Nature – Diana Fritillary

Fritillaries are a group of large and ornate butterflies found in temperate regions throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. They are members of the brush-footed butterfly family, which are so named because their front legs resemble a pair of brushes. These brush-like front legs are used for chemical sensing rather than walking. Most fritillaries are orangish with silver markings on the undersides of their wings. Fritillaries get their name from the Latin word fritillus (dice box) because of their spotted markings. The larvae of many fritillaries are nocturnal and feed on violet leaves.

One of the larger and more strikingly beautiful butterflies in North America is the Diana Fritillary. With wingspans up to 4 inches, the Diana Fritillary is a uniquely dimorphic species, meaning that the sexes are differently colored. Above, the males are brownish-black on the inner part of the wings and orange on the outer margins. The underside of the wings is a beautiful burnt orange. Females, in contrast to the males, are dark blue-black with lighter blue spots and patches near the edge of the wings. This female color pattern is thought to mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail, a toxic butterfly that occurs throughout the range of the Diana Fritillary. Diana Fritillaries are found mainly in the uplands of the middle and southern Appalachian region, and in the Ozark and Ouachita mountain regions.

Diana Fritillaries prefer moist forested areas where they are frequently seen feeding on flowers in openings and along roadsides. They are relatively long-lived for a butterfly, with adults living four to five months. Adults require high-quality nectar plants such as common mint, buttonbush, milkweed, coneflower, and compass plant. Diana Fritillaries reproduce once a year, laying their eggs in the fall on the ground in woodlands near violet plants. The young larvae or caterpillars spend the winter in a resting stage, called diapause, and resume growth and development in the spring. The mature caterpillar is black or dark brown with black or orange spines. The caterpillars complete development by late spring, pupate in leaf litter, undergo metamorphosis, and emerge as adults in June. Males are typically the first to emerge, with females following one-and-a-half to two weeks later.

The Diana Fritillary was named after the Roman god Diana, who was also known as “Diana of the Ephesians.” The first commandment (Exodus 20:3) says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” This includes not only graven images but can also be material possessions, television, internet, or anything that interferes with your relationship with God. “The day of God will reveal that they are, in reality, only wood, hay, and stubble. The great temple of Diana was ruined; her magnificence utterly perished; those who shouted, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’ perished with their goddess and the temple which enshrined her. Their religion is forgotten, or seems like an idle tale. That temple was built upon a false foundation, and when tried, it was found to be worthless. But the stones that Paul quarried out from Ephesus were found to be precious and enduring.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 155, 156. “The present age is one of idolatry as verily as was that in which Elijah lived. No outward shrines may be visible, there may be no image for the eye to rest upon, yet thousands are following after the gods of this world,—after riches, fame, pleasure, and the pleasing fables that permit man to follow the inclinations of the unregenerate heart.” The Review and Herald, November 6, 1913.

“The time has come when we as a people should search ourselves to see what idols we are cherishing.” Ibid., March 7, 1899.

David Arbour writes from his home in De Queen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: