Gulf Fritillary, Buckeye and Variegated Fritillary

By mid-morning the sky burned a deep September blue, with not a cloud in sight, and the only soaring bird I could find was one Turkey Vulture lazily tilting over, not very high. 

Butterflies seemed to be scarce along the roadside and in yards, but along the edge of the field where the sicklepod and other weeds are blooming, there were Cloudless Sulphurs, Sleepy Orange, Fiery Skippers, two Gulf Fritillaries, one Variegated Fritillary, and one bright Buckeye – a butterfly with brown wings colorfully and almost playfully patterned in orange and black and white, with four bold eyespots on each wing. The back part of one of its wings had been torn away. 

Gulf Fritillaries may be the most brilliant butterflies here – their wings flicker like flames, smooth, bright orange on the upper side, with black markings, while the undersides of the wings are spangled with large, iridescent silver spots. A Gulf Fritillary is sometimes called a passion butterfly, a name that captures its intense beauty well.

The Variegated Fritillary is the first one I’ve seen this summer, beautiful in a more quiet, unflashy way. Its overall appearance is soft orange, made up of several different shades of orange, outlined in brown and black like a stained-glass window, with black spots along the edges of the wings. Its name comes from the complex, variegated pattern on the underside of its wings, in even more-muted, fawn, pale orange, white and leaf-brown shades.

Variegated Fritillaries nectar on a variety of flowers, including passion flowers – like the maypops in this patch of weeds.

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