The Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) ranges in the Southern United States, into Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and South America. It can be seen year-round in every county of Florida.
By observation, I noticed that they tend to run in packs of two or three butterflies. It is unique in that it collects pollen in its proboscis which is absorbed through the walls of the proboscis.
A medium-sized butterfly with elongated forewings, generally 2.5 to 3.2 inches in size. It is orange with black streaks. The forewing has several black-ringed white spots near the upper edge. The hindwing has black chaining along the bottom edge. The undersides of the wings are orange and brown with long silvery-white spots. The female is larger, her coloring more subdued, and marked with more black streaks than the male.
Small, round, yellow eggs are laid one-at-a-time on the host plant or nearby.
The bright orange caterpillar with black spines eats the egg casing after hatching and stays in the larval stage for 2 to 3 weeks.
The chrysalis resembles a curled, dead leaf for 5 to 10 days.
The adult butterfly lives for 4 to 6 weeks if the weather is warm.
Oddly, they do not always choose plants as a larval host. I saw them, on two different occasions, lay eggs on my wooden porch posts on the side facing out into the sun.
WHAT TO PLANT FOR THE GULF FRITILLARY
Host plants — various passionflower vines including Maypop (P. incarnate), Yellow Passionflower (P. lutea), Corky-stemmed passionflower (P. suberosa), Blue Passionflower (P. caerulea), and Many-flowered Passionflower (P. multiflora). The passionflowers are amazingly very different – whites, reds, purples, etc. – in the 500 species of the family Passifloraceae.
Nectar plants – Aster, Butterfly Bush, Lantana, Passionflower vines, Purple Coneflower, Thistle, Verbena and Zinnia.