Regal Fritillary Butterfly Trip Preview

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

On Friday, July 10th, you have the unique opportunity to see one of our rarest, and most beautiful butterflies…the Regal Fritillary.  Jeffrey Glassberg, author of the “Through Binoculars” series, calls it “…one of our largest and most splendid butterflies.”  Kenn Kaufman, in his field guide to Butterflies of North America says, “This well-named regal creature is one of North America’s vanishing butterflies.”

A Regal Fritillary at Fort Indiantown Gap.  Photo by DMVA wildlife staff.
A Regal Fritillary at Fort Indiantown Gap. Photo by DMVA wildlife staff.

It certainly has done a pretty good vanishing act.  Having once been common from the Canadian maritime provinces south to North Carolina and west to the Great Plains, this species range has contracted dramatically.  Now its core range is in the plains, and in the east, it’s sole remaining colony is at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA.  That will be our destination on July 10th, and you are invited to join us!

The Regal Fritillary apparently needs expansive areas of pristine habitat to survive.  It needs large areas of meadow with lots of wildflowers including violets, the foodplant of its caterpillar.  This is what Fort Indiantown Gap contains, and is maintained by active firing ranges, prescribed burns, and other military activities, which are being curtailed during the day of our visit.

The meadows at Fort Indiantown Gap host a large variety of butterflies, birds, and wildflowers.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani
The meadows at Fort Indiantown Gap host a large variety of butterflies, birds, and wildflowers. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Don’t miss this chance to see one of the most beautiful and rare butterflies east of the Mississippi.  Enjoy hordes of other butterfly species as well, plus grassland birds that are in the area and the blooming meadow-wildflowers.  We leave early, meeting at Ashland at 6:30 a.m. and will return by 2:30 p.m. on July 10.  Bring your lunch, binoculars, and a camera.  Visit www.delawarenaturesociety.org to register for this program or call (302) 239-2334 ext. 134.

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