This is a pitiful excuse for a photo but I tried my best, sorry. Anyway, I found this caterpillar in the backyard curled in a ball in the dirt. He was ripe for the picking by the birds so I brought him in to see if I could help her make it to a butterfly. She is black with reddish at the base of the spikes and has been eating violet leaves (through trial and error). Caterpillar is ready to pupate and I want to make sure I have the right nectar plants for her release. I ruled out mourning cloak because there are no whitish spots. I am truly at a loss. Thanks for your time and I love your website!
Lorrie in Vermont

Hi Lorrie,
Violets as a food plant are pretty much compelling information that this caterpillar is a species of Fritillary, probably a Greater Fritillary in the genus Speyeria, though we are not confident enough to identify what species. Fritillaries are nectaring butterflies that love Phlox, Joe Pye Weed, Milkweed, Coneflowers, Thistles, Goldenrod and many other flowers. We doubt your adult butterfly will starve when released.

Update: (06/28/2008)
It ended up being a Great Spangled Fritallary and when we released it he flew so high into the sky right for a tree. A beautiful experience. I haven’t seen many of those around here. Thanks for your help trying to identify the caterpillar. Sincerely,

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