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Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats

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Home  >>  Butterflies  >>  Brushfoot Butterflies  >>  Heliconians and Fritillaries

Heliconians and Fritillaries (subfamily Heliconiinae, family Nymphalidae)

These butterflies are literally over the place.  Members of the Heliconius genus are generally only found in the tropics, although, probably thanks to the Butterfly House of Durham's Museum of Life and Science, we see Zebra Heliconians (formerly known as Zebra Longwings) around Durham.  Although they can't survive Durham's frequent hard freezes, they are a part of the outdoor scenery around here, so you'll see one on this page.

Fritillaries are another matter.  The "true" fritillaries, genus Speyeria, are at home in colder climates.  It's unusual to see the Aphrodite Fritillary farther south than the North Carolina mountains.  The southern Variegated Fritillary and subtropical Gulf Fritillary are not in Speyeria:   They used to be classified as "longwings" under the old English name conventions, as was the Zebra Heliconian (once known as the Zebra Longwing).   But now they're not considered to be in the same group after all.  None of these former "longwings" are related especially directly to the Ocola Skippers, which used to be known as the "longwing skippers."  Are you still with me?

"True" Fritillaries (genus Speyeria), also known as the "Greater" Fritillaries

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), Eno River State Park, Orange County, NC, 8/27/10 Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, Wake County, NC, 6/6/02.  Great Spangled Fritillary, Duke Gardens, Durham, NC, 9/11/06 Same Great Spangled Fritillary, Duke Gardens, Durham, NC, 9/11/06 Great Spangled Fritillary,  Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, Orange County, NC, 5/20/06 Great Spangled Fritillary, ventral view of butterfly on left.


Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite), Siler's Bald, Appalachian Trail, Macon County, NC, 8/18/04.  This butterfly made its appearance at an elevation of about 5000 feet (give or take 100 feet) Aphrodite Fritillary, Boone, Watauga County, 8/31/05.

Meadow Fritillary (Beloria bellona)

One of the smallest fritillary species.

Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona), Moses Cone Memorial Park, Watauga County, NC, 8/8/06.  Meadow Fritillary, Boone Gardens, Watauga County, NC, 6/28/14  

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritillaries are subtropical butterflies, which only very occasionally go as far north as Durham, NC.  But they are very common on the Gulf Coast.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), Fort Macon State Park, Carteret County, NC, 10/18/11 Gulf Fritillary, Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, Hancock County, 10/15/10 Gulf Fritillary (on an oak tree), Carolina Beach State Park, New Hanover County, NC, 9/28/10 Gulf Fritillary on a Firewheel flower at Ft. Fisher State Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC, 12/3/12.  Most of the Firewheels were on the beach side of Battle Acre "tour stop."    


Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

There are apparently some slight regional differences in the appearance of this butterfly.

Variegated Fritillary, Flat River Impoundment, Durham, NC, 10/27/11 Variegated Fritillary, Durham, NC, 10/3/02.  Very narrow forewings. Variegated Fritillary, Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, Wake County, NC, 11/5/03. Variegated Fritillary, Tyrrell County, near Albemarle Sound, NC, 9/24/04.  At the other extreme, very wide wings. Variegated Fritillary, Duke Gardens, Durham, 7/24/05.


Raulston Arboretum, Wake County, NC, 9/23/05 Duke Forest, Gate 12, Durham, NC, 9/29/05 Variegated Fritillary, Duke Gardens, Durham County, NC, 3/9/06.  This was an unusually small, pale VF, and its left forewing seems damaged.


Variegated Fritillary, Durham, NC, 5/16/11 Variegated Fritillary.  Ventral view, Raulston Arboretum, Wake County, 9/23/05 Variegated Fritillary, Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC, 6/9/06 Variegated Fritillary,  Eno River State Park, Durham County, NC, 4/28/06

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

Zebra Heliconian. Across the street from the East Campus of Duke University, Durham, NC, 10/4/04.  This Zebra probably escaped from a hothouse environment, i.e., the Butterfly House at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. Zebra Heliconian, Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, Carteret County, NC, 7/22/08 There were many of these (at least ten), mostly flying wildly around. Zebra Heliconian, Hoop Pole Creek Trail, Atlantic Beach, Carteret County, NC, 7/23/08.  There were at least 20 near the trail entrance at around noon that day, all in frantic motion.  See the Butterfly Index.  

© Copyright 2005 Dorothy E. Pugh