Gulf Fritillary

One of my favorite species of butterfly is the beautiful Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) with its cheerful, almost clown-like colors.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

The brown and orange ventral wing surfaces are covered in iridescent silvery white patches. The dorsal wing surfaces are orange and are lined and edged in black.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

There are three, black-edged white spots on each dorsal forewing and a row of black-edged orange spots on the edges of the dorsal hindwings.

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars feed on Passionflower vines (Passiflora spp.), both on our native Mexican Passionflowers (Passiflora mexicana) here in Tucson and on the cultivated species of Passionflower as well. If you find caterpillars on your Passionflower plants, they are quite likely the larvae of a beautiful Gulf Fritillary.

The best way to see these lovely butterflies is to cultivate one of their host plants. Local nurseries carry a number of attractive Passionflower varieties that do quite well here and that can generally withstand some munching by Gulf Fritillary caterpillars.