The Aphrodite Atlas Project (TAAP)

Historically, it appears that Aphrodite Fritillary regularly roamed east as far as Baltimore; records of collections in the 1980’s in Green Ridge State Forest are rather common in the field notes and memories of lepidopterists still active in the field. But in recent years, Aphrodite is only known from Garrett Co.  Has the range shrunk so drastically, and if so, why?  Or is it still flying among the much more common Great Spangled Fritillary and just not being reported?

I’d like your help over the next couple of weeks to help understand the current range of Aphrodite in MD.  The species flies from the middle of June to late July (and often later) in Maryland, so the next month or so should reveal where Aphrodite Fritillary is found in the state.  We know it’s present in Garrett Co., with recent photo documentation to show for it, so I’m less interested in Garrett Co. records.  But any records from Allegany, Washington, or Frederick Counties would be most welcome.

Luckily, this is one fritillary complex that is relatively easy to tell apart from photos of the underside.  Ideally, it will be one in hand with a good close-up pic, but they regularly nectar with wings over their backs (on milkweeds now, primarily, on Joe-pye later in the season) and allow good photography.  We’re looking for good, high-quality photographs that show the full butterfly in mostly full frame (and include the eyes to exclude Atlantis Fritillary).  Photo records of the species you might have taken in past years are also most welcome!

Photos like these would be ideal:


Aphrodite Fritillary, textbook appearance. Very narrow (sometimes missing altogether) cream band between the red/tawny background (“discal spot”) that extends from the inner edge of the ventral hindwing almost all the way to the submarginal spots along the trailing edge of the hindwing. Note the eyes are yellowish/brownish (in Atlantis they are freakishly white and gray, “zombie eyes” as we call them).


Great Spangled Fritillary, by contrast, has a wide submarginal cream band. The largest silver spots in the red discal area usually stick out a little from the disc; in Aphrotide they are usually completely encased in the disc (because the disc is so wide). As in Aphrodite, the eyes are brownish.

There are certainly some fritillaries that challenge ID; we’re looking for clear and obvious examples of Aphrodite Fritillary rather than hard-to-classify individuals.  Any notes about habitat would also be very welcome, including nectar source, proximity to wooded areas, how dry the habitat is, etc.

I’m happy to pull all the non-Garrett documented Aphrodite photos together for a discussion at summer’s end and post them on LepLog.

Look forward to seeing you join TAAP!

— Rick for the MDLOG, the MD Leps and Odes Group.


This entry was posted in conservation, general butterfly news, Identification tips, maryland. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Aphrodite Atlas Project (TAAP)

  1. Dennis Fravel says:

    Hi Rick, this is a very interesting challenge. Since state boundaries really do not fit wildlife geographical distributions, I looked at the book Butterflies of Pennsylvania on page 120 and Aphrodite is shown in a number of Pennsylvania counties to the north of the Maryland counties of interest–maybe not so much Frederick county though. But Aphrodite does not show up in PA counties from Fulton on east, except Lancaster county (Susquehanna watershed and Amish farms?). Maybe the PA folks could help with clues on finding the Aphrodite?

    • Rick says:

      Yes, good thoughts. I know David Wright is on the distribution I sent and I will follow up as well, and he can tell us how recent those PA records are. It’s one of the reasons I also asked for records from counties that abut MD; the likelihood is Aphrodite might occur on both sides of the boundary.

  2. Jeff Cagle says:

    How do we join? Bob Ringler and I got one record from Allegany Co a few years back.

  3. Rick says:

    Just send me a photo documentation and I’ll file it away until the end of the project when I post a gallery. Or submit it to MBP and let me know it’s there (I don’t believe it is currently)…

  4. Rick says:

    Capital. If you can send me a photo separately that would be terrific. Also would be helpful to have this on MBP, since they are currently lacking contemporary photodocumentation from Allegany.

  5. Dennis Fravel says:

    Nice writeup on the decline of Aphrodites in Massachusetts since about 1870s. List possible reasons as to the decline. Some of the information might help focus was to Aphrodites habitat See

  6. Jesus says:

    Out of Garrett County, I only saw or captured S. aphrodite in the Finzel/Cranberry area in Allegany County in June-July, although most of people think it is in Garret county. Nevertheless, I think this location for Aphrodite is well known. It is easier to see it in the uphill prairies outside the natural area to the East, in June-July (I also saw it once in September). In spite to look for it for several years in other places I had being unable to confirm any single suspicious specimen, once in hand, as S. aphrodite.

    • Jesus says:

      They were plenty of them July 13/14 in Cunnigham swamp and a few in Cranwberry swamp

      • Rick says:

        Thanks. Yes, we see them rather regularly in Garrett, although this is a welcome report for this year since reports have been scarce. Particularly hoping for records in Allegany and Garrett.

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