We were thrilled to learn that a sharp-eyed visitor to Wisdom Prairie spotted a Regal Fritillary last month. Regal Fritillaries are a state-endangered species. There have only been a handful of confirmed sightings in Dane County in the past 20 years. Regal Fritillaries are famous for being fussy about their habitat; the fact that one came to visit Holy Wisdom is a wonderful endorsement of the quality of our prairie.
This sighting, which we learned about after it was reported to Wisconsin Butterflies, also serves as a strong endorsement for the importance and role of citizen science programs. It is a good reminder that everyone can be a scientist, and in doing so, contribute important information to guide our ongoing efforts to care for the land and all its inhabitants.
Regal Fritillaries stay in Wisconsin year-round, with just a single generation every year. Adult butterflies are present primarily in July and August. Females lay eggs in duff and leaf litter in prairies. The caterpillars emerge in the fall and immediately go into diapause, overwintering in the leaf litter. They emerge the following spring, feeding only at night on violets. They pupate in the early summer, emerging as adults in late June or early June.
Photo by Mike Reese, www.wisconsinbutterflies.org.