped marks along the outside edge. The hindwing is similarly marked. The Aphrodite Fritillary has an extra spot at the base of the forewing near the trailing edge, and the wing veins are not thickly outlined with black as in most other Fritillaries. Underneath, the forewing is orange and marked with black as above. Additionally, it is marked with two silverish spots near the tip and a row of silverish triangles, tipped with brown or black, near the edge. The underside of the hindwing is reddish to light brown and has a narrow or faint yellow band near the outer edge; it is spotted with silver or whitish spots on either side of the yellow.

It ranges in Canada from southern British Columbia and central Alberta east to Nova Scotia. In the U.S., it ranges from northern Idaho and eastern Utah east to the Atlantic, extending south in the Appalachians to northern Georgia. It also occurs in patches of the southwest.

This species is found in a variety of habitats, including brushlands, open woodlands, mountain meadows, and prairies.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of various violet species (Viola spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar, often from milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), thistles (Cirsium spp.), and dogbane (Apocynum spp.).

There is one new generation of caterpillars each year. Eggs hatch in the fall; the newly emerged caterpillars, having not yet fed, enter a physiological state called diapause to overwinter. In the spring the young caterpillars feed on the new leaves of host plants. Adults generally fly from the end of May through October. Fritillaries are long-lived for a butterfly, surviving several weeks to months.

Males actively patrol in search of receptive females. pheromones, chemicals used to locate and attract the opposite sex, are produced by both male and female Fritillaries. These chemicals are believed to play an important role in assisting these butterflies to find and recognize other members of their own species. Eggs are laid singly under violet plants in the late summer to early fall. In cases where the violet plant has already withered and blown away, females are still able to lay their eggs near to where the host plant will reappear the next spring. This is possible, it is believed, because females are able to locate violet roots by smell!

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank:

G5; populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ferris, C.D. and F.M. Brown (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/bflyusa.htm (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.   Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.