After saving my money, I was able to buy the Gulf Fritillary’s host plant, Passionvine. I can now raise the caterpillars and watch them transform into butterflies . The passionvine I purchased is Passionvine Inspiration. It has a wonderful aroma. Passionvines do tend to grow without boundaries and pop up in various places in the yard. I’ve had them sprout several feet from the actual plant! Planting them in a pot with a tomato cage for support is a better choice, but they will not grow as large since they are confined to a smaller area.
Most red Passionvines are toxic for caterpillars. Gulf Fritillaries can mistake them for good host plants and lay eggs on them. When the caterpillars hatch, they soon will die after consuming the toxic leaves.
This Gulf Fritillary quickly discovered my new host plant. Gulf Fritillaries often hang upside down to delicately lay eggs on the tendrils of Passionvines.
The butterfly eggs are so tiny and easy to miss! This Gulf Fritillary egg was laid on the tip of a tendril. When they are first laid, they are bright orange, but before hatching they begin to turn a darker shade.
This Gulf Fritillary caterpillar is newly hatched.
With so much eating it quickly outgrows its exoskeleton and goes through a molting phase which reveals a new exoskeleton . After shedding the old exoskeleton, the caterpillar must wait for hours for it to harden.
Now that it’s bigger, the spikes are clearly visible. The spikes look sharp and pointy, but actually they are smooth and can easily be broken. Predators of these caterpillars are easily fooled by the spikes.
These caterpillars keep eating and then shed off their skin again when it becomes to tight.
This big caterpillar is in its fifth instar. An instar is the stage between each molt. When they are this big, not only will that eat the leaves, but also the flowers.
It has reached its maximum size and is now searching for a place to make a chrysalis.
It found the perfect spot! Look how its starting to turn white. That means it will begin shedding its exoskeleton soon for the last time.
The chrysalis is complete. Doesn’t it resemble a dead leaf? Some chrysalises are slightly twisted to further trick sneaky predators.
Death is sad, but it is part of the natural cycle.
It took about a week for this Gulf Fritillary to emerge. I love the silver on its wings. When the lights hits it, the silver will shimmer.
Ready to be released! This butterfly is fully dry and ready to fly. Soon it will return to lay eggs so I can raise its caterpillars again.
In May, I discovered a Gulf Fritillary egg that had been laid on the wrong host plant. My mom took me to a nursery who owned the correct host plant and we safely deposited it there. Please go to http://elizabethssecretgarden.blogspot.com/2009/05/story-of-lost-caterpillar.html to read the story.
Also check out my book on butterflies!
It includes all about how to raise butterflies, their life cycles, and butterfly gardens/conservatories I have visited. The life cycles of ten butterflies are in my book including the Gulf Fritillary. Happy Butterfly Gardening!
Please purchase my book here to support my work: https://www.createspace.com/4083202