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Aphrodite Fritillary
Speyeria aphrodite (Fabricius, 1787)

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Diagnosis: Like the other greater fritillaries, this species is bright orange above with many black dots and lines. Although generally smaller than the Great Spangled Fritillary, it is larger than most of the others (wingspan: 51 to 73 mm). It is best distinguished by a combination of characteristics: the forewing upperside margins are not solid black as in many of the fritillaries; the forewing veins lack black sex scales; there is a large black dot at the base of the forewing (small in some specimens); the submarginal pale band on the hindwing underside is quite narrow, with the dark reddish-orange shading on the basal two-thirds of the wing diffusing into it.

Subspecies: There are eight named subspecies, six of which are found in Canada and represent an east-to-west cline of variation. The different subspecies are distinguished by size and the brightness of colour. The subspecies in Canada are subspecies winni in most of eastern Canada; subspecies aphrodite in southern Quebec and Ontario; subspecies alcestis in the Great Lakes region; subspecies manitoba on the Prairies; subspecies whitehousei in the Kootenay Valley of British Columbia; and subspecies columbia in the northern interior of British Columbia.

Range: The Aphrodite Fritillary has almost the same Canadian distribution as the Great Spangled Fritillary and often flies together with that species. It is widespread from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, to central British Columbia, north to Moosonee in Ontario and the Peace River district in Alberta.

Similar Species: The Aphrodite Fritillary is most frequently confused with the Atlantis and Northwestern Fritillaries, but usually can be distinguished by the combination of characteristics noted in the diagnosis, especially the paler outer margins of the forewing and the colour of the hindwing underside. In Aphrodite, at least one of the dark spots on the inner margin of the pale submarginal band has the appearance of a "bull's-eye" or "halo"; the only other species which may have such a spot is cybele, which is easily identified by the wider pale submarginal band. In males of most similar species the forewing veins have black sex scales that give them a swollen appearance, most easily seen on the two lower veins of the forewing that lie parallel to the lower margin of the wing; these veins have a slightly thicker area near the middle of the wing in other Speyeria. See also Speyeria zerene and Speyeria hesperis. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is dark brown, orange on the sides, with black stripes.

Abundance: This species is generally common in most of its range; it can be locally abundant.

Flight Season: Throughout its Canadian distribution, this butterfly flies in the months of July and August.

Habits: Like the Great Spangled Fritillary, the Aphrodite Fritillary has a wide tolerance of different habitats. It is usually found in open meadows and tolerates drier prairie habitats. It regularly visits flowers.

Remarks: Females of this butterfly have been observed laying eggs in areas where the violets have long since dried up and disappeared from view. The females may be able to detect the smell of the dried-up violets (Pyle, 1981).

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.

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