Speyeria cybele ...

Speyeria cybele ...

Speyeria cybele, commonly known as the great spangled fritillary, is a fairly common North American butterfly that can be found just about everywhere in the contiguous U.S. except for the southwest. They can be found in fields, valleys, pastures, and open woodland, but they're most common in habitats with plenty of moisture. The adults feed on the nectar from a variety of flowers, including milkweeds, thistles, mountain laurel, and others.

Interestingly, their life cycle is quite similar to the related and much rarer Diana fritillary (Speyeria diana) that I posted a few weeks back. Both species live in similar habitats and the caterpillars of both species feed on native violet plants, yet one is found throughout much of the country while the other is limited to the Ozarks and the southern Appalachians.

This is not the easiest butterfly to identify because there are several related species that look remarkably similar (to my eyes, anyway!), including the Aphrodite fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite), the Atlantis fritillary (S. atlantis) and the northwestern fritillary (S. hesperis). There are also nine subspecies of the great spangled fritillary! Thankfully, I can always pester VMNH Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Dr. Kal Ivanov to confirm my insect IDs. Thanks Dr. Ivanov! #BenInNature

Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. While he is working from home, Administrator of Science Ben Williams is venturing outdoors each day to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world.

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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