I've been watching dozens of Great and Variegated Spangled Fritillaries in our back field for the past week or so. They're amazing to watch - fast moving, flashes of bright orange against the green grass. I've only seen them come to rest a few times.
Today I came across this hidden in the grass. I had the uncomfortable feeling of being voyeuristic as I peered through trying to figure out exactly what it was.
Yep, Great Spangled sex!
This photo makes me chuckle. I love what looks like an "expression" on the left butterfly:
This photo shows the two connected by the male's claspers:
In the next few weeks we can expect a decrease in female Great Spangled sightings as they go into hiding before laying their eggs in late August/early September. She'll lay approximately 2,000 eggs (wow! most butterflies lay 100-200) on various violet plants. The eggs will hatch 3-4 weeks later and the first larvae will drop to the ground where they'll hibernate over the winter without eating (and hopefully without being eaten).
When the larvae emerge from hibernation in April, they're at the base of young, succulent violet plants which they voraciously dine on until they become a spiny black caterpillar nearly 2" long. Here's a post from earlier this spring on the Great Spangled Fritillary larva I found in the garden under a clump of violets.
(note that most of the technical information was gleaned from books and various respected sites, one of which is the lovely blog Springfield Plateau. Just a heads-up, you'll want to be careful Googling "butterfly sex!")