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Butterflies - The Tribe Of The Fritillaries Continued

( Originally Published 1917 )

The Mountain Silver-spot

Argynnis atlantis

If one were able to take a Silver-spot Fritillary and re-duce its size about one third he would have a wonderfully good imitation of the present species. Except for the size, about the only difference in the markings is found in the blackish border along the margins of the Mountain Silver-spot which is not present in the other species. The buff sub-marginal border line on the under surface of the wings between the rows of silver spots is also wider in the mountain species.

The distribution of this butterfly justifies its name. It is preeminently a northern species, being especially abundant in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and ranging northward far into Canada and west through British America as far as the Mackenzie River. A pair of these butterflies were captured by Merritt Carey on July 16, 1903, on the summit of Mount Tha-on-tha, in the Nahanni Mountains, at an altitude of 2,500 feet. The southern limit of its distribution approximates the isotherm of forty-five degrees. It extends southward in mountainous regions through New York and Pennsylvania and is found in Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa. It also occurs in the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado.

The various species of Argynnis show a remarkable uniformity in their life history. Like the others, this butterfly is single-brooded, laying the eggs on or near violets late in summer, the eggs hatching into larvae that take no food until the following spring. They then feed upon the violet leaves, become mature, and change to chrysalids in time for the butterflies to emerge in dune in New Hampshire. These butterflies remain upon the wing for several weeks. They usually appear a week or two earlier than Aphrodite or Cybele in regions where all three species are found. It is worth while for the collector to take a hint from this fact and do his Silver-spot collecting early. For after the other species appear it is not so easy to tell which is Atlantis when the butterflies are on the wing. It is most likely to be found in open places in the woods, apparently preferring such situations to the broad expanse of fields and meadows.

The White Mountain Fritillary

Argynnis montinus This is distinctly a mountain butterfly, known to be found only near the top of Mount Washington and other neighboring parts of the White Mountains. It generally occurs between the altitudes of four thousand and fifty-five hundred feet. It is doubtless closely related to a somewhat similar form found farther north and west, but its isolation from them is complete. Apparently it is single-brooded and very little is known of the early stages. The butterflies visit the flowers of goldenrod and those of the alpine sand-wort which are abundant in the sub-alpine home of this species.

This variety is interesting as a living souvenir of the day when New England was buried beneath the ice-sheet.

The Meadow Fritillary

Brenthis bellona

The fact of variation is one of the most universal things in nature. No two animals are exactly alike and every plant differs from every other plant. That this is true of the structure of living things is easily observed but it is not so well known, because not so easily observed, that most species of animals differ also in the precise phases of their growth. We know that the variation in form and color has brought about the remarkable adaptations to surroundings which we call mimicry and protective coloration. A little consideration will make it evident that the variation of different individuals in periods of growth must have led also ,to the adaptation of the life stages to the conditions of the changing seasons. This is particularly true in the great majority of insects which show remarkable adaptations in their various broods to the seasonal conditions of the localities where they live.

From this point of view the attractive little Meadow Fritillary is of especial interest. We are indebted to the studies of S. H. Scudder for our knowledge of the remarkable variations in its growth. These are so complicated that in order to make plain the varying conditions it seems necessary to separate the broods in a somewhat hypothetical manner.

We will begin with what we shall call Group A: The butterflies are on the wing in May and early June. They have just come from the chrysalis and continue living for three or four weeks before they deposit eggs, this time required in order that the eggs may develop in the ovaries of the butterflies. These eggs hatch in about a week and the caterpillars become full grown a month later. They then change to chrysalids in which condition they remain another week, thus requiring five or six weeks for the newly laid eggs to mature into butterflies. Supposing the eggs were laid the first week in June, the butterflies of this second brood would appear about the middle of July. The eggs in the ovaries of some of these butterflies also re-quire several weeks before they are ready to be laid, so that it may be about the tenth of August when this happens. These hatch and mature to chrysalids during the next six weeks, the butterflies of this brood emerging about the middle of September. These in turn lay eggs at once apparently, no extended period being required for their development before they are laid. The eggs hatch during the latter part of September and the young caterpillars feed upon the violet leaves for two or three weeks, moulting perhaps twice and becoming approximately half grown. They now stop feeding and go into a lethargic condition in which they hibernate. Then in spring they awaken and feed again upon the violet leaves for a short time, becoming mature and changing to chrysalids sufficiently early to emerge as butterflies late in May.

In this hypothetical group we have a fairly normal condition of a three brooded butterfly hibernating in the stage of the half-grown larva and requiring some weeks for the development of the eggs in the ovaries of the butterflies in the case of the first two broods but not of the third.

In another group, which we may designate as B, the conditions may be similar except that the butterflies lay their eggs very soon after coming from the chrysalis in the case of ail three broods. Obviously there would be a tendency here for hastening the earliness of the broods so that the hibernating caterpillars might either become larger or might go into the hibernating condition earlier than those of Group A.

In Group C, the variation takes place in the larvae rather than in the butterflies. - These may go on in the normal way up to the time the caterpillars of the summer brood become half grown. Then they become lethargic, ceasing to feed and to all appearances going into hibernation. They re-main in this condition until the following spring when they come forth from their winter's sleep and feed upon the violets in precisely the same way as the caterpillars of the third brood of Groups A and B.

In Group D we have another interesting variation of the larvae. These are the same as C up to the time of be-coming lethargic, that is, the larvae of the summer or second brood become lethargic at the same time as those of Group C but instead of continuing in this condition until the following spring they remain in lethargy only three or four weeks, then they wake up (having apparently then changed their caterpillar minds) and begin to feed, soon maturing and changing to chrysalids from which butterflies emerge late in September or early in October. The result is that these butterflies lay eggs so late that the cold nights come on apace and the little caterpillars apparently take no food at all but go into hibernation immediately. In consequence these must eat for a longer period the following spring, so that the butterflies into which they mature will be likely not to appear until well along in dune.

It is probable that even this rather elaborate statement does not do justice to all the variations in the development of this little butterfly. But perhaps enough has been said to help us to understand something of the way in which such insects are able to adapt their life habits to the conditions of their environment. It is easy to see that if conditions should so change as to give any one of these groups a decided advantage over the others, the tendency would be for the other groups to disappear and for the group of favored habits to survive.

The Meadow Fritillary is common in Canada and the Northern states east of the Rocky Mountains. It is found especially in lowland meadows and along the borders of swamps, the very situations chosen by the food plants of the larva, the blue and the white violets. The butterflies may be often seen sipping nectar from the various species of mint and related plants found in such situations. It is commonly associated with the Silver-bordered Fritillary, from which it is easily distinguished because it has no silver spots upon its wings.

The Silver-bordered Fritillary

Brenthis myrina

This attractive little butterfly bears a close general re-semblance to the Meadow Fritillary, from which it differs chiefly by the continuous row of silver spots along the border of the under side of both pairs of wings. It is found in the same localities as the other and its life-history is very similar.

The present species is widely distributed in North America, being found as far west as the upper Mississippi Val-ley and the Rocky Mountains, and southward as far as the Carolinas. In New England and the Atlantic states it is one of the commonest of the smaller butterflies.

Beginning with the butterflies which are seen in the fields and meadows in September, the yearly cycle of this insect may be summarized in this way: the eggs laid in September hatch in a few days into tiny caterpillars, some of which become lethargic at once, while others begin feeding upon the violet leaves and continue thus to feed until they are about half grown. These then also become lethargic and find shelter just above the soil surface where they remain until the following spring. They then begin to feed again upon the violet leaves and at about the same time the other caterpillars which became dormant as soon as hatched, also waken and feed upon these leaves. Naturally those which were half grown at the beginning of spring are likely to mature and change to chrysalids two or three weeks earlier than those which were so small at the beginning of the season. Consequently the fresh butterflies will be found from late in May to the latter part of June. Presumably those which first appeared have developed from the larger caterpillars and the later ones from the smaller caterpillars.

The butterflies of this first brood of the season lay their eggs upon the violet leaves, generally upon the upper surface of the blade, but occasionally upon the stems or upon near-by grasses. These eggs hatch in about a week into caterpillars that mature during the next three or four weeks, coming forth as a second brood of butterflies late in July or early in August. These in like manner lay their eggs and develop into a third brood which matures as butterflies in September. These lay eggs that hatch into the caterpillars which live through the winter. There are thus three broods of butterflies during the year and it is probable that there is the same remarkable variation in the habits of the different broods that have been found in the case of the Meadow Fritillary.

Synopsis of the Fritillaries

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae). Expanse 2 3/4 inches. Apex of each front wing produced into a distinct angle. Upper surface of all wings reddish brown, marked with black spots and an interrupted black border, the border on the hind wings enclosing round red-brown spots. Under surface, so far as it shows when insect is at rest, nearly covered with large silver-white spots. Found only in the more Southern states.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta Claudia). Expanse 2 inches. Apex of each front wing produced into a distinct angle. Upper surface of all wings fulvous brown, thickly marked with buff and brownish black. A sub-marginal row of black dots on each of the wings, outside of which is a row of buff crescents on the blackish border. Under surface, as it shows when the butterfly is at rest, beautifully marbled in creamy browns and deeper browns. No distinct silver spots in either surface.

Diana Fritillary (Argynnis diana). Male. Expanse 3 1/2 inches. Apex of fore wings rounded. Upper surface of all wings, with a little more than basal half, solid brownish black and the rest of the surface orange-brown, marked with darker brown round spots and vein lines. Under surface light buff, marked with black, with silver crescents and spots on hind wings. Female. Expanse 4 inches. Upper surface of all wings blackish with bluish or greenish iridescence, and marginal third marked with blue spots and stripes. These are more prominent on the hind wings. Under surface slaty brown with prominent silver crescents on the hind wings.

Idalia or Regal Fritillary (Argynnis idalia). Male. Expanse 3 inches. Front wings fulvous brown with black spots and markings. Hind wings black except at base with a row of fulvous brown sub-marginal spots and an inner row of whitish or bluish white spots. Female. Expanse 31 inches. Similar to male except for larger size and the fact that the two rows of spots on the hind wings are yellowish brown.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Argynnis cybele). Expanse 3 1/4 inches. General color of wings fulvous brown with black markings on upper surface and black and silver markings on under surface. The yellow band between the rows of silver spots on hind wings is broad. There is a distinct narrow fulvous stripe on the upper side of the hind wing just inside the outer margin, and a similar stripe along the margin of the front wing, more or less interrupted by the veins.

Silver spot Fritillary (Argynnis aphrodite). Expanse 3 inches. Similar to the Great Spangled but a little smaller, and with the buff yellow band between the rows of silver spots on the lower surface much narrower and almost disappearing at the rear.

Mountain Silver spot (Argynnis atlantis). Expanse 2 1/4 inches. Known by its smaller size and the black marginal border stripe on all the wings, with no brown line dividing this stripe.

Silver-bordered Fritillary (Brenthis myrina). Expanse 1 3/4 inches. Known by its small size and a marginal row of silver spots on the under side of each of the wings, and with many other silver spots scattered over the under surface of the hind wings.

Meadow Fritillary (Brenthis bellona). Expanse 2 inches. Easily known by the absence of silver spots on all the wings. The wings are long in proportion to their width.

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