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Bug of the Week: Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

This week my friend Debbie called and invited me to visit her butterfly garden. Sure enough, when I arrived there were several species of butterflies flitting throughout her yard. By far the most common were the bright orange and silvery white gulf fritillary butterflies. I also saw numerous skippers and a few giant swallowtails, as well as a yellow sulphur butterfly.

It was hard to get the active gulf fritillary butterflies to sit still long enough to get a photo. The adults were searching her yard for the numerous passion vine plants she had planted. The adults lay eggs on the plant and the caterpillars use it for food. Can you guess what happened to this one?

gulf fritillary

Here’s an adult apparently laying eggs on a piece of passion vine. Note the remnant of a chrysalis hanging to the left of the butterfly. Can you see the beautiful silvery-white patches on the undersides of the wings?

gulf fritillary

Debbie’s passion vines are in various stages. Some have no leaves left from all the caterpillars that have been feeding on them in the past. If you are going to have brilliant, vibrant butterflies, you’ll have to accept that your plants may look a bit raggedy. The vines are around an aloe plant in a pot.

passion vines

She has a couple of different passion vines, with different shaped leaves. Here is one that still has leaves.

passion vine leaf

Here’s another with an empty chrysalis.

fritillary chrysalis

The passion vines have gorgeous, very unusual flowers. I couldn’t find flowers this week, but here is one I shot at the National Botanical Garden a few months ago.

passion vine flower

Here is a link for passion vine flower photos of several different species.

I did find a fruit.

passion vine ruit

Debbie opened one and showed me the unusual seeds inside. Cool!

passion vine seed

Here is a cute skipper that was more willing to pose for me than the fritillaries. The skipper caterpillars feed on various grasses and they are quite common. Sometimes they are mistaken for moths because of their drab brown color.

skipper butterfly

This experience made me realize how very rewarding butterfly gardening can be. We were able to see and talk about so much in just a short period of time. With a few well-chosen plants, some sun, water and patience, Debbie has created a lively and enriching environment.

Debbie, thanks for sharing.

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