Gulf Fritillary Butterflies and Caterpillars

Everywhere you look right now, there are orange butterflies.  These gulf fritillaries are laying eggs on passionflower, which are developing into caterpillars, which are eating the passionflower.  The butterflies lay the eggs on the right plant for the caterpillars to start eating so they don’t have to search for food.  Adult butterflies taste the leaves with their feet before laying eggs. How cool is that?!?

When I was writing this post, I decided to look up the word for a group of butterflies: a KALEIDOSCOPE!  What a great word that is.  They are also a flutter, a swarm, or even a rabble.  Either way, these pretty fall friends are flitting about everywhere.  In the video below, we seek out the eggs and caterpillars:

Here are some more photos of these butterflies, their eggs and caterpillars, and the passionflowers they’re laying eggs on.

This gulf fritillary was eaten by a banana spider (Golden Silk Orbweaver)

When you watch the movie, you’ll see that there is a leaf with an egg on it, and then the orange one that’s pictured.  I didn’t take a microscope out there, but I think the orange dot is actually a hatching caterpillar.  The caterpillars are everywhere!

Passionflower, passiflora incarnata

Passionflower, passiflora incarnata, is a wildflower native to South Carolina. Here’s Clemson’s link to info about this plant.  The blooms are sort of unbelievable in their intricacy.