A Fab Fritillary

Standing tall and proud, this Gulf FritillaryAgraulis vanillae, is a butterfly master and commander.  

At a different angle, this wings-up wanderer rested early one chilly morning, taking a rare break in its constant search for food and a mate.  Breezy north gusts rendered tricky, this capturing of the butterfly’s calm. 

Nevertheless, it posed, still and quiet, for the shot.

The bloom has-beens in the photos are those of Plateau goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, a member of the Aster, Asteraceae, family of plants, a favorite nectar source for adult Gulf Fritillaries.

I didn’t witness this particular butterfly nectaring that particular morning, but there are plenty of adult Gulf Fritillaries in my garden right now, resting on plants, and also flying and nectaring.   On warm afternoons this one and its kin are working the remaining blooms of Plateau goldeneye, Tropical sage, Salvia coccinea, and occasionally, Forsythia sage, Salvia madrensis. 

This past season there was a dearth of these dearies.  Eventually, I figured out that the juvenile stage of the butterfly (caterpillars or larvae) were being parasitized by the local wasps, a common butterfly predator.  At some point, the cycle shifted: too few of the larvae, in turn, decreased the population of the wasps.  Without the interference of the wasps, the butterfly larvae completed their cycle: they morphed, mated, and once again, adults are in the garden.

I’m not complaining.   It’s lovely to see the orange beauties decorating the garden in January.

My Blue Passionflower vine, Passiflora caerulea, currently looks a mess because there are, or recently have been, larvae munching on the leaves.   The adults which have emerged will likely remain active until we get a hard freeze, if that happens. And even if that happens, it’s a guarantee that some, if not most, of the butterflies will weather the freeze in fine form, ready to rebound in spring.

Butterflies are, or should be, part of a garden’s vignette, so today, I’m joining with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.  Pop over to Flutter and Hum for other garden vignette and musings of various sorts.

16 thoughts on “A Fab Fritillary

  1. Haha – when I saw the word Fritillary, I thought I would be looking at a flower. I stand corrected. The butterflies are lovely. Haven’t seen any of those here yet, but plenty of baby slugs. And – I was ecstatic to see – a Wooly Woodpecker has been frequenting my feeder. That makes me so happy, but my attempts at photographing it have so far been fruitless. I keep trying though!

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    • Have you had a damaging freeze in Houston? Our winter is super mild so far. Of course, that could change–in March! I hope we get some really cold days in February, but last year it was mild, then a killing freeze in March. I had to cut all my irises and bring them into the house and there were a lot of irises…:)

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  2. I haven’t seen a fritillary yet this year. I did see a Buckeye last weekend, and a couple of tiny butterfiles that were so small I couldn’t even see the color. Hoverflies are coming out, though. They were all over the buttercups at the nature center where I photographed the tree, and yesterday I saw vacant lots just covered with buttercups. I wondered if they might be thicker in town because of the added warmth from concrete, cars, and so on.

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    • Ooh, I just love Buckeyes and hardly ever see them. I haven’t seen any hoverflies, that’s impressive for this time of year. Still, it’s nice to see anything in January, so it’s all a gift.

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  3. How fortunate you are to have the gulfs at this time of year. I am 100 miles north of you and all the gulfs disappear by late October or early November. My passion vine is frozen and there is absolutely nothing for a butterfly to nectar on except for the rare tropical salvia that somehow managed to shoot up a little red bloom here and there I have seen some dandelions and I make sure to save those just in case a butter should happen to hatch. I saw a really big and beautiful giant swallowtail about 3 weeks ago or so. It was the only butter that I have seen since the first freeze way back in December. I can’t imagine how that one cocoon managed to survive somewhere in my area. It looked to be brand new too, since it had no tatters and was absolutely stunning in all of its glory. even got to see it up close and personal.

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    • It’s all about having the passion flower vine and no predatory wasps at the moment. And, there’s a little bit for them to nectar on. All that could change with a hard freeze; I just hope that happens in February, rather than March.

      Nice that you saw the giant swallowtail; I only see those during the actual growing season, so it’s been a while. They really are gorgeous!

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