This butterfly landed on my son’s neck last week and hung around long enough for my daughter-in-law to take several pictures. I researched butterflies on your website and found several references to various Fritillary butterflies. Could you please tell me which one it is? We live in the Monadnock area of New Hampshire.
Your website is wonderful. Every time I see something new in the yard I try to look it up, if I can get a photo to use for comparison. It happens that I am flying to Los Angeles on July 22 to visit my daughter, so I hope that we will be able attend your lecture at the Getty. It would be a real treat! Thank you.
Other than knowing that this is a Greater Fritillary in the genus Speyeria, we are not able to identify the species. Perhaps one of our skilled readers can provide that answer. Many butterflies congregate around mud puddles and other sources of dissolved salts and minerals shortly after metamorphosis. We believe this Greater Fritillary is drinking from the sweat on your son’s neck because of the salts and electrolytes. Please introduce yourself if you come to the Getty lecture. The Maria Sibylla Merian show is quite beautiful and well worth seeing.
Correction: (07/22/2008) Fritillary identification
Identifying greater fritillaries from photos, even a good one like this, is always a challenge, but I will plunge in anyway. From the underside coloration I think this can only be a Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) or an Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite). The relatively wide and clear yellow band between the last two rows of silver spots on the underside leads me to go with Great Spangled. In contrast to other greater fritillaries, this species has no black spots on the inside (toward the base) of the long squiggly line on the upper side of the forewing, but this photo unfortunately doesn’t quite show that part of the wing.