Chasing caterpillars

Thursday, April 22, 2010

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Gulf fritillary drink from a butterfly bush

Butterflies are coming back and as part of my research on butterfly gardening, I’ve been closely watching butterfly life cycles.  

The phenomenon of metamorphosis still fascinates me, and I’ve been trying to witness the changes.

 

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Fritillary caterpillars on Maypop,
Passiflora incarnata

I’ve never seen old skin on a caterpillar split and be shed, nor have I seen a caterpillar change into a pupa. I haven’t seen a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, either, although I remain hopeful.This week, I came close to seeing a Gulf fritillary caterpillar pupate (missed the actual moment), and will keep trying. It takes a few hours once the larva connects itself to a suitable spot and forms a J for the conversion to occur. 

The bad news: after the chrysalis was complete, someone ate it overnight.

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The last stage of being a caterpillar
before pupating starts with forming
a J.
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The chrysalis is forming from the base (see
the wing shapes); the old head and spines
were pushed off and will drop to the ground.