Monday, October 8, 2012

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

September 2nd, 2012. It was the Labor Day (US) holiday weekend so we took the opportunity to make an overnight trip into the Chattahoochee National Forest. After making our way out of the Coopers Creek Wildlife Management Area, we drove up to Blue Ridge for the night. We retraced our way up the Noontootla River Valley through the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area as we had in mid-December 2011 but, instead of driving southwest, we drove north on Winding Stair Gap and Rock Creek Roads.

We caught our first glimpse of a Great Spangled Fritillary a couple of months ago in the Wilson Shoals Wildlife Management Area but didn’t manage to get a photograph. So we were on the lookout for them on this weekend. Great SpangledFritillaries are more widely distributed in the eastern United States than are the Diana Fritillaries and their range in Georgia extends further down into the state than does the Diana Fritillary. The Great Spangled Fritillary is another ‘big’ fritillary – about the same size as the female Diana Fritillary or a swallowtail. There are nine subpsecies of Speyeria cybele and the color patterns differ quite a lot. Speyeria cybele subsp. cybele is the subspecies that occurs in Georgia.
We were rewarded with our first sighting of a Great Spangled Fritillary as we were driving along Winding Stair Road. The butterfly was…

Feeding on a very tall thistle in the shade. This photograph was taken with zoom and flash. The butterfly has reflective, metallic spots, similar to the Gulf Fritillary, on the underside of the wing that appear grey due to the angle at which the light hit the spots.

We found a second fritillary ‘sharing’ the thistle flowers with the Diana Fritillary near the fish hatchery on Rock Creek Road. Thistle flowers are a magnet for butterflies at this time of year.

It was hectic on the thistles - competing with the Diana Fritillaries - and this fritillary was taking a ‘time out’ on a nearby tree before returning to the thistles…

Right side up, and …

head down, and then…

A couple of nice poses for the camera.

Back to the business of eating.

It was great to finally get a good look and some photographs of this butterfly.
Click on an image to view a closer image

Identification resources:
Butterflies and Moths of North America: Speyeria cybele (Great Spangled Fritillary)
BugGuide: Speyeria cybele (Speyeria cybele) [Dorsal] [Ventral] 

Butterflies and Moths of North America: Speyeria cybele (Great Spangled Fritillary)
United States Geological Survey, Butterflies of North America: Speyeria cybele (Great Spangled Fritillary)

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