When you're in your garden, look up.
Sometimes you'll see a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar outlined against the sky, munching away on its host plant, the passionflower vine (Passiflora).
The bright orange caterpillars can be as striking as the adults (Agraulis vanillae).
This caterpillar, however, is not the only critter hungry in the Passiflora. We saw evidence that a praying mantis also calls this home. One wing of a Gulf Frit here. One wing of a Gulf Frit there.
Everything eats in the garden.
In a previous Bug Squad, we mentioned that the Gulf Frits are found in many parts of the world and arrived in California (San Diego) in the 1870s, according to butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. They spread through Southern California in urban settings and were first recorded in the Bay Area about 1908, Shapiro says. They "became a persistent breeding resident in the East and South Bay in the 1950s and has been there since.”
Shapiro says the Gulf Frits “apparently bred in the Sacramento area and possibly in Davis in the 1960s, becoming extinct in the early 1970s, then recolonizing again throughout the area since 2000.”
Yes, they're back and a joy to see.
Author - Communications specialist
A sky-high Gulf Fritillary caterpillar munches on a passionflower vine (Passiflora). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two Gulf Fritillary caterpillars vying for the same twig. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The adult Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, is spectacular. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Its silver-spangled wings gleaming, a Gulf Fritillary touches down on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)