The Year of the Fritillaries
In 2012 we had tons of black swallowtail butterflies. I recorded 20 black swallowtail caterpillars on one bronze fennel plant in the spring of that year and we continued to host them on the fennel and parsley plants from spring to fall (you can see photos here). This year the fennel, parsley and golden alexander have been barren. Last year we saw record numbers of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. They were everywhere! They host on the tulip popular trees which grow in abundance on our property as well as black cherry.
This year was slow getting started, I suspect due to our cold, wet winter but once it started the fritillaries dominated the garden. We have masses of orange butterflies fluttering all over the garden and it is a beautiful site!
We have two species of fritillaries here in North Georgia, the gulf fritillary and the variegated fritillary. Both host on passiflora vine (aka maypop) and the variegated will also host on violas. We have masses of passionvine growing around the garden. It has happily self seeded in various locations. It makes a great ground cover but is even more stunning as a climbing vine. Check out the fruit, which thanks to the busy carpenter bees, make this happen.
There are hundreds of caterpillars munching away at the leaves. Sometimes the caterpillars even find it necessary to crawl over the blooms when they get in the way.
|two instars of gulf fritillary caterpillars on passion vine|
|variegated fritillary caterpillar on passion vine bloom|
The vines are a bustle of activity all day long. Bees, butterflies and all varieties of pollinators are visiting the blooms, caterpillars crawl from one leaf to the next, sometimes it is a race to see who gets there first;
|two gulf fritillary caterpillars crawling tandem|
|three instar stages of fritillary caterpillars|
Our house seems to be one of their favorite places to go to form their chrysalis. It looks a bit like Christmas with the caterpillars and chrysalises hanging from the brick, the door and window frames and patio.
|gulf fritillary caterpillar hanging in "J"|
|variegated fritillary chrysalis|
|gulf fritillary butterflies mating|