Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) (Cramer, 1775)

Diagnosis: The upperside is dull orange, darker at the wing bases with a complex pattern of black spots and lines. The forewing is pointed, and its outer margin is concave. The hindwing margin is angled outwards, and the underside is a mottled orange similar to the upperside, but paler, with no silver spots. Females can be considerably larger than males. Wingspan: 44 to 60 mm.

Range: The Variegated Fritillary is a very wide-ranging species from Argentina into Canada. In migratory years in the east it has occasionally reached as far north as St-Jean-Port-Joli in Quebec and Espanola in Ontario. It is a more common migrant in the west, reaching far north in the Prairie Provinces and there is even a record for McConnel River in Nunavut. It has also been recorded in the southeast corner of British Columbia.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: In the Mexican Fritillary (E. hegesia), the basal half of the hindwing upperside is clear orange, lacking any black markings. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is orange red with stripes of alternating black and white patches and six rows of black spines. It feeds on a wide variety of plants including violets and pansies (Viola spp.), flax (Linum spp.), stonecrop (Sedum spp.), plantains (Plantago spp.), and plants from at least six other families. The species overwinters as an adult, mainly in frost-free areas.

Abundance: A rare migratory stray in the east (except for the colony on Ile-d'Orléans, Quebec), it can be fairly common in the west in good migrant years, sometimes with successive generations.

Flight Season: On the Prairies it has been recorded from May to October; it is most common in July and August.

Habits: Specimens in the east and the first migrants in the west are worn, having arrived from farther south. They generally establish themselves along roadsides or the edges of cultivated fields, especially where flax grows. They are attracted to a variety of flowers.

Remarks: North of Hull, Quebec, in a boreal habitat, PWH sighted a pale orange butterfly that alighted on a muddy dirt road. On capture, it turned out to be a worn Variegated Fritillary. This was in 1981, the most noted year for migrating butterflies in the last twenty years.

A colony on Ile-d'Orléans near Quebec City has been under observation since 1988 and was still doing well in 1995. No adults were seen in 1996, and it was thought that perhaps the colony did not survive the very hard winter of 1995/6; however, several were observed in 1997.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.