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Arkansas' state butterfly is the gorgeous Diana fritillary. It was designated in 2007 and is part of the state's rich biodiversity. This article tells you what you need to know about this wonderful butterfly.
The Diana Fritillary's Scientific Name
Arkansas' state insect belongs to a group of butterflies, the Nymphalidae, that are distributed around the world, from chilly northern regions to steamy tropical zones. Northern species are some of the most familiar butterflies you will see, including the monarch. Many are big, beautiful butterflies that often take nectar at flowers in the bright summer sun. There are many kinds of butterflies in the group, and they all share some special characteristics.
The scientific name of the Diana fritillary butterfly is Speyeria diana. That means the genus name is Speyeria and the species name is diana. Scientific names are always in italics.
As a middle school teacher myself, I wrote this guide to be useful for both students and teachers. It's a great place to start for research ideas and science fair projects!
The Family Nymphalidae
The state insect of Arkansas belongs to a group of butterflies that occur nearly everywhere in the world, including some arctic regions. Many of the butterflies you see around you belong to this family, including several state butterflies -- the monarch (Danaus plexippus), for example, and also the mourning cloak (Vanessa antiopa). One of the most common butterflies of the eastern United States, the red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) also belongs to this family.
In tropical zones, Nymphalidae butterflies are among the most intensely colored insects on the wing, which is saying something considering the competition! They are widespread and often very common.
A Rare Butterfly
The Diana fritillary is not common, and most people will never encounter one when they are out and about in nature. It is in fact among the relatively few North American butterflies considered to be "threatened," which means that human impact on its environment could be a factor in eventually making it go extinct. According to several studies, the Diana fritillary depends on violets for the caterpillar to eat, combined with plenty of space that is not altered or polluted by development or human impact.
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The Diana Fritillary: Early Stages
The caterpillar of the Diana fritillary is a beautiful deep charcoal color with orange-based spines running along its body. These spines help ward off some kinds of predators, especially parasitic wasps and flies. These insects attack caterpillars by landing on its back and laying eggs. These little eggs hatch out and the larvae burrow into the caterpillar, eating the non-essential tissues. After a few weeks the larvae wriggle out and complete their development; the caterpillar dies. It makes sense that the Diana fritillary caterpillar has evolved to discourage these destructive predator.
The caterpillar of this species eats the leaves of violets. It begins life as a tiny "baby" caterpillar that eats and sheds its skin for several weeks. When it is full grown it forms a pupa, also known as a chrysalis, From this chrysalis the full-grown adult butterfly will emerge the following spring or summer.
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"Complete metamorphosis" is the term used to describe the life cycle of insects that go through a four-stage sequence of forms. For butterflies, this means egg-larva-cocoon/chrysalis-adult. It helps to take the butterfly as the example, although dragonflies, bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and many other insects also go through complete metamorphosis. Like butterflies, they all have larvae and all of the other developmental stages.
The Diana fritillary butterfly is typical of the insects that undergo complete metamorphosis. The egg is laid on a variety if leaves, and the caterpillar that hatches out eats the leaves of the plant. As it grows, it sheds its skin, also known as molting. The stages between molts are called instars, and after the last instar, the caterpillar sheds its skin one more time.
The last tine the caterpillar sheds its skin, it enters the cocoon/chrysalis phase, known by scientists as "diapause." It's also called a "pupa." Inside the pupa, the insect's cells are rearranging. They actually break down into a kind of goop, and then reassemble to form the body and wings of the adult butterfly or moth.
The final "instar" occurs when the insect hatches out of the pupal skin. It is now ready to mate and continue the cycle. The adult feeds just enough to promote the goal of mating and laying eggs; other than that, it has no purpose on this planet.
The following sources were used for this guide:
- State Butterfly Arkansas
- Family Nymphalidae
- Fed.US Pollinators
- Alabama Butterfly Atlas
- Threatened Status
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.