Speyeria idalia

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Female Regal Fritillary, Speyeria idalia.

Image: Dave Rintoul. [larger].

The photographer writes: I was out on the Konza yesterday and captured some more images that your readers might appreciate. This is a female Regal Fritillary, Speyeria idalia, a large and showy butterfly that is endemic to the tall-grass praire. As such, it is a "species of concern" on the USFWS lists. It is also a butterfly not commonly seen by many lepidopterists.

Besides being gorgeous, these critters are really interesting. The males emerge in late May/early June and spend their days waiting for the females to appear. They mate and the males die in mid-summer; in August and September you never see a male. The females hang around until September (this one is in great shape; usually they are a lot more ragged by this time of year). They lay many, many eggs randomly on various plants, even though the larval host plants are violets. The eggs hatch and the caterpillars spend the winter as first-instars, who may not even feed until the next spring (at which time they have to crawl around and hope they find a violet)! More information on this ridiculous life-style can be found here and here.

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Fritillaries are really beautiful, and such variety! Man, I've got to remember to send you some of my photos (butterflies and otherwise).

There's even a fritillary genome project (thanks to 454 sequencing and a professor with some spare money). Different species, though.