The Gulf Fritillary is a brightly colored butterfly common across the extreme southern portions of the United States. It is found in all 67 counties in Florida and is a regular inmost butterfly gardens, including those in urban settings. This butterfly does migrate throughout the Southeastern United States with adults moving to the northern limits in the spring and migrating back south throughout the state of Florida in late summer and fall.

The adults lay eggs on or near the passionflower vine, which is its host plant. Varieties of Passionflower suitable for the Fritillary include the Purple Passionflower, Corky stem Passion Flower and Yellow Passion Flower. The Larvae are bright orange caterpillars with black branched spines. They feed on all parts of the passion flower vine, quickly defoliating the entire vine.

Gulf Fritillaries are possibly the most common butterfly on the islands during our winter season. This photo shows the Gulf Fritillary visiting a plant that many of us consider a weed, Bidens Alba, otherwise known as Spanish Needles, that grows all along the islands and is very beneficial for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Keep your eyes out for this bright, constantly moving butterfly as it travels from plant to plant for nectar in your garden or amongst the abundant native plants throughout Sanibel and Captiva.