Speyeria callippe
Callippe Fritillary

Family Description:
Note: This species is comprised of a number of subspecies, including callippe, nevadensis, meadii, semivirda, and others.


Caterpillar: The caterpillar is gray marked with black, with a black head. The body is covered with bristly spines, either orange or black in color.
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 medium-sized Fritillary, with a wingspan of 1 7/8 to 2 1/2 inches. Its appearance varies between regions. The upperside ranges from yellowish brown to orangish brown to reddish brown, and is edged with one or two 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 of which on the leading edge are nearly parallel; in between one or two pairs of the lines may be darker orange. There is also a row of black spots, followed by a row of black, inverted "v"-shaped marks along the outside edge. The wing veins are outlined thinly in black. The hindwing is similarly marked; the silver spots from the hindwing's underside may show through as pale patches or spots. Underneath, the forewing is yellow to yellowish orange, darker at the base, marked with black as above and with a row of silver spots or diamonds, tipped with brown or black, near the outer edge. One or two pairs of the short, wavy black lines along the leading edge have an orange patch in between the lines. The underside of the hindwing is golden brown to brown, possibly tinged with green. It is marked with large, oval-shaped silver spots, a curved band of yellow, followed by a curved row of silver triangles capped with brown or green, along the outside edge.

This is a western species, ranging from southern British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba, south to southern California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. In Idaho, it occurs throughout the southern half of the state and in a portion of the panhandle.

It is found in open, dry areas such as sagebrush steppe, chaparral, open woodlands, and prairies.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of several species of violets (Viola spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar, often from thistle (Cirsium 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 April through September. Fritillaries are long-lived for a butterfly, surviving several weeks to months.

Seeking receptive females, males perch and actively patrol on hilltops in mornings and hillsides in afternoons. 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 near host plants or under nearby shrubs. 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:

Varies with subspecies. S. callippe callippe of the San Francisco Bay area of California is ranked as T1, which means it is critically imperiled because of extreme rarity and is imminently vulnerable to extinction.

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.