Butterflies - Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary Pair
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
The Gulf Fritillary is a southern longwing butterfly with bright red-orange wings above and brown with silver spots, below. It is found year round in frost free areas. In southern Louisiana, we see them most of the year, but more often when the passion vine (its larval host plant) is growing. During the warm months, several broods mature.
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Gulf Fritillary Egg
Life Cycle of a Butterfly
The life cycle of a butterfly is a miraculous event. Butterfly metamorphosis should be a unit of study for every child. By planting a few passion vines in your garden, you can transform you yard into an outdoor learning laboratory.
The photos of the life cycle of the Gulf Fritillary were taken in our backyard habitat in south Louisiana.
Gulf Fritillaries have several broods each year, so there are many opportunities to observe the life cycle. The females lay their eggs on most varieties of Passion Flower Vine.
Many people who enjoy the butterflies, but want to maintain their exotic varieties of Passion Vine will grow extra amounts of the native varieties like Passiflora incarnata (Maypop) and P. lutea (Yellow Passion Vine) in a corner of the garden.
When the brownish orange caterpillars appear on the exotic Passion Vine, they can be easily relocated to the more common, native, not so showy passion vine in the back part of the garden.
Some years, there are so many caterpillars that they will strip the leaves from our vines. To prevent this, we now have many trellises with both the native and hardy passion vine cultivars and we also let the native varieties grow into the trees.
Each year the plants are killed back by the first cold snap, but pop up when the weather warms up again in spring.
The caterpillars shed the old skin as they grow. Even though they look ferocious, the horns are soft and do not cause damage to human skin.
When they reach a large enough size, they crawl away from the vine to pupate into a chrysalis.
In a few weeks, an adult butterfly emerges and begins the cycle again by mating and laying eggs.
Life Cycle of Butterflies
Another Fritillary, the Variegated Fritillary also inhabits Louisiana and other southern states. It lives mostly in grasslands, but can also be found along roadsides, farmland and other open areas.
Its host plant is the Viola, which include violets, Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups and also passion vine and flax.
Gulf Fritillary on Lantana
Click to buy Gulf Fritillary postcard by naturegirl7 on Zazzle.com.
Nectar plants attract butterflies to your garden, especially those with composite blooms that contain nectar. Old-fashioned flowers generally have more nectar than the newer hybrids.
While nectar plants are important, if you want to keep the butterflies in your yard you should plant the special host plants that each type of butterfly requires. The host plant of the Gulf Fritillary are Passion Vines (Passiflora spp., including the wild tiny yellow flowered Passiflora lutea L.)
Other Requirement of a butterfly garden include:
Shelter from the Wind - A fence or group of evergreen shrubs will form a wind break to protect the butterflies and if planted on the north side of the garden will also help to reduce energy costs in winter.
A Shallow Water Feature or Boggy Area, with a sandy or muddy bottom will be appreciated by those butterflies that like to "puddle".
Large Rocks, for basking in the sun, because butterflies are cold-blooded creatures, they need to warm up in the sun on cool spring mornings.
A Compost Pile or Overripe Fruit will be appreciated by some kinds of butterflies like Snout-nosed and Red-spotted Purple.
Butterfly Garden Poll
Do you have a butterfly garden?
Under Wing Pattern
Butterfly Field Guides
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