Observation of the week – July 10-16, 2022

Have you ever been out butterflying and seen a flash of something orange with dark markings that was too big to be a Northern Crescent, too small to be a Monarch, and not quite the right shape to be a Comma species? If so, it may have been one of the Fritillary species found in our area.

Our ninth OOTW is one of those species – this beautiful Meadow Fritillary – observed by Marc (@marcjohnson).

There are two groups of fritillaries in Ontario: the greater fritillaries (Speyeria spp.), including the Great Spangled Fritillary; and the lesser fritillaries (Boloria spp.), including the Meadow Fritillary. Species in both groups are superficially very similar, especially when you look at the upper sides of their wings. They’re easiest to identify to species by looking at the patterns on the undersides of their wings.


Left: the underside of a Meadow Fritillary’s wings, observation by @marcjohnson
Right: the underside of a Great Spangled Fritillary’s wings, observation by @bevlynn99

Fritillaries got their name from the Latin word fritillus, which means chessboard or dice box. It is easy to see how this name applies when looking at the upper side of their wings, where the black spots on the orange background give a checkered appearance.

The ROM Butterflies of Ontario field guide refers to the Meadow Fritillary as the most common lesser fritillary in southern Ontario. But our experience after four years of the Butterfly Blitz suggests that they are not a common species in our area. The only observations on iNaturalist in the Credit River Watershed are from a single location.

Records in the Ontario Butterfly Atlas also seem to suggest that Meadow Fritillary may be less common now than it was in past decades. Other areas of North America have also noticed a range contraction for this species, while some still refer to it as common and abundant.

Is the Meadow Fritillary truly rare and declining in our area, or is it just a tricky species to find? If you’d like to answer this question, you can help by searching for this species in open, usually wet, meadows. They have multiple generations per year, so if you’ve missed them in the past few weeks, try looking again in late August.

Posted by lltimms lltimms, July 22, 2022 15:30

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