This butterfly is one of the largest of the greater fritillaries, with a wingspan of 62-88 mm. On the upperside of the wings, you will see an orange-brown color with a black pattern of lines and spots throughout. The males happen to be a bit brighter than the females. On the underside, the forewing is similar. However, on the hindwing, rather than black, you will find a beautiful metallic silver spot pattern.
Eggs are deposited singly on the food plant. The caterpillars are night feeders, enjoying various species of violets (Viola spp.). On these black caterpillars, large spines (with yellowish bases) are present and are a protective device against predators such as birds. The Great Spangled Fritillary overwinters here as a newly hatched caterpillar. The pupa is dark brown with light brown or orange / reddish patches and closely resembles a dried leaf!
This butterfly is common throughout Canada, including mainland Nova Scotia, but becoming scarcer around the Cape Breton area. Decreased numbers have also been reported in some other Canadian locations, due to habitat loss.
This butterfly is widely distributed. It can be found in the U.S. and all across southern Canada. In Nova Scotia, a subspecies novascotiae was named in 1935 by Dr. J. H. McDunnough from specimens collected at White Point Beach in Queens County. This subspecies is a bit smaller and darker.
This is a species of open areas such as roadsides and fields. Adults are frequent flower visitors with a favorite being Knapweed (Centaurea nigra).
The Great Spangled Fritillary can be distinguished from other similar Speyeria species by the fact that it lacks a black spot at the bottom / innerpart of the forewing, on the upperside. A bit of an "empty space" appears.