Speyeria diana (Cramer, 1777)
NatureServe Global Rank: G3G4
Virginia State Rank: S3
VA DGIF Tier: IV
Federal Legal Status: None
Virginia Legal Status: None
Description: The Diana Fritillary displays a strong sexual dimorphism. The male is more typical of Fritillaries in coloration. The dorsal side has dark brown/black wings from the base of the wings to slightly past the half-way mark where a bright orange color replaces it. The dorsal side of the female has mainly black forewings with a few lines of white and/or blue spots running along the outer half of the wing. The hindwing is mainly blue. The ventral side of the male is mainly tan-orange with black maculations near the base of the front wing. The ventral side of the female is mainly black with an iridescent blue sheen and the front wing has various lighter blue or blue-white spots.
Similar species: The male Diana fritillary is quite distinct dorsally and lacks the silver spots on the ventral surface of the wings that all other Fritillary species possess. The female Diana Fritillary is a mimic to the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) . The Pipevine Swallowtail, as well as other similarly colored Swallowtails all have a tail on the hind wing while the Diana Fritillary does not. These tails are often missing; however, the overall more elongated hind wing of the Swallowtails is still a strong indication of species. Most Swallowtails also possess some red or yellow markings which are absent in the female Diana fritillary. The Red-Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) is also confused with the female Diana Fritillary but is smaller and also possesses red/orange spotting on the ventral side of the wings.
North American Range: Once found as far west as the Ohio River valley, the populations now only exist in the Southeast (West Virginia to Georgia) and the Ozark Mountains region of the Midwest.
VA Observations by Locality: Alleghany | Bath | Bedford | Bland | Botetourt | Buchanan | Charles City | Chesterfield | Dickenson | Floyd | Giles | Grayson | Highland | Isle of Wight | James City | Lee | Montgomery | Northampton | Patrick | Prince George | Pulaski | Roanoke | Rockbridge | Salem, City of | Smyth | Staunton, City of | Suffolk, City of | Surry | Tazewell | Washington | Wise | Wythe | Arlington | Augusta | Bath | Bedford | Bland | Craig | Giles | Gloucester | Montgomery | New Kent | Rockbridge | Scott | Suffolk, City of | Tazewell | Wise | Alleghany | Bath | Bland | Botetourt | Craig | Dickenson | Giles | Grayson | Montgomery | Roanoke | Scott | Smyth | Tazewell | Wise
Flight season and broods: The Diana fritillary has one brood with a flight season from the middle of June through early September.
Habitat and Food Plants: These butterflies favor wooded areas, particularly low lying places like valleys, pine woods, and cove forests within or near mountain ranges. They are found in both the Appalachians and the Ozarks. Forests where they are found are generally moist with rich soils. The Diana Fritillary hosts on many species within the Violet ((Viola) family.
Behavior and Ecology: The females are known to drop one thousand eggs near and on Violet plants. The caterpillars of this species are able to overwinter without feeding and will consume the leaves and flowers of the plant in the spring. Adults will nectar on butterfly bush, milkweeds, and many other strong stemmed, often purple inflorescences, as well as dung and moist earth. They are likely a species that spends much time in the canopy of the forest, only coming nearer to the ground to nectar and lay eggs. When not taking nectar they are extremely difficult to approach, often flying into the forest out of sight.
Population trend and potential threats: Deforestation has been detrimental to this species in the past and accounts for their current range being much smaller than it was in the 1800s. Human disturbance is the biggest threat to this species. The Tidewater region of Virginia has lost a significant amount of population due to elimination of old-growth pines for agricultural purposes (Opler and Krizek, 1984). Mountaintop removal type coal mining also destroys the valley habitats that this species occupies within the Appalachians.
Management practices: Colonies can be managed by preventing deforestation in areas they are known to inhabit. There has been a recent reduction in range that is not completely understood.
References: Allen, T. J. 1997. The Butterflies of West Virginia and their Caterpillars. University of Pittsburg Press. 388pp.
Cech, R. and G. Tudor. 2005. Butterflies of the East Coast. Pg. 158. Princeton University Press.
Opler, P. A. 1992. A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies. Peterson Field Guides
Opler, P. A. and G.O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies East of the Great Plains, Johns Hopkins University Press.
Pyle, R. M. 1981. Field Guide to North American Butterflies. National Audubon Society.
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, 600 E. Main St., 24th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219
This atlas was compiled
by the VA Natural Heritage Program with funds provided by the VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries through a state wildlife grant
from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Last Modified: Friday, 26 February 2021, 03:21:56 PM