IF YOU BUILD IT

These Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are a perfect example of “If you build it, they will come.” For the last few years, I have worked at building a butterfly habitat. It got a big boost in mid-October when Cee and I went to Gainesville to visit the Florida Museum of Natural History. Our plan was to shop their plant sale (held twice a year) and then visit the butterfly house. To our delight, their web page for the plant sale made it easy to find butterfly habitat plants. It was a chart indicating whether the listed plant was nectar, host, accent or native. Both Cee and I used that web page to make a ‘want’ list.

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on ‘Lady Margaret’ Passion Vine

One of the plants I purchased was a ‘Lady Margaret’ Passion Vine. It doesn’t look as good as it did in mid-October. I attribute this to all kinds of wacky weather — high 80’s then low 30’s, and minimal rain. I think the passion vine is in survival mode. It is so confused it’s blooming. Normal bloom time is mid-summer to mid-fall, not January.

‘Lady Margaret’ passion vine buds

Passion vines are a host and nectar source for the Zebra Longwing and Gulf Fritillary. For more information on the passion vine and butterflies in Florida, see this article at the University of Florida. My post has basic information on the Gulf Fritillary.

On January 27, I noticed one of the buds unfurling but I didn’t grab my camera. One of the caterpillars was wrapped around the flower busily gnawing it to nothingness.

This morning I walked out to see what was left of the flower. I was pleased to see slightly more than half of it:

Almost half of ‘Lady Margaret’ passion flower eaten overnight by caterpillar

The list of caterpillars spotted at the Southern Rural Route is growing — Monarch, Giant Swallowtail and Gulf Fritillary.