New Jersey Butterflies

Great Spangled Fritillary

Speyeria cybele

Identification: Medium—3.0" (smaller than Monarch). Above: FW bright orange with a row of black spots and numerous irregular black bands; HW with concentric rows of black markings, giving an overall more spotted appearance than Monarch (also lacks Monarch’s black borders on both wings). Below: FW bright orange and brown, with pale spots toward tip and irregular black bands; HW brownish-orange with small, basal silvery spots and two bands of large, shiny, silvery spots separated by a wide, cream-colored band. (This wide band—and lack of an inner FW spot above—separate Great Spangled from the very similar—and quite rare—Aphrodite Fritillary, which has a narrow band on the HW below and an isolated spot on the inner FW above.) Females, which emerge later, are usually larger and darker than males.

NJ Status and Distribution: Resident. Fairly common and widespread south to Middlesex and Mercer counties. Uncommon to rare in southern counties. Numbers have declined considerably since about 2015.

NJ Range Map-Great Spangled Fritillary

Habitat: Open, sunny uplands and wetlands with wildflowers such as milkweeds, Wild Bergamot, and New York Ironweed. Easily attracted to sunny gardens with a variety of nectar plants.

Flight Period: Early June to mid-October (most mid-June through August). Extreme dates: North Jersey 5/26—10/20; South Jersey 6/7—10/28.

Caterpillar Food Plants: Violets (Viola spp.). Female lays eggs near, but not on, violets in late summer. If you maintain patches of native violets on your property and leave the leaf litter and wood chips as shelter for the caterpillars, chances are that you will raise the next generation of Great Spangled Fritillaries.

Overwintering Stage: First-instar caterpillar.

Good Locations: Delaware Water Gap NRA, Kittatinny Valley SP, Whittingham WMA, White Lake NRA, Schooley’s Mountain CP, Willowwood Arboretum, Bamboo Brook, Kay Environmental Center, Great Swamp NWR.

Comments: One of our most attractive butterflies that fortunately is fairly common and easily approached. A real beauty, especially when fresh. If you do not get excited seeing this species, then forget about butterflying as a hobby.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary, Somerset Co., NJ, 6/6/06, on Common Milkweed.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Flatbrookville, Sussex Co., NJ, 7/1/09, on Blunt-leaved Milkweed.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Kay Environmental Ctr., Morris Co., NJ, 7/3/06, on Orange Milkweed.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Female & Male, Sparta Twp., Sussex Co., NJ, 7/9/05.

Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillar

Late instar of Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillar with host plant (violet).