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Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Order: Lepidoptera (le-pid-OP-ter-a) (Info)
Family: Nymphalidae (nim-FAL-ih-dee) (Info)
Genus: Agraulis
Species: vanillae


This bug has been reportedly found in the following regions:

Atmore, Alabama
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama (2 reports)
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Valley Head, Alabama
Glendale, Arizona
Mesa, Arizona (2 reports)
Queen Creek, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Barling, Arkansas
Marion, Arkansas
Brea, California
Burbank, California
Canoga Park, California
Highgrove, California
Huntington Beach, California
Livermore, California
Reseda, California
San Diego, California (2 reports)
San Francisco, California
San Jose, California
Simi Valley, California
Stockton, California
Altamonte Springs, Florida
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Brooker, Florida
Brooksville, Florida (4 reports)
Cape Coral, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Dunedin, Florida
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida (2 reports)
Fountain, Florida
Holiday, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida (2 reports)
Lady Lake, Florida
Largo, Florida
Lutz, Florida (2 reports)
Marianna, Florida
Mayo, Florida
Melbourne Beach, Florida
Miami, Florida (3 reports)
Micanopy, Florida
North Port, Florida
Oldsmar, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Palm Bay, Florida
Palm Harbor, Florida
Panama City, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida (2 reports)
Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Rockledge, Florida
Sebastian, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Tarpon Springs, Florida
Winter Haven, Florida
Winter Springs, Florida
Dacula, Georgia
Douglasville, Georgia
Duluth, Georgia
Peachtree City, Georgia
Rincon, Georgia
Tifton, Georgia
Hauula, Hawaii
Benton, Kentucky
Covington, Louisiana
Denham Springs, Louisiana (2 reports)
Hammond, Louisiana
La Place, Louisiana
Thibodaux, Louisiana
Florence, Mississippi
Golden, Mississippi
Roswell, New Mexico
Belmont, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina
Concord, North Carolina
Kure Beach, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
Edmond, Oklahoma
Bluffton, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Lexington, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Abilene, Texas
Arlington, Texas (2 reports)
Austin, Texas
Beaumont, Texas
Bryan, Texas
Burleson, Texas
Carrollton, Texas
Conroe, Texas
Emory, Texas
Floresville, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Garland, Texas (2 reports)
Harker Heights, Texas
Houston, Texas (4 reports)
Huffman, Texas
Irving, Texas
Katy, Texas
Keller, Texas
Kountze, Texas
Longview, Texas
Los Fresnos, Texas
Lufkin, Texas
Missouri City, Texas
Montgomery, Texas
New Caney, Texas
Portland, Texas
San Angelo, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (4 reports)
Sonora, Texas
Spring, Texas (2 reports)
Temple, Texas
Show all

Members' Notes:


On Aug 22, 2019, Postobitum from Murrieta, CA,
United States wrote:

I just discovered my passiflora vine covered in these little (and big) guys, and plucked about half off before I thought to check what the caterpillars were. Iím of two minds about leaving them to munch away because my vine has only been here two months, I want it to become well established and strong before it becomes a grazing ground if there a chance it will be harmed. Anyone else have an issue with a new vine being harmed by a horde of these guys? If itís not a big deal Iíll let them have at it....


On Nov 10, 2018, Fireftrlia from Livermore, CA wrote:

My husband and I grow passion flower vines mostly for the butferflies! The fruit is a bonus. We have found that we don't enjoy the fruit of the Blue Crown Passion flower so something we did was planted the Blue Crown vines at the front entry of our yard. Then we planted a number of other passion flower vines like the Granadilla, Frederick and the Banana, that produce amazing fruit, in the middle back part of our garden. Now, in the spring when the vines grow and the caterpillars start showing up, we take any caterpillars from the plants in the middle of the garden and rehome them on the Blue Crown vines. This way we have tons of beautiful butterflies from the Blue Crown vines flying around the garden all summer and the plants with the desirable fruit grow strong with only a few catapillar... read more


On Oct 7, 2018, cbeehn from Kountze, TX wrote:

Help Please
we live in south east Texas. Both my husband and myself are Texas Master Naturalist. We've established a butterfly garden and had a healthy population of Gulf Fritillary caterpillars enjoying our passion vine. We were gone for several days and upon our return, every caterpillar gone. there were dozens of them when we left. Butterfly and Caterpillar were gone. Butterfly have yet to return.
We do have a number of crystalis remaining. Plenty of Passion Vine
and Coral vine is full of blooms for butterflies.

might anyone have any ideas has to what is going on?

we also have plenty of milk weed with the intent to support the Monarch population. not the first Monarch. Last year we were quite busy with them. a few in the spring, none i... read more


On Sep 21, 2018, leemiller38 from Stockton, CA wrote:

I love these butterflies and I have not seen the problem of the caterpillars destroying passion vines. I planted a passion vine for my wife several years ago and it was so rank in growth that I don't think anything curbed it except a hard freeze. Certainly the G. fritillary didn't do much noticeable damage.


On Aug 26, 2018, Xenobia from San Francisco, CA wrote:

In the San Francisco Bay Area, we have Gulf Fritillaries that colonized areas seemingly well stocked with host food.
Living in San Francisco, I cannot tell you how fortunate I feel when I see these huge, gorgeous, fast and nimble flyers hovering around my passion flower.
Yes, the leaves of this very vigorous plant are kinda ragged looking right now, but Gulf Fritillaries don't eat the flowers. Having observed them throughout their full life cycle numerous times, it is clear that they only eat the leaves.
So- for all you caterpillar haters out there, if you get to enjoy the flowers, why not let them have the leaves? They don't fly and breed year round, so your vines should have plenty of time to recover.
Given that the overall population of pollinators is vast... read more


On Jun 26, 2018, bojolinda from Rockledge, FL wrote:

I like butterflies and there are lots of flowers, herbs and even vegetables (radishes that bolted) and weeds (fleabane) that I allow to flower in part of my yard to attract butterflies and other pollinators or predatory insects (I always have several large pots of parsley that aren't even for me, they are for black swallowtails). I find the purple passionflower more of a pest as it came from down the street. We did not plant it. You can pull it up in one place then it will come up in the grass somewhere else. Then it gets under my shed where I can't get to it. It shows up in the spring and dies off later in the year then comes back next year. So I am a little disturbed to see comments of gardeners spraying the GFs with air freshener to kill them. You can have your passionflower and your bu... read more


On Jul 8, 2016, gffrenemy from Brooksville, FL wrote:

I have 5 small purple passion vines on two arched trellises. The GF's are swarming them.

I live in a pine flat wood forest in West central Florida. The vines don't grow wild here due to poor soil and extreme heat/drought. My vines are like beacons calling to any GF in the area...

The caterpillars are voracious eaters, but there are ants that seem to eat some of the eggs - but not all. I still get 15 or more caterpillars every week or so. The vines are flowering and fruiting, so that's great and I HATE killing the caterpillars, but I admit, I've had to remove a lot of them to save the vines. There's just too many.

Next spring - I'm planting 8-10 vines on a back fence - a soaker hose on a timer and a bit of fertilizer should give them wh... read more


On Feb 20, 2014, yeayea from Duluth, GA wrote:

I planted the Passion Flower vine specifically for the Gulf Fritillary to lay its eggs on. Each year we wait with great anticipation for the butterfly to show up and lay eggs. We then watch as the caterpillar grows fatter and fatter. Once we catch him hanging upside down with his head tucked under we stand awestruck as he transforms before our very eyes into his chrysalis.....If you haven't taken the time to do so we highly suggest that you do....it is an amazing experience.


On Sep 1, 2013, Suzy_Bee from Spring, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I love the graceful Gulf fritillaries and grow several passionvines to support them. I have both the native and the red passionvine (unknown to me when I bought it), so I hope the red cultivar does not kill my little guys!

To those who are upset at the passionflower leaf destruction, I suggest you plant more... and possibly more!


On Aug 2, 2013, Perrjojo from The Villages, FL wrote:

I love these beautiful butterflies but the fritillary caterpillars are eating my vine. I decided to allow them their feast but now wasps are eating the caterpillars. What to do now?


On Apr 9, 2013, Phellos from Port Vincent, LA wrote:

This butterfly plays a significant role in my garden every year. Other butterflies come and go, but these guys are always the most abundant. They are not much of a problem, considering the massive amounts of Passiflora all over the fences, bushes, and trees.


On Nov 1, 2012, themikesmom from Concord, NC wrote:

These Beautiful Orange Gulf Flitillary Butterfly love our Orange Asiatic Fire Lilies that bloom in Late Spring Early Summer around the middle to the end of May here in NC. Every year like clockwork theirs atleast one, and usually only one, that will come to these fire lilies and flitter around the orange petals and blooms for the whole 3-4 weeks they bloom and then after they are all bloomed out we find this one Flittilary butterfly's sole lonely orange carcass under the bloomed out orange flower, on the ground among the dead petals it spent its adult butterfly life around. We also see quite a bit of these here in NC in the Late Fall, so i wonder if they have larvae turn into butterflies all year long here in the southeast as long as it's warm enough? i dont know enough about Gulf Flittila... read more


On Sep 15, 2012, jimtomczak from Mobile, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

Out of over 30 new vines from a second year vine over 30 are leafless, A hybrid Lady Margaret (red) not a leaf has been touched. The Red flowered one is planted 3 feet away from my native. It didn't matter where I transplanted new natives They were and are bald. For some reason cheap Glade air Freshener dropped the catterpillars in mid munch. Neem oil had no effect, diatoms were just played with.Sevin dust nothing. Glade 100% dead little buggers. Go figger. I gave up and just let them be
They lay eggs on every thing. I have the stripped vines, I have stopped counting or trying not to step on them. Oh the vine they loved is another Hybrid
blue but not our Maypop.


On Sep 2, 2009, cmsjjdr from Panama City, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I will start with neutral as I do enjoy butterflies, although I have not seen many this year yet. I notice a few days ago that something was eating holes in my passion vine. Today I found the culprits. It was covered with these caterpillars. Sorry for the butterfly lovers out there, but the caterpillars have to go. I only have one vine and this is the first year it has grown well. No blooms yet so I don't know what kind it is. A friend from work gave me unmarked cuttings from several different kinds and this is the only one that rooted and grew. If it survives another winter and continues to grow well maybe I can start some cuttings for the back yard that they can eat.


On Apr 30, 2009, kerrpe from Katy, TX wrote:

They will absolutely strip your plants bare, regardless of color or whether it's established. I can't tell you how many of mine they have killed.


On Oct 20, 2008, marvell77 from Glendale, AZ wrote:

I just became aware that my 4 month old red passion vine is covered in the gulf fritillary catipillars. Having just read the previous comments apparently the red passion vines are poisionous to them? Is this an immediate thing or accumulative? There's quite a few of them in various stages of growth and them seem to be going strong. They certainly are making a mess of my vine too. I'm torn between removing some of them and letting them be as there just doesn't seem to be as many butterflies around as there used to be. It's such a beautiful thing to watch butterflies in the garden.


On Jul 26, 2007, dangitgirl from Tampa, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I have ONLY a red passion vine and the caterpillars are eating the heck out of it. Definitely NOT poisonous to them!

I have so many orange butterflies in my garden my kids are trying to collect them.

I wanted to put negative but these buggers have not stung me yet so neutral it is.

Hopefully my passion vine will still bloom..... have not gotten that far yet.


On May 5, 2007, sueatkins from Brooksville, FL wrote:

Unfortunately for those who want well manicured, "perfect" gardens, host plants for butterfly caterpillars will look a little worse for wear, and that includes the gulf fritillary host plant, passiflora. There has been discussion about red passion vine poisoning the caterpillars. After using all types of passiflora to raise these butterflies in my business, none are poisonous. However, they DO prefer the native varieties. Also, most plants that you buy from a nursery have been treated with a systemic bug killer. That will definitely poison caterpillars until the chemical is out of the plant system.

So what do you do about the unsightly plants that have been eaten? Well, I don't do anything because I have learned that they always come back with more vigor. I put in 2... read more


On Oct 23, 2006, Sheila965 from Rincon, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

I bought a passion flower vine for the first time this year. Gulf Fritillary larvae covered it. I now have cocoons all over the yard and butterflies everywhere. They are beautiful.

The passion flower I have is a red. It didn't seem to bother them at all. ;-)


On Sep 18, 2006, T_Rex wrote:

I was out in my front yard admiring an arch that is covered in 3 types of Passiflorae,and to my dismay,I noticed a fairly hideous,fairly large,and more than fairly ravenous catapillar,voraciously devouring some leaves,I immediately started killing them.Later,after searching for some data concerning the fruits passion vines bear,I saw an article about the vine attracting native butterflies(Gulf Fritillary,and a few others)....I had recently noticed a flux of butterfly activity in the general area,and thanks to Dave's Garden,I 'm finally "in the know.."on the topic.I've decided since I love to see so many butterflies that I will not take further hostile actions against them,but if they get too numerous,or too destructive,I may try to relocate some or most of them to a local park that myster... read more


On Aug 20, 2006, Indigoez from Floresville, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

Despite being pretty I hate these Passiflora destroyers. They're here almost all year in z9, constantly laying eggs on every Passiflora in sight, eating them down to a nasty looking mess. The best method I've found to get rid of them is to shake the plants really hard (this might not work depending on what the plant is growing on, obviously) to dislodge the caterpillars, and then collect and dispose of them. The eggs are tiny yellowish things that are usually laid near the growing tips and/or leaf edges, and they can be easily smushed with a finger. I'm sure all the butterfly lovers will hate me for this post, but if they were eating your plants down to nothing you would feel differently I assure you.


On Aug 10, 2006, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I planted passion vines only 2 weeks ago here in southern California, and already I have several catepillars and lots of butterflies that match these photos exactly... how is that possible? But I have to say, they are certainly effecient bugs... two perfect looking vines nearly stripped to the stem in just a few weeks. Now I kill any catepillars I see, but obviously am not getting even a small portion of them, as there are butterflies and cocoons everywhere. The plants are starting to make a comeback, and I was hoping there would be some relief in the winter... but after reading on, I am not sure that will be the case.


On Jul 29, 2006, onalee from Brooksville, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

The passion flower vine is the host food for Gulf Fritillary caterpillars. I have lots of these butterflies in my yard because I grow LOTS of the purple passion flower vines for them to eat! It is my understanding, and I belive it to be true, that the hybrid passion vines are toxic to the caterpillars, this includes the red flowered ones, so don't grow those if you want to provide support for these butterflies in your yard.


On Jul 24, 2006, okus from (Zone 8b) wrote:

2.5 -2,9"
Common throughout Southern USA and Mexico.
Bright Orange above with some black spots and a black network along hind wing border and a cluster of tiny white spots near forewing costa.

Some lepidopterists consider that Gulf Fritillaries belong to a separate family the Heliconiidae, however thay have a lot in common with the Nymphalidae or Brush Foot Butterflies