great spangled fritillary

(Speyeria cybele)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

great spangled fritillary


N5 - Secure

S5 - Secure


not listed


Common and widespread


One brood; mid June to early September


Open woodlands, prairies, meadows, roadsides; prefers moist areas


2½ to 3½ wingspan

Photo by Tom Baker


This is a large, long-lived, fritillary butterfly. The wingspan is 2½ to 3½.

The upperside of both wings are orange, orangish-brown toward the center, with black stripes, spots, and chevrons. On the outer margin there is a band (marginal band) of spots that have dark borders and are separated by heavy, dark veins. On most individuals all of the spots in this band on the forewing are orange and distinct, even at the wing tip. On some individuals the spots on the forewing band are brown or brownish tinged, especially toward the wing tip. The spots on the hindwing band are always orange, never black. There is a submarginal band of chevron-shaped black spots, a postmedial band of round black spots, and a medial band with black stripes. The wing veins of the middle portion of the forewing are bordered with black scales, making them appear thick.

The underside of the forewing is mostly orange, orangish-brown toward the center, with an orangish-brown marginal band, black markings mirroring those on the upperside, and a few small white spots near the tip.

The underside of the hindwing is reddish-brown, with a reddish-brown marginal band, a submarginal row of 7 silvery spots, a postmedial row of 6 large and 1 small silvery spots, and several silvery spots in the discal area. The two rows of spots are separated by a wide yellowish band. The yellowish band partially surrounds all of the postmedial spots.

The eyes are brownish-orange.

Females are larger and darker than males.

The caterpillar is mostly black and up to 2¼ long. The head is orange above, black below. Each abdominal segment has 5 branched, spike-like projections (scoli), one on the upper (dorsal) surface, and on each side one in the subdorsal area and one in the spiracular area. The lower half of all of the scoli are orange or tan. Mature caterpillars are found in May and June.


Aphrodite fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite) is a slightly smaller butterfly, with a wingspan no more than 3¼. On most individuals all of the spots in marginal band of the upperside of the forewing, especially toward the wing tip, are black and indistinct, giving the appearance of a broad black border. The wing veins of the middle portion of the forewing are thin. There is an “extra” black spot at the base of the forewing. On the underside of the forewing the white spots at the tip are larger. The yellowish band separating the rows of silvery spots on the underside of the hindwing, if present, is narrow and does not surround any part of the large postmedial spots. The eyes are yellowish-green.

Atlantis fritillary (Speyeria atlantis) is a smaller butterfly. The outer band of the upper hindwing is mostly black.

Larval Food

Violet leaves

Adult Food

Nectar of violets, thistles, and other large flowers.

Life Cycle

Males emerge in mid-June or July, 2 to 4 weeks before the females. Mating occurs in open areas in July. Females lay eggs on or near violets in late summer. Males die in October, females in October or early September. The eggs hatch in the fall. The newly hatched caterpillars overwinter, not feeding until the spring.



Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 7, 20, 21, 29, 71.





Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)











No Rank:



No Rank:




Papilionoidea (butterflies [excluding skippers])



Nymphalidae (brush-foots)



Heliconiinae (longwings, fritillaries and silverspots)







Subordinate Taxa

Carpenter’s fritillary (Speyeria cybele carpenterii)

Charlotte’s spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele charlottii)

Chermock’s fritillary (Speyeria cybele pseudocarpenteri)

great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele cybele)

great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele eileenae)

great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele novascotiae)

Krautwurm’s fritillary (Speyeria cybele krautwurmi)

Leto fritillary (Speyeria cybele leto)

Letona fritillary (Speyeria cybele letona)

Puget Sound fritillary (Speyeria cybele pugetensis)




great spangled fritillary









A spiny, branched projection from a larval body wall, the branches terminating with a single stiff, hair-like or bristle-like tip.



A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.
























Visitor Photos

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Tom Baker

  great spangled fritillary   great spangled fritillary
  great spangled fritillary   great spangled fritillary



Krautwurm’s fritillary (Speyeria cybele krautwurmi), Scenic State Park

  great spangled fritillary    

Subspecies undetermined

  great spangled fritillary   great spangled fritillary
  great spangled fritillary   great spangled fritillary
  great spangled fritillary   great spangled fritillary
  great spangled fritillary   great spangled fritillary
  great spangled fritillary   great spangled fritillary





  Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly  

Speyeria cybele

for info:*Vermont

  Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele cybele)
Bill Keim
  Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele cybele)  
  Speyeria cybele (Great Spangled Fritillary)
Allen Chartier
  Speyeria cybele (Great Spangled Fritillary)  
  Great Spangled Fritillary
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
  Great Spangled Fritillary  
  Great Spangled Fritillary
  Great Spangled Fritillary  




Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

  Great Spangled Fritillary August 31, 2013
Don Gagnon

Published on Sep 2, 2013

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) Nectaring Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum), Sherborn Power Line, near Fessenden Field, Western Avenue, Sherborn, Massachusetts, Saturday morning, August 31, 2013, 11:03 AM / 11:44 AM - Canon PowerShot SX50 HS MVI_44363 / MVI_44386; 37 min.

  Great Spangled Fritillary nectaring

Uploaded on Aug 1, 2011

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) , 7/15/11, Maryland

  Life Dances on the Smith River
Lynn Pritchett

Uploaded on Aug 23, 2009

Along the banks of the Smith River, the nectar of sweet Joe-Pye-weed (Eupatorium purpureum) attracts and feeds a great spangled fritillary butterfly (Nymphalidae: Speyeria cybele cybele) Timothy Seaman performs "Samhradh, Samhradh (Trad.)", playing both hammer dulcimer and flute in this haunting melody from his album, "Wayfaring Stranger". This link to his website can help you to listen to more of his compositions.

  Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly feeding on purple coneflowers

Uploaded on Jul 7, 2011 A Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly feeding on purple coneflowers (Echinacea) in slow motion video

  Nectaring Great Spangled Fritillaries - Clermont County, Ohio, USA

Uploaded on Jun 9, 2010

Great Spangled Fritillaries nectaring on Common Milkweed in Clermont County, Ohio, USA. June 4, 2010.




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