Critters come in many different shapes and sizes and even though this weeks critter is pretty small, what it lacks in size it makes up for it in color and beauty. The Aphrodite fritillary is a member of the Nymphalidae or brush-foot family. Brush-foots get their common name from their shortened front legs which are covered with long hairs making them resemble brushes.
The brush-foots are one of the largest families of butterflies, with around 5000 species around the world. Because of the large number of types they are broken down into several different subfamilies, these include the milkweed butterflies, admirals and viceroys, emperors, satyrs and wood-nymphs, true brushfoots, and fritillaries. There are about 220 different kinds of brush-foot butterflies in the US.
The subfamily Heliconiinae, or fritillaries, are recognisable by their their orange and black patterns, with larger fritillaries have metallic spots on the under side of the hindwing. They are usually found in open spaces such as fields, meadows and parks. Fritillaries over winter as caterpillars at the base of their host plant, although they do not eat in the first stage after they hatch. The following spring the larva begin to eat the new leaves from the host plant, which are various forms of violet. There are 10 types of fritts in the US including the Aphrodite fritillary here which I photographed at Rice Lake NWR.
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