Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (Agraulis vanillae)

Type and Coloration

Categorized as a "longwing", the wings of the Gulf Fritillary are elongated.

It is bright orange above with black markings with three black-lined white spots near the leading edge of the fore wing. Their undersides feature whitish-silver spots outlined in black, against a brown background.

Identification and Comparison of the Male and Female Gulf Fritillary

Females are slightly browner, darker and more extensively marked than the male, and generally larger (see image below).

Identification and comparison of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly male and female


Characteristics of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Gulf Fritillaries have several broods in the spring and summer, and reach peak populations from August through November in the South and Texas. Individuals may live for several weeks; in warm weather up to 4-6 weeks. In cold weather they survive 2-3 months, but cannot survive below 21 degrees Fahrenheit.

The typical size of the adult Gulf Fritillary is 2.5" - 3.0".

The Gulf Fritillary is commonly found in open, sunny areas such as parks, woodland edges, roadsides, fields and urban gardens. It occurs throughout the southern United States, from Florida to California, and southward through Mexico.

Nectar and Host Plants Used by the Gulf Fritillary

Nectar plants used by the Gulf Fritillary include Lantana, Butterfly Bush, Zinnia, Aster, Thistle, Verbena, and others.

Its host plants are Passion Vine and Passion Flower.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Photos

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on a Pink Zinnia in East Texas - October 17, 2016
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on a Pink Zinnia in East Texas - October 17, 2016

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (wings open) on Zinnia
Gulf Frittilary Butterfly (wings open) on Zinnia - Tyler Texas

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (wings closed) on Zinnia
Gulf Frittilary Butterfly (wings closed) on Zinnia - Tyler Texas

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (wings open) on Zinnia
Gulf Frittilary Butterfly (wings open) on Zinnia - Tyler Texas

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on orange Zinnia
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on orange Zinnia


Gulf Fritillary Life Cycle: Stages and Timings

Stage Duration
Egg stage 4 to 8 days
Caterpillar (larval) stage 2 to 3 weeks
Chrysalis (pupal) stage 5 to 10 days
Adult butterfly stage 2 to 4 weeks

 

Passion Vine, a host plant for the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Passion Vine, a host plant for the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Blossom on native Texas Passion Vine, commonly called Maypop, a host plant for the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Blossom on native Texas Passion Vine, a host plant for the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

The fruit of a native Texas Passion Vine, commonly called Maypop
The fruit of a native Texas Passion Vine, commonly called Maypop


 

Female Gulf Fritillary Butterfly hanging upside down on Passion Vine laying eggs
Female Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Passion Vine laying eggs

Female Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Passion Vine laying eggs
Female Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Passion Vine laying eggs

Female Gulf Fritillary Butterfly with a fresly laid yellow egg
Female Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Passion Vine laying eggs

Close-up of a yellowish elongated, ribbed egg laid by the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on a Passion Vine stem
Close-up of a yellowish elongated, ribbed egg laid by the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on a Passion Vine stem


Often the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly will lay an egg on the tender, twisted tendrils of the Passion Vine

Often the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly will lay an egg on the tender, twisted tendril of the Passion Vine


An older, darker egg of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

An older, darker egg of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Newly hatched Gulf Fritillary caterpillar ... can you spot it on this Passion Vine leaf?
Newly hatched Gulf Fritillary caterpillar ... can you spot it on this Passion Vine leaf?

Newly hatched Gulf Fritillary caterpillar leaving its egg casing nearby ... on a Passion Vine leaf
Newly hatched Gulf Fritillary caterpillar with egg casing nearby ... on a Passion Vine leaf

Close-up view of this newly hatched Gulf Fritillary caterpillar
Close-up view of this newly hatched Gulf Fritillary caterpillar

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars dining on a young Passion Vine
(Note their size compared to top of a paper clip)

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars dining on a young Passion Vine

Growing Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on a Passion Vine
Growing Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on a Passion Vine


Gulf Fritillary caterpillar eating a Passion Vine flower bud
Gulf Fritillary caterpillar devouring a Passion Vine flower bud

 

Close-up view of a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar devouring a Passion Vine flower bud
Close-up view of a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar devouring a Passion Vine flower bud

A mature Gulf Fritillary caterpillar devouring a Passion Vine ... they look dangerous to potential predators, but do not sting despite their black branched spines!
Gulf Fritillary caterpillar eating Passion Vine

Gulf Fritillary caterpillar in the classic "J Position" preparing to enter its chrysalis
Gulf Fritillary caterpillar in the classic "J Position" preparing to enter its chrysalis

Can you spot the Gulf Fritillary chrysalis amid these Passion Vines?
Can you spot the Gulf Fritillary chrysalis amid these Passion Vines?


The tan, brown and cream colored Gulf Fritillary chrysalis often has a deep indentation. It looks like a dead leaf!
Gulf Fritillary butterfly chrysalis


The life cycle is complete! An adult Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on a Pink Zinnia - Fall, 2016

An adult Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on a Pink Zinnia - Fall, 2016

Shown below is a photograph of a Gulf Fritillary butterfly at Eisenhower Park in San Antonio, Texas, October 22, 2016.
Photos by and courtesy of Quinn Bergeon
Gulf Fritillary butterfly at Eisenhower Park, San Antonio, Texas