Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gulf Fritillary Fun

 Since moving to Texas in 2008, I have been charmed by the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly.  Its fiery orange inner wings, and silvery outside make it flash as it zooms about the garden.  It is a common butterfly in Austin, but I never get tired of seeing it.  I am such a fan that I think the Gulf Fritillary should replace the Monarch as the Texas State Butterfly.  No offense to the Monarch, as it is also an incredible butterfly with its long migration, warning colors, and its special place in the hearts of children as they learn about life cycles in science class.  The Monarch is the state butterfly of at least 8 different states including Texas, and I think some of the attention can be given to our Gulf Fritillary.

The Gulf Fritillary deserves recognition as the most common representative to the United States of the tropical longwing butterflies (Heliconians.)   Like the Monarch, the Fritillary wears bright warning colors, has a life cycle that can be watched in the backyard (if you live where its food grows), and is large and beautiful enough to get the attention of anyone.  The Passion vine, the fritillary’s host plant, grows with the zest of tropical plants and displays extravagant purple flowers.  The butterfly is almost tame living in backyards, and allowing you to get very close with slow and steady movements.   

This summer and fall, I have been lucky enough to capture much of the Gulf Fritillary's life cycle with my camera, thanks to the passion vine I planted this spring.  Many of the following photos were included in previous posts, but collectively they create a mini story of the Gulf Fritillaries in my yard.

First I planted a Passion vine, and up it goes.

Laying eggs

Little golden egg
Good luck little egg.

Time to eat

Once I counted over 70 caterpillars!

Look at that warning color.  Don't eat me!
A hidden chrysalis looks like a dry leaf. 
All the Leaves are gone

Just hatching!

Zinnas are great for hungry Butterflies.

On the Wing