The great spangled fritillary is found in Southwestern Canada and most of the United States except the Deep South. This butterfly prefers open woods and meadows.
On the upper side, the male great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) is orange with rows of black spots and bars. Near the body the wings are suffused with black. The underwings are pale with brown-black markings and silver spots. Females are more tawny on the upper side than males. The caterpillar is velvety black with six rows of branching red-orange and black spines.
Adult great spangled fritillaries feed on the nectar of a variety of plants. Additional moisture and nutrients come from dung. Caterpillars (larvae) feed on the leaves of violets or other members of Viola.
In late summer the adult great spangled fritillary female lays eggs singly on violet leaves. If the violets are withered and blown away the female can smell the violet roots and lays her eggs nearby. Soon after hatching, the caterpillar, without eating, goes into a state of diapause (halted development) and overwinters. Early the following spring the caterpillar feeds at night and hides during the day away from its violet leaf food source. In its chrysalis the great spangled fritillary is suspended by the tip of its abdomen. Adults are long-lived and can survive for months.
This great spangled fritillary was photographed on the River Trail near the Middle Falls on the McCloud River (Shasta County CA).