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Hosting the Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

The Gulf Fritillary butterfly feasts on tasty nectar.

The Gulf Fritillary butterfly feasts on tasty nectar.

Anticipated Return

A couple of days ago I looked out my front window and saw a beautiful sight that I had longed for all summer. I noticed a sea of orange fluttering bodies bobbing and weaving over the front fence line. I instinctively knew what this meant.The Gulf Fritillary butterflies were depositing their eggs on the passion flower vine that covers my front fence.The Gulf Fritillary or Passion Butterfly is bright orange and belongs to the Nymphalidae family. It takes its name from migrating flights of butterflies over the Gulf of Mexico.

I am always excited to welcome them back to our Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat, but this year is extra special. Last summer due to the extreme heat and drought, my seven year-old vine, died back to the ground before the eggs had a chance to be laid.

I walked outside with much anticipation to see if any of the eggs had already hatched. The timing of the garden has been early this year. I think it is because of the lack of a cold winter and an early, extremely hot summer; everything is off by a good month. This includes the laying of the Gulf Fritillary larvae. In past years, we never had full grown caterpillars until September; we have them ready to cocoon now, as I found out when I journeyed into the yard.

Massive growth of the passion flower vine this year, gives the catepillars plenty of food for making the transition into a butterfly.

Massive growth of the passion flower vine this year, gives the catepillars plenty of food for making the transition into a butterfly.

The passion flower vine is the host plant for the caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

The passion flower vine is the host plant for the caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

Butterfly Attraction

The Gulf Fritillary butterflies are native to North America and overwinter in Florida and Texas. In our habitat, we have been hosting the caterpillars for eight years. Helping a variety of butterflies to survive and prosper is tremendously rewarding. The health of the environment can be judged on the bees, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife that inhabits it.

I would highly recommend planting Lantana in your yard to attract the adult butterflies. Lantana comes in all shapes and colors these days; with several color schemes available, you can easily pick one to fit into your garden.

The adult lays its eggs on the foliage of the passion flower vine. It is the host plant for the caterpillar and provides food for the transformation into a butterfly. There are nine different species of the vine native to North America.

A Gulf Fritillary caterpillar eats its way through a passion flower vine.

A Gulf Fritillary caterpillar eats its way through a passion flower vine.

The cocoon of the Gulf Fritillary.

The cocoon of the Gulf Fritillary.

Gardening for Butterflies

Resources for Butterflies

No matter if you live in the country or the city, you can garden for butterflies; the Gulf Fritillary inhabits both. Remember, even small steps help to nurture nature and makes a difference.


About the Author

Catherine Dean is a freelance writer, gardener, quilter, and blogger. Her professional background includes nonprofit program development, grant writing, and volunteer management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from Georgia College & State University.

Catherine is an award winning community volunteer who places high value on service to others. She has served in several leadership capacities for various charities/nonprofits in her lifetime. Her blog, Sowing A Simple Harvest, chronicles a modern couple trying to live a simplistic, sustainable life. To explore Catherine's professional credentials, visit her website. She can also be followed on Google+.

Comments

Catherine Dean (author) from Milledgeville, Georgia on February 05, 2015:

Thanks so very much!

Catherine Dean (author) from Milledgeville, Georgia on March 06, 2013:

Thanks for commenting bridalletter! I do love the passion flower also. Good luck with your habitat.

Brenda Kyle from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA on March 06, 2013:

That passion flower is spectacular. I love butterflies and I am planning to improve the habitat around my home for them, this year. Thank you for sharing.

Catherine Dean (author) from Milledgeville, Georgia on September 17, 2012:

Thank you so much Alicia. The Backyard Habitat Program is a wonderful tool to help wildlife. Thanks for commenting.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 17, 2012:

The photos are beautiful, mvillecat, and I enjoyed reading your hub. I love the idea of having a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. It's a wonderful way to contribute to nature.

Catherine Dean (author) from Milledgeville, Georgia on August 16, 2012:

Thank you Glimmer Twin Fan. We do too.

Joseph Dean from Macon, Georgia on August 16, 2012:

love is like a butterfly, as soft and gentle as a sigh, its multicolored moods of love are like its satin wings, love makes your heart feel strange inside, it flutters like soft wings in flight, love is like a butterfly, a rare and gentle thing

Claudia Mitchell on August 16, 2012:

Beautiful pics and interesting hub. We love looking at the butterflies in our garden.

Catherine Dean (author) from Milledgeville, Georgia on August 15, 2012:

Thanks for the offer! I might next summer. So glad to meet a fellow Georgia Hubber! Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate that.

amos316 on August 14, 2012:

We live in North Georgia too. We have a shrub up here that is called Sweet Shrub that is a very sweet smelling flowering bush that attracts all kinda of hummingbirds and butterflies. Let me know if you are interested in getting some seeds to add to your garden collection.

Catherine Dean (author) from Milledgeville, Georgia on August 14, 2012:

Thanks for voting, mooklake. Yes, I do. We had milkweed growing one summer but it did not survive the heat. I want to plant it by seed next year and see if it takes better. Thanks for stopping by and reading my newest offering.

moonlake from America on August 14, 2012:

Very interesting enjoyed reading your hub about the Gulf Fritillary Butterflies. You must watch for their reture the way I watch for our Monarchs return to our milkweed garden. Vote Up.

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