Lifecycle of a Gulf fritillary butterfly in photos

June 12, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

This past week has been a very rainy, thunder storming week.  The beginning of the week started with Tropical Storm Colin dropping a good 5 inches of rain at our location, while other locations got more or less. Every day this week we have had rain and thunderstorms including today (but now the sun is back out again).  As a result, I didn't get the chance to do as much photography as I would like.  However, at the garden a gulf fritillary caterpillar continued it's lifecycle going from a caterpillar to (soon) a butterfly.  While this is not the exact same caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly in all these pictures, I thought it might be interesting for some to follow the lifecycle and gain an appreciation for nature.

In order to attract this particular caterpillar, you must have the 'host' plant for the caterpillars to eat.  These caterpillars like the "passion flower" vine.  Here's a picture of the flower this vine produces. Quite an elaborate flower with lots of color.

If you have this particular plant (and there are a few other colors besides the purple passion flower), then you have the beginning of the lifecycle.

These orange caterpillars with the black spikes will eat this plant in order to grow up to the point of forming a chrysalis.

Once the caterpillar reaches adult stage, it will find a suitable place (hopefully safe) to begin the cycle of creating a butterfly.  If you find a caterpillar in the 'J' position, it's about to start building a chrysalis (or pupae).

The chrysalis itself is not colorful.  It's a dull brown-gray color (sometimes even whitish) and is very small in size (about 1 inch in length). This particular chrysalis was attached to a garbage can by silk threads.

The chrysalis stays in this form for eleven to twenty-one days providing no predator comes and destroys it (and that includes humans!). When the time comes, a small crack will begin to form at the tip of the chrysalis and the butterfly's head will be revealed. It continues to slowly move down through the bottom of the chrysalis until its legs are free to cling onto the shell of the chrysalis and pull itself the rest of the way out. If you're lucky, you might be there at the right time to witness this miracle of nature. The butterfly will emerge, and begin to pump fluids from the abdomen into the shriveled wings.  Once this process is completed, the butterfly will take flight.

I just missed the emerging of this butterfly, but it was still hanging onto the chrysalis drying it's wings. The one below is on one of our boat trailer tires.  We have had several decide this is the appropriate place to complete the lifecycle and we have delayed boating waiting on a butterfly to arrive.

The underside of the butterflies wings look quite a bit different than the top side of the wings.

A full grown Gulf fritillary butterfly eating pollen from a bush near the purple passion flower vine. 

Here's another URL from the University of Florida with more details about the overall lifecycle of this butterfly.

Until next time...



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