Other Common Names
Northwestern Fritillary - commonly seen in recent publications, but not very appropriate, since this is actually one of the most southerly ranging species. Also, the name was first used in reference to Canadian insects that may not even properly belong to S. hesperis
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Argynnis hesperis W. H.Edwards 1864. Type locality: Turkey Creek Junction, Jefferson County, Colorado. Based on unslivered specimens.
Argynnis electa W. H. Edwards 1878. Type locality (confused, depending upon author, listed as Rocky Mountain National Park [probably Grand County]; Turkey Creek Junction, Jefferson County; or Twin Lakes, Lake County; all in Colorado. It has been debated if this was S. hesperis or S. atlantis, but the apparently partially silvered "lectotype specimen" is clearly referable to S. hesperis.
Argynnis. cornelia W.H. Edwards 1892. Type locality: Ouray, Ouray County, Colorado [Manitou Springs and Crested Butte also listed in type description]. Lectotype is a silvered specimen.
Argynnis nikias Ehrmann 1917. Type locality: Jemez Springs, Sandoval County, New Mexico. Based on a silvered specimen leaning toward "dorothea" in character.
Speyeria atlantis hesperis (Edwards) dos Passos & Grey 1945
Speyeria hesperis (Edwards) Scott, Kondla & Spomer 1998
Speyeria atlantis sorocko Scott, Kondla & Spomer 1998. Type locality: northeast of Mt. Judge, 9100 ft, Clear Creek County, Colorado. Published to replace the name "electa" for silvered Southern Rocky Mountain region S. atlantis populations; however, the type specimen of sorocko is actually referable to S. hesperis.
: Dryas atlantis beani
W. Barnes & Benjamin, 1926. Type locality: Banff, Alberta. This name is generally, currently, treated as a subspecies of Speyeria hesperis
. The type specimen is illustrated by Dunford, 2007: 117
, and looks like a specimen of S. atlantis
, very similar to the type specimen of S. atlantis
in fact. In practice the name has been applied to more than one type of insect, on one hand some seem related to helena
, but others can look identical to eastern S. atlantis
on the other. These are all typically distinctly reddish below, with silvered spots. See identification comments below, and under this section in the S. atlantis
Explanation of Names
Until recently, this species has been considered by most as part of Speyeria atlantis. Due to the fact that two distinctly different types fly together in many parts of the western United States, one subset has been removed from S. atlantis - now considered by most to be a separate species - Speyeria hesperis. There is still a great deal of disagreement about this separation, especially with populations found near and north of the Canadian border, due largely to conflicting observations about what types "blend" with or are distinct from what other types. Confusing the issue is the possibility that related Speyeria species may hybridize, and any hybrids would probably look intermediate between their parents (even if they are rare and infertile, their existence could cloud perception of species boundaries).
Unsilvered specimens in the Southern Rocky Mountains are often separated as a subspecies distinct from silvered specimens (though many populations contain both colors and intermediates). Unsilvered specimens are prevalent east of the Continental Divide and north of the Arkansas River and silvered ones prevail elsewhere in the region, though almost anywhere both types can be found, just in different proportions of the population. Silvered specimens variously bear the names "electa" or "nikias", depending upon the opinion of the particular author toward the identity of the name electa (which is the older of the two names, and which has until relatively recently has been considered to be the proper name for Rocky Mountain specimens that match eastern S. atlantis, instead of applying to silvered specimens of S. hesperis).
Additional names referable to this species, and variously treated as subspecies or species include:
Argynnis egleis irene Boisduval, 1869. Type locality: Massack, Plumas County, California (the application of the name is debated, but is currently usually treated as representing S. hesperis).
Argynnis nausicae W. H. Edwards, 1874. Type locality: "rocky canyon", Graham County, Arizona
Argynnis chitone W. H. Edwards, 1879. Type locality: Cedar Breaks, Iron County, Utah
Argynnis lais W. H. Edwards, 1884 [not Argynnis lais Scudder, 1875]. Type locality: originally given as Red Deer River, Alberta; "corrected" by Geddes to Fort Edmonton, Alberta
Argynnis ?aphrodite forma arizonensis Elwes, 1889. Type specimen is the same as for A. nausicae.
Argynnis cottlei J. A. Comstock, 1925. Type locality: near Alturas, Mocod County, California
Argynnis dodgei Gunder, 1931. Type locality: Diamond Lake, Douglas County, Oregon
Speyeria atlantis lurana dos Passos & Grey, 1945. Type locality: Harney Peak, Black Hills, Custer County, South Dakota
Speyeria atlantis tetonia dos Passos & Grey, 1945. Type locality: Teton Mountains, Teton County, Wyoming
Speyeria atlantis viola dos Passos & Grey, 1945. Type locality: Trail Creek, 7400 ft, Sawtooth Mountains, Custer County, Idaho
Speyeria atlantis dennnisi dos Passos & Grey, 1945 [based on Argynnis atlantis beani tr. f. dennisi Gunder, 1927]. Type locality: Beulah, Manitoba
Speyeria atlantis wasatchia dos Passos & Grey, 1945. Type locality: Payson Canyon, Utah County, Utah
Speyeria atlantis dorothea Moeck, 1947. Type locality: Sandia Mountains, Sandoval County, New Mexico
Speyeria atlantis schellbachi Garth, 1949. Type locality: Neal Springs, North Rim Grand Canyon, Coconino County, Arizona
?Speyeria atlantis greyi Moeck, 1950. Type locality: Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountians, Elko County, Nevada. Very pale, little reddish below (appears to really be referable to S. egleis).
Speyeria atlantis helena dos Passos & Grey, 1957 [replacement name for Argynnis lais W. H. Edwards].
Speyeria atlantis ratonensis Scott, 1981. Type locality: Raton Mesa, Colfax County, New Mexico
Speyeria atlantis elko Austin, 1984. Type locality: Wildhorse Creek Campground, s. of Mountain City, Elko County, Nevada
Speyeria atlantis capitanensis R. Holland, 1988. Type locality: crest of Capitan Ridge, Capitan Mountains, Lincoln County, NM
Speyeria atlantis hanseni J. Emmel, T. Emmel, & Mattoon, 1998. Type locality: Anthony Peak, Tehama County, California
Very difficult to put into words with most Speyeria species in the west, but some hints:
S. hesperis (except when old and faded) tends to be a bright orange insect (especially males) with margins tending to be light (dominated by orange in males). Wings somewhat produced apically, giving them a slightly elongate shape. Hind wings usually nearly evenly rounded on outer margin. The underside has the pale buffy submarginal band usually edged in darker color toward both inside and outside edge (sometimes completely suffused), and crossed by dark colored veins (but not as distinctly nor as crisply so as in S. atlantis. Dark coloring below tends to be a distinctly reddish but often quite dark brown, often with obvious paler areas between veins on hind wings (this varies regionally). There is usually distinct rich reddish coloring on the disc of the lower front wing and along the veins toward the apex. The pale spots below are mostly unsilvered and slightly yellowish, but southward in particularly they may be silvered.
Depending upon region, easily confused with S. egleis (which usually has more yellowish on parts of upper wings (especially over pale spots of under hind wing), and more "squared" shape to front wings, with humeral angle of hind wing less produced. Usually less reddish with a wider buffy submarginal band on under hind wing. Usually silvered below where found with S. hesperis.
S. hydaspe is usually unsilvered with dark reddish disk below, just as in S. hesperis, but is more purplish in hue, with submarginal pale band more often suffused by dark color; large pale spots of hind wing tending to rounder (or even somewhat square) and more even in size in median row; median dark markings on front wings usually wider. Tends to favor even moister habitats.
S. zerene (in California) can be similar, but the spots below are usually larger and more elongate, and the median dark spots on forewing larger.
S. aphrodite averages larger in most regions, with proportionately wider wings. Males do not have veins noticeably margined in black. Eyes are brownish (gray in S. atlantis, except New Mexico and Arizona, where eyes of both may be brownish).
S. atlantis averages smaller (in most, but not all regions), with forewings proportionately more "squared" looking (less elongate), and with outer margin of hind wing more angled near middle of outer edge. Markings are "crisper" looking, with individual black spots more even and often more squared in shape, often smaller (except median dark spots which may actually be larger); with outer margin in both males and females usually largely black (usually orange in males and often females of S. hesperis. Dark coloring below may be a chocolate brown (often dark chocolate), but varies from place to place and individual to individual, and may also be distinctly reddish. Pale spots below are always silvered (often not silvered in S. hesperis), and tend to be somewhat less elongate in shape, and often somewhat smaller.
The Prairie race - subspecies helena (= lais) - is very distinct looking, and perhaps should be considered as an entirely unique species, though this needs further study. It is found primarily in the hills of the northern Great Plains and Prairies of s. Alberta, sw. Manitoba, s. Saskatchewan, and adjacent Montana and North Dakota, where it flies in a more open habitat than other S. hesperis. This subspeices has the same wing shape as S. atlantis (but with more shallow and rounded HW humeral lobe); is small in size; is often rather lighter in general coloring, with usually pale borders above and distinctly reddish with pale spots silvered and wide pale submarginal band below; has the black spot patern usually rather crisp, not run-together, with the spot below the discal cell of the FW usually absent or at least greatly reduced. At least part of what is commonly refered to as ssp. "beani" in Alberta appears to be a somewhat darker western version of this Prairie type, but insects called "beani" in the Canadian Rockies often look identical to more eastern S. atlantis ssp. atlantis and very little like "proper" S. hesperis.
There is still much more to learn and to sort out regarding these confusing insects.
Mountains of Arizona, New Mexico, and California north to Washington, Idaho, and Rockies in s. sw. Alberta, and South Dakota. What is usually called "beanii" [but see comment above] is perhaps part of the Prairie subspecies "helena", which is found mostly in the northern Great Plains and Prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, southward into northern North Dakota and Montana.
Mostly associated with moist Aspen and Spruce-Fir forests and woodlands where it is found in sunny openings such as meadows and streamsides. Even though found in open areas, rarely far from forest, and will often dash for cover of forest if chased.
Subspecies helena is a prairie insect.