The butterfly above is a gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae). It was in the garden along the ramp leading down to the Butterfly House here at the Museum (7/18/15).
Is this a big deal? It wouldn’t be a big deal on the southern coast or mountains, but here on the north-central Piedmont a sighting of a gulf fritillary tends to raise eyebrows. It perks me up no matter where I see one, it’s a beautiful butterfly.
This long-winged butterfly is tropical and sub-tropical in distribution and is typically seen to our south. The further north you go, the less common it is. Some individuals move north in summer which is probably what I saw, a migrant from the south. We do, however have the host plant for this species growing here on campus, passionflower. I’ll be checking our local passionflower for caterpillars.
Happy butterfly watching!