Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Gulf Fritillaries

I wrote last month that there were many Gulf fritillary caterpillars on our red-flowered passion vines.  Well, they've chomped and chomped until the vines are practically bare.  I hope the vines will recover-- at least put up new shoots next spring/summer, if not new leaves before frost.

Assuming the vines survive, next year (if I can work up the enthusiasm) I think I'll pick off some of the caterpillars.  I don't mind sharing plants with butterfly caterpillars, but this is taking things too far.  I want to enjoy some flowers-- or at least a few leaves.

And still they come!  There are so many Gulf fritillaries visiting other flowers, and I imagine some of them are still laying eggs on those poor, denuded vines.  This is why bugs annoy me.  I know they're just doing what they do, but they're so greedy!  (Only half joking here...)  Plus, caterpillars look creepy-- a fact that is only slightly ameliorated by the knowledge that they'll eventually turn into butterflies.  I'm just caterpillared out, for the year.  Bah-humbug! (Get it? HumBUG?)

Here's a large caterpillar, back when there were still some leaves to eat...

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

The odd-looking thing beside the caterpillar in this next photo had me stumped, until I looked around a little online.  Apparently, that's the old skin of the caterpillar.  It had just shed it.  Notice that the caterpillar's "spikes" are pale ("blond", some call it), compared to the usual black (as in the photo above).  That's what the spikes look like when a caterpillar has recently molted.  They darken with time.

Want a gross-out factoid?  The caterpillars typically eat their molted skin.  :oS  Blech.  (I'm sorry, but that's just disgusting.)

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Quite a bit further down the fence, there's a gate where I noticed several chrysalises/chrysalides.  I can't be positive, but I imagine these are Gulf fritillaries in the making.

Unfortunately, one of them was being attacked by a particularly mean-looking wasp:

Wasp Attacking (?) Chrysalis

At least, I assume the wasp was attacking it-- trying to get inside and eat it, probably.  (Yuck again.  Nature can be so gross.)

I hope that some of the others make it!  (Otherwise, we may have sacrificed our passion vines for nothing, to be completely selfish about it...)

Gulf Fritillary Chrysalis

I'm sure some of them will survive to maturity...

Gulf Fritillary Chrysalis

I guess that's why there are so many of them to begin with...  

Gulf Fritillary Chrysalis
Nature may be gross, sometimes, but it knows its business pretty well.