The Life Cycle of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

We have all learned where butterflies come from. It was in elementary school when the science teacher ordered a kit that promised flocks of magical butterflies fluttering about the classroom but in reality, the tent became littered with stinky dead pupae and misshapen creatures that never quite came out right. Did anyone else have this experience? Well, today while gardening I witnessed both a caterpillar forming its cocoon and a butterfly emerging from one! It sure beats poking at stinky dead mutant bugs in the classroom.

First Comes Love
You might remember an earlier post in which I caught two butterflies getting it on, and proceeded to take photos of them doing it in the nude for your viewing pleasure. I know, it was shameful.

Then Comes Marriage
Actually butterflies can only legally get married in five states. Besides, they usually just hook up and never see each other again... If this sounds rather unwholesome to you, I ask you to not hate the player but instead hate the game.

Then Comes Baby in the Baby Carriage!
You can always tell when the gulf fritillaries are laying eggs by the way they tentatively approach the tip of each tendril for a perfect place to raise their children. The passionflowers have actually adapted to the voracious habits of caterpillars by forming false eggs along the tips of the vines. When the butterfly lands on a tendril and changes her mind at the last minute, it's because it looks as if all of the good seats were taken.

Passionflower Buffet
The passionflower vines are thuggish brutes that steal lunch money from the bottlebrush trees and give the gingers and gardenias swirlies, but I still keep them around for a few good reasons. Besides having otherworldly flowers, the Gulf fritillary butterflies and swallowtails can't get enough of it. They need the stuff to feed their young. That doesn't keep me from giving the vines some tough love in the form of a merciless pruning from time to time.

Napping in a Cocoon
After an inordinate amount of gluttony (think Thanksgiving) I'm usually napping and out of commission for a few hours. These caterpillars have been eating for days and days, so a simple nap simply will not do. They wrap themselves in a hard cocoon and hang up the do not disturb sign while they undergo their post-dinner metamorphosis.

A Butterfly Emerges!
This butterfly had just come out of its cocoon and still had to let its new wings air out before giving them a test drive. After a few unsuccessfully guided flops into the grass, this butterfly came through and made a dramatic escape... into the fence. Fifth time's a charm?

1 comment:

  1. And what a butterfly!! They are really beautiful to have around the gardens here!


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