Posts Tagged: Gulf Fritillary butterfly
Nobody really bats an eye when a chicken lays an egg. That's what we expect them to do.
But when a butterfly lays an egg, that's a different story--especially in December.
Gulf Fritillary butterflies or passion butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) head for the nearest Passiflora, their host plant, and lay their eggs, tiny little yellow eggs about the size of a sesame seed.
It's done so quietly and so effortlessly--and it's such a miracle--that you expect to hear Vivaldi's Spring or the sound of trumpets or loud applause or a standing ovation. Something.
But no, the female butterfly goes about her business of laying eggs, deftly avoiding mate-seeking males that attempt to draw her attention.
The egg will hatch into a larva or caterpillar, and the caterpillar will morph into a munching machine, devouring every leaf in sight. Then comes the chrysalis, and an adult butterfly emerges.
That itself, in the dead of winter, warrants Vivaldi's Spring!
A Gulf Fritillary laying an egg in the dead of winter on a passionflower leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A female Gulf Fritillary, after laying an egg, soaks up some sunshine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What a perfect match when a Gulf Fritillary butterfly touches down on a blanket flower.
They're both reddish-orange and showy.
Last weekend we spotted a Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) land momentarily on a blanket flower (Gaillardia), in our bee garden.
The butterfly warmed itself, stretched its wings, and then fluttered off.
Thankfully, the Gulf Fritillary, thought to be extinct in the Sacramento-Davis area in the 1970s, is making a gigantic comeback, according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. If you want it in your yard, plant passion flower (Passiflora), its host plant.
Then blanket a corner of your bee garden with the blanket flower (sunflower family, Asteraceae). The flower was probably named for the colorful patterned blankets made by native Americans.
Then the next time you see a Gulf Frit cuddle up with a blanket flower, grab your camera.
Gulf Fritillary touches down on a blanket flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Getting ready for takeoff. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
And away it goes! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
For months, I've been waiting ah, so patiently (well, not always s-o-o-o patiently) for the gulf fritillary butterfly to touch down on our Mexican sunflower, Tithonia.
A perfect match, I figured. The showy reddish-orange butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) sipping nectar from the equally orange and showy Mexican sunflower.
No such luck. Every time I'd check the yard for the special butterfly-blossom scenario, it was always landing on something else: multi-colored lantana, lavender lantana, and the passion flower vine (genus Passiflora).
And occasionally, a pomegranate tree or tomato plant.
Oh, sure, it did visit the Tithonia, but it would vanish before I could grab the camera.
However, on Sunday, following the San Francisco Giants' game, I was thinking orange. Bright orange. Baseball orange. I stepped outside, and voila!
Touchdown! The perfect match!
The butterfly lingered long enough for me to capture its image, a side view of its silver-spangled wings, as well as a bird's eye view (Please, scrub jays, don't eat my butterfly.) It then fluttered off to the passion flower vine.
The gulf flit was once prevalent in the Sacramento area in the 1960s, but "it seems to have died out by the early 1970s," according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
It's been making a comeback in the Sacramento area since 2009.
Sunday was a perfect comeback day. And a perfect touchdown day!
Gulf fritillary butterfly. Agraulis vanillae, lands on Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf fritillary butterfly spreads its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A perfect match: gulf fritillary on Mexican sunflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...
--Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863)
In our house, nothing is stirring, thanks be to the cat. Xena the Warrior Princess does not like anything stirring. Even the dog annoys here.
But in the yard, quite a few insects were stirring on the Passiflora (passion flower vine) this afternoon. We planted it last summer to attract Gulf Fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae). Passiflora is their host plant. In the late summer, we saw the adults mating and an occasional female laying eggs. Then the caterpillars appeared and began munching on the leaves.
Today we spotted about eight Gulf Fritillary caterpillars soaking up what was left of the sun. Also on board was a Gulf Fritillary chrysalis, but it was not stirring.
An overwintering Harlequin bug wandered around looking lost--but we're sure it was up to something. Last summer its ancestors were enjoying our lemon cucumbers, planted nearby.
As butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis says about the Harlequin bugs: "They prefer Crucifers (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc.) but are not limited to 'em!"
Harlequin bug wandering around on passion flower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf fritillary caterpillar--soon to become a chrysalis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another gulf fritillary caterpillar--soon to become a chrysalis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf fritillary chrysalis attached to wire behind passion flower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Whew! That was close!
When you see a butterfly with a gaping hole in its wingspan, you wonder what predator tried to grab it. A praying mantis? A bird? A crab spider or jumping spider? A playful cat or dog?
Whatever tried to grab it, it missed.
That brings to mind the proverbial saying, "A miss is as good as a mile," dating back to the 18th century. It first appeared in The American Museum, Volume 3, 1788.
The author wasn't talking about a Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) missing a chunk of its wing, but the meaning is the same: a miss, whether as narrow as a strand of hair or as wide as the AT&T ballpark (where the San Francisco Giants clinched their National League championship tonight!), is still a miss.
This particular Gulf Fritillary landed on its host plant, a passion flower vine (Passiflora) last Sunday and then fluttered off, only to be replaced by scores of others. They were laying eggs on the plant.
One Gulf Frit touched down on the bright red blossom of the triangular-leafed Passiflora manicata, variety Linda Escobar. Its wingspan? Perfect.
It may not be tomorrow, though.
Gulf Fritillary butterfly showing signs of a predatory miss. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary on the blossom of a passion flower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)