Regal Fritillary

Family: 
Nymphalidae (brushfooted butterflies)
Description: 

A large butterfly with reddish-orange forewings. The hindwings are blackish-gray with silvery-white spots. There are other species of fritillaries in the state. As with all brush-footed butterflies, the first pair of legs are shortened, somewhat hairy-looking, and useless for walking. Larvae are velvety black to yellowish or deep orange, with orange or reddish stripes, and with yellowish-white, branching spines with black tips.

Size: 
Wingspan: 3–4 inches; larvae can grow up to 1¾ inches long.
Habitat and conservation: 
Found most often in prairie localities. Locally common in prairie meadows in western Missouri, and less common in northeastern Missouri. Practically absent from the eastern Ozarks and Mississippi Lowlands. Populations are declining because their prairie habitat is disappearing.
Foods: 
Larvae eat violets (plants in the genus Viola). Adults are attracted to flowers, especially those of butterfly weed, common milkweed, pale purple coneflower, thistles and clover.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Formerly nearly statewide. Now confined to our few remaining tallgrass prairie remnants.
Status: 
Native resident species found most often in prairie localities. Vulnerable to extirpation and is on the Missouri Department of Conversation’s Watch List. Populations are declining in North America and in Missouri. Destruction of high-quality tallgrass prairies is the main reason for the decline.
Life cycle: 
Single-brooded. Eggs hatch in late summer or fall, and the early-stage caterpillars overwinter in leaf litter. In spring, the caterpillars feed on the leaves of violets, grow and enter the chrysalis stage in late spring. Adult males emerge in early summer, shortly before the females. Though they mate at that time, the female does not lay eggs until early fall. The unusual timing of egg-laying, hatching and metamorphosis perfectly fits the cycle of violets, which are only abundant in springtime.
Human connections: 
The regal fritillary is a unique and disappearing part of our native heritage. If you own grassland, manage it so that many kinds of prairie wildlife can benefit, and use pesticides sparingly. Finally, don’t let collectors capture them.
Ecosystem connections: 
The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for predators.