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From the Wild Side: Meadow Fritillary Butterfly

By: Chloe Deike Chloe Deike
Do you recognize this orange butterfly? Find out how to identify and attract meadow fritillary butterflies to your yard here.

Meadow fritillary butterfly Courtesy of Judy Gallagher, Jones Preserve, Washington, Virginia: Meadow fritillary butterflies are a nonmigratory species that are attracted to violets throughout the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and New England states plus southern Canada.

Meadow fritillary (Boloria bellona)

How to identify meadow fritillary

This butterfly’s bright orange wings are 1½ to 2 inches wide and have irregular black markings similar to leopard spots. Three rows of dots line the outer edge of the wing. The underside of the hindwing is more mottled brown and purple-gray. Caterpillars are dark purple-gray with rows of bristled spines.

Life cycle

Female meadow fritillaries lay single pale-yellow eggs on twigs and leaves near their host plants — violets, particularly the sweet violet (Viola sororia). The caterpillar emerges and feeds on violet flowers and leaves before forming a spiny brown chrysalis. Typically two generations occur in a year, one in late spring and the other in early fall. Caterpillars overwinter in debris before pupating and emerging in spring. These nonmigratory butterflies generally stay in the same area all year.

Habitat of meadow fritillary butterflies

You’ll find meadow fritillary throughout southern Canada, across Midwestern and mid-Atlantic states and in New England. Within this range, it prefers sunny meadows on the edge of forests and near wetlands or a water source. If you want to attract it to your garden, you’ll need to have a collection of violets nearby for the caterpillars to munch on.

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butterfly from the wild side march april 2023 issue 170 pollinator pollinator friendly

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