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misssherryg

Gulf Frits (Finally!) and Pipevine Swallowtails

13 years ago

I haven't seen a gulf frit since early spring, which is really odd in a bad way! Yesterday when I was in my garden, I saw a somewhat old, faded female gulf frit - I was so excited! I got this picture of her in the afternoon sun, which brightened her up a bit -

{{gwi:543656}}
I went to check the passionvines to see if she had laid any eggs, and I didn't find any eggs, but I found a dozen mid-instar cats! I made a picture of them, but for some reason, Photobucket can't upload it. I brought them in to raise - 'sure hope they haven't been parasitized.

There had been several male pipevine swallowtails in my garden, and one of my few chrysalides emerged, it was a female, and I found eggs shortly after - they must have found each other. I brought in some of the eggs to raise, and the first batch hatched today. The other day, I went through the pipevines, cut out much of the old growth, put chicken manure around them and watered them in good, then watered them again today. We've been having a REAL dry period. I sure hope this encourages them to grow, because I don't have nearly enough new growth now to successfully raise all the eggs that are out there. We're supposed to get a cold front with a good chance of rain preceding it - I'm crossing my fingers for the rain, because it'd help the pipevines, and my woods sure need the rain.

Anyway, it's good to finally have some gulf frits!!

Sherry

Comments (27)

  • 13 years ago

    Yay! Glad you found those GF cats and Pipevine eggs.

    I was out all day cleaning up and found Pipevine caterpillars on new growth. We put down a lot of mulch and the Pipevine has taken off. I have lots of suckers coming up over in my neighbor's yard. I haven't had a chance to talk to him about digging them up or leaving them.

    I hope your GF cats haven't been parasitized. I've had so much bacterial and viral diseases and parasites this summer that it's made it hard to enjoy raising butterflies. I think it was our hundred degree, high humidity weather which went on forever and ever. And which made it impossible to even be outside! The only thing that has really flourished this summer is the mosquito population.

    Hope you get the rains, too. We got some nice showers last night. The forecast looks great for next week. I'm ready for some fall weather--summer has gone on too long this year.

    Sandy

  • 13 years ago

    I have not seen one caterpillar(Gulf Frit) this entire summer. I haven't seen the butterflies either. I have passionvines but no cats. This has never happened since I got my first passionvine. I finally have a few monarch and sulphers. I had a few Giant Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail. It has not been a good summer for me.

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  • 13 years ago

    ....and don't forget the grasshoppers, Sandy! They have been just awful this summer, altho they have been providing food for my Argiope spider.

    Congrats, MissSherry! It is so weird. I have had GFs virtually on a daily basis, but no eggs, no cats.

    Have not had any of the swallowtails lately, but don't have any food at this point for them either. I have got to put in some supplemental Fennel and Rue for next year's garden in case I have minimal growth like I did this year. Just didn't do well in these temps and humidity we've had.

    My Passiflora incarnata that I got from MON this year, was finally planted in June. I had read several articles online about waiting to plant until late spring or early summer. The tiny little plant grew slowly for a couple of months. When it finally filled it's 4" pot, I potted up to a gallon pot. It finally filled that pot by early June, so I planted it out, thinking it would not make much of a display this year. Well, it is now about 8' tall and bushy, and suckering already, with huge leaves compared to the 'Lavendar Lady', and flowers. So I already have a very nice stand of it. Just wish I had the GF cats to go along with it.

    Susan

  • 13 years ago

    Yay!!! I am so glad that you finally got some! You must have been worried about them. I didn't start seeing them until later in the season. They have been laying on my Passionvine, and I have brought in cats. I think that I have released about 5 adults, and I have about 8 chrysalides in the mesh tent now. All of mine have successfully pupated and eclosed so far. I know what you mean about the dry weather. I don't think we have had a decent rain in over a month. The grass is crunchy and brown, and the highs are still in the 90's here. Looking forward to some sort of reprieve.

  • 13 years ago

    I'm ready for some fall weather, too, Sandy! They're saying it will get down to around 58 or 59 degrees early next week, with other nights being in the low 60's, which would feel great to us! Too bad about all those diseases! This hasn't been a good caterpillar year for me either, but then I've been raising puppies, so I haven't really had the time for many cats anyway. Also, my youngest daughter (she'll be 41 Monday!) moved in with us last May, and her activities have kept us all busy.

    Tdr4, a poster from Louisiana (I think he's in the Covington or Hammond area?) said he hadn't seen a gulf frit all year either. I don't understand it, we're usually crawling with them by now, with my vines being down to nubs. My vines are intact now, though, including a lot of new growth on my Amethyst/Lavender Lady. My MS native passionvine group has really taken off this year, with suckers and fruit everywhere - I found the cats on a passionvine in my garden, which came from a nursery in Tennessee. Strangely, the MS vines have rounder leaf segments, and the corona filaments (the frilly things) of the flowers are darker, thicker and more upright. I'm saving many of the MS passion fruits to plant the seeds all over my property this fall.

    Susan, I'm glad your P. incarnata has taken off. Once they're well established, they're good for years, so you've got gulf frit food for quite a while to come. I think the gulf frits that usually show up here in May, laying eggs, have bred north from Florida. I've been worrying about the GF population in Florida for years on account of the destruction of native habitats due to so many people moving there. My older daughter lives in a new section of Tampa, so I've seen what they're doing to the state's natural flora for myself. I wish they'd enact a state income tax, then maybe people would quit moving there! :/ They may also overwinter on some of the local barrier islands, since I know they've been found on Dauphin Island off Alabama's coast in winter. Who knows?

    It hasn't been a month since we've had a good rain, Bandjzmom, but nearly! After having so much rain in August, I thought we'd have our usual large amount in September, but we haven't. There haven't been any tropical storms or hurricanes this way all year (knock on wood!) which usually provide us with a large part of our rain.

    The cats look healthy this morning, no abnormalities or other signs that they've been parasitized, but then they never show any signs - 'wish I had found them earlier!

    Sherry

  • 13 years ago

    I spoke to soon - I had 3 GFs in the garden today, laying eggs and frolicking among the flowers - they LOVE that Dwarf Red Porterweed, as do the Monarchs and the Cloudless Sulphurs. Sure hope it will reseed for me. If not, I'll order another one next year from Bustani. The hummers love it, too, so it's proven to be a very good nectar plant.

    Still have Monarchs laying eggs, too. Saw a cute little Bordered Patch nectaring in the Cosmos for quite some time. They are so pretty.

    I had Pipevines early this year, but none since. The pipevine did not make a good recovery due to the heat and drought this summer. Red Admirals did the same thing. No sightings lately of them.

    Looking forward to cooler temps overnight, too, MissSherry. Supposed to get into the low 50s at night this next week. But daytime temps in the 70s and 80s - perfect weather. We get so few of those days - it's either stifling heat and humidity, or snow and ice.

    Susan

  • 13 years ago

    Speaking of porterweed.....
    I've planted a few red porterweeds over the years in my garden, but they never came back the next spring, so I only planted blue, purple or coral colored ones. The blue ones came back some years, some years not, and the corals came back every year but this past one. I didn't replant porterweed this year. Well, porterweeds have been coming up in numerous spots all over my garden for the past month or so. One of them is now blooming, and it's blue/purple. So, apparently the blue and/or purple ones DO come back eventually. I have no idea why these have come back so late in the year!
    Sherry

  • 13 years ago

    Glad you're finally seeing Gulf Frits Sherry. I'm going to guess that they wandered farther north this summer than normal since I saw so many and I ususally don't. I mostly saw them visiting my zinnias and tithonia. They ignored my butterfly bush, verbena b and pentas. I never did find any cats but I know they were breeding because I found a couple chrysalises.
    After I planted passiflora incarnata in my shrub row a few years ago, I discovered that it was already growing wild in our neighbor's field closeby, and this summer, I found a patch at the very back of OUR field that I didn't know was there. We're near the northern boundry for p. incarnata so it was a nice surprise.

  • 13 years ago

    Sherry,

    It's always nice when something anticipated finally shows up isn't it? Glad you finally got some.

    Had a fresh Danaus gilippus float by this morning, only the second one seen this entire year so far. Still no D. plexippus yet this year at all, not even any seen while out around town doing errands. A ranch right behind my place has a little Asclepias speciosa (a local preference of Monarch's) and A. subulata (preferred by Queens) growing wild along the fence rows that I've drove by and checked several times this year. Have not seen a single cat on any of it. I'm about 90% sure the Queen today was a female, and it came from that direction, so maybe I'll try to get my walker close enough to check the A. subulata for eggs rather just looking for cats from the road. Something to do anyway, but I'll wait until later when it starts to cool off here.

    Larry

  • 13 years ago

    Agreed about waiting for cooler weather, Larry! We got our little rain today, so now I'm awaiting for those lower temps to follow.
    Nearly all the gulf frits got still yesterday and molted this morning. I brought in some choice, tender P. incarnata for them, and they're gobbling it up. After raising so many luna moths this year, with their long larval stage, it's amazing how much these gulf frits have grown in just one day - at this rate, they'll be hanging in the "J" very soon.
    Sherry

  • 13 years ago

    Was 109/110 here today without a hint of breeze and won't cool down to the high 70's until the wee hours of the morning. Missed the monsoon's so far this year too, so except for one very light drizzle for a few minutes a couple of weeks ago I've had no rain. Looks like the very late spring we had this year is going to push a late summer as well and fall might be only a few days.

  • 13 years ago

    I've just had confirmation on this post that Passiflora incarnata is indiginous to zone 7 and thereabout. Since I've also read that it is very invasive, I question the wisdom of planting it. How about it? Will it spread all over your yard? I've found someone who has it in their yard and field, but they are 100 miles from here. Surely it's here also!! Should I try to get some now or just wait until early spring?

    Thanks,

    Sylvia Tupelo, MS

  • 13 years ago

    Sylvia - Even where I am, p. incarnata spreads too much. It makes runners and comes up several feet away from the original plant in all directions. I've sprayed some of mine with Roundup in the early spring so I'll have less and I still have plenty. Most of the fruit doesn't mature enough here to reseed. I pick off the ones that do. It might be a good thing to grow in a pot.
    Ladobe - It's nearly October. Surely it will cool down soon there - Then it will be too cold. Spring and Fall are always too short for my liking. I wait for nicer weather to get my yard work done and then if I'm busy, I miss my opportunity.

  • 13 years ago

    My p incarnata comes up everywhere, and I've finally just adjusted to the fact. I find the Gulf Frit cats on the larger vines, usually up higher, and the Variegated Frits lay their eggs near the ground on the new plants just coming through. So it's good to have those suckers for the Variegated Frits. I pull up the vines if they grow where I don't want them to grow--they eventually come back up providing new growth for the VFs. This year I've had so many caterpillars that the vines have been devoured.

    The vines don't choke out other plants; they are just a nuisance if you want a nice tidy garden. But, I've long since given up on that also! Everything just comes up and reseeds wherever it feels like it. I pull out what I don't want, and leave the rest. Brian Hayes, from Monarch Teacher Network, upon viewing my garden, said that butterflies like an "untidy garden". If it works for the butterflies, it works for me.

    sandy

  • 13 years ago

    I agree totally with Sandy! Yes, the suckers can make for an untidy garden, but you can always mow over them, pull them up by hand, or dig them up to plant elsewhere. I personally love the vigor that P. incarnata has - very few other passionvines are as vigorous, and even fewer are as cold hardy. And, needless to say, it's the favorite for both gulf and variegated frits, two of our more cheer inducing butterflies.
    I HIGHLY recommend it!
    Sherry

  • 13 years ago

    I have not seen any gulf frits since early spring. I had so much fun raising them last year I was looking forward to raising them again.

    Susan, you were right about how long it takes passiflora to come up around here. I was absolutely sure all of them died, but I had a few make it. Just the other day I looked at my (ratty looking) hydrangeas and lo and behold, there was a passiflora vine climbing over it! I hadn't seen hide nor hair of it all summer :)

    I planted some p. incarnata from Wild Things. It's doing well...but no takers for any of the passifloras this year.

    I haven't seen any pipevine swallowtails since spring either. I think I lost all my new pipevines, but I have two from last year that are still hanging on.

    It's been a rather slow year for butterflies in my garden. I did get raise a few BSTs though. I was excited, they actually came from my garden!

    Oh, and no monarchs either. I did see a momma the other day that look like she was laying eggs, but I haven't seen any babies yet. I did see a tussock caterpillar! I left him alone since there doesn't seem to be any monarchs that need to be fed in my yard.

    Lisa

  • 13 years ago

    Thanks for the comments about P. incarnata. Since I don't have much to attract butterflies yet, I may just grow a couple of pots of it. Are the roots shallow or deep? We have a child's play set made of wood from which we've removed the slide and swings; I use the covered swings area for potting. I could plant P. incarnata in containers on the landing where the slide started and twine the vines around the "fence" on top of the potting shack. Would that work?

    Sylvia

  • 13 years ago

    Miss Sherry, you always have such great info and pictures! You said the picture of the gulf fritillary was a female. How do you tell the difference between a male and female Gulf Fritillary?

    Our GF's have just started showing up in the last week or so. They are always very late here. Last year we didn't have any but the year before they mowed down my passiflora caerulea. I know it is not their favorite passion vine but when they come, they will use it readily since there is no other option here!

  • 13 years ago

    I've never tried to grow P. incarnata in pots, so I don't know the answer to your question, Sylvia. Whenever I dig around it, as I recall, the roots are about ?8" - 10" under the ground. You'd need to have pots at least that deep. I would think that eventually, the bigger the pot the better, but you'd have to be careful not to over water them, since they're dry soil plants. It may work though.
    Thanks for the kind words, Kellybird! Female gulf frits are tawny/brownish orange, whereas males are very bright red/orange when they first emerge, then fade to medium orange. Sometimes when you see a faded butterfly, it's hard to be sure which it is, but I think I'm usually right. Also, females are a little bigger, but you don't usually notice that small difference unless you're raising them, and a male and a female emerge on the same morning, and you can see them side by side.
    I saw another GF this afternoon in my garden, and she appeared to be a female, but not the one pictured above. So there's a chance for more eggs/cats! Gulf frits will indeed use P. caerulea, and it's a good one to have, since it'll frequently keep some leaves all winter long, very cold hardy. About ?7 years ago, when we had a real mild winter, three gulf frit cats overwintered on some of my P. caerulea vines - unfortunately, it hasn't happened since then.
    Sherry

  • 13 years ago

    That's so weird, MissSherry, I've lost 2 successive plantings of P. caerulea, but was able to maintain my P. 'Lavendar Lady' since approx. 1999. I have no idea why. Anyway, the two years I had the P. caerulea, the GFs ate it first, before they started on the 'Lavendar Lady'.

    Sylvia, if you are planting for "attractiveness", I think all of the Passion Vines have very pretty foliage, and even prettier flowers. For me, the foliage is bothered little by pests, so it remains fresh looking all the time. There are some Passifloras with prettier flowers, like the 'Lavendar Lady' I mentioned. Much prettier flowers than the incarnata, altho it has pretty flowers, too. It would be hardy in your zone 7b - I am in 7a. The only drawback to 'Lavendar Lady' is that it will not be a host for the Variegated Fritillary, just the Gulf Fritillary, while the P. incarnata hosts both as Sandy said.

    Lisa, I'm glad that some of your Passi's came back. The 'Lavendar Lady' did not show up until late July, when I had absolutely no hope it would return after the winter we had. That's why I went ahead and purchased the incarnata. I have had GFs in the yard, just very, very few egg layers. In fact, I have only managed to save ONE little caterpillar, and I don't know if it will make it. It is growing very, very slowly.

    I have had Monarchs out the gazoo, Lisa. I still have some Monarch cats if you want to come by tomorrow evening, I would be happy to share 3 or 4 with you so you can at least see them pupate. I've had my share. I can also give you some seeds of the Calatropis gigantea to grow next year, if you'd like. Gorgeous plant; Monarchs love it. Did I give you an Amorpha fruticosa and a Button Bush? I have those, too, if you want. A. fruticosa for the Sulphurs, and Button Bush for nectar, and possibly for Cecropias. Do you also have Wild Indigo? I have tons of little Wild Indigo Duskywings on mine right now, and they will be overwintering as cats to come out next spring with the new growth. Very fun to observe. It took no time at all for them to find my plant! They found it the same year I planted it.

    Kellybird - it's so strange how the butterflies prefer certain species in one region, and another elsewhere, isn't it?

    Sad day today - my little companion spider, Charlotte, the Argiope aurantis, spider, died. She left me 3 big egg sacs, though, and hopefully I will get to experience her progeny next year. Kenna will be sad, too, cuz we've been feeding her this summer, and Kenna is in love with her. We have a hard time dealing with our animal losses. We have already lost Lady George, a stray female adopted as an outdoor kitty cat, and then, Wild Kitty, another outdoor adopted kitty. One from unknown causes and the other by hit and run. They were the only females in the neighborhood. Lady George left behind 4 babies that we nurtured and sent off to forever homes. Sigh....life goes on.

    Susan

  • 13 years ago

    Susan, I am planting for attractiveness, as well as Gulf frits (don't think I see Varigated Frits, but I may be missing them). We have 2 nurseries in town and one carries the incarnata in the spring; I don't know about Lavender Lady since I didn't ask about any other passifloras.

    I am still very much a novice at this. Three years ago a friend with an herb garden mentioned these horrible worms eating her fennel and parsley. I bought some host plants and she would call me for "worm relocation" when it got bad; then I added Monarchs to that and the next year I added Passaflora incarnata because it was so pretty. I didn't have many frits, but met a "butterfly person" who had more cats than food and we met between our towns for "transfer". I met her because she did such a kind deed for an elderly friend of mine (in his 80s / I'm only mid-seventies). His wife had recently died and she wanted to lift his spirits. She placed a Monarch chrysalis ready to eclose in a pretty plastic container like a little snack box and gave it to him explaining what was going to happen within the next day or two and reminding him that "It is God's good pleasure to give gifts to his children!" I happened to go by for a visit right after it eclosed and he was beside himself with pleasure and no one to share it with. He didn't know her # but she had been kind enough to rake leaves when she drove past and saw him on his crutches struggling. I can't imagine a more thoughtful gift than the eclosing of a Monarch!!

    Sylvia

  • 13 years ago

    Sylvia, that is such a sweet story! So glad you shared it with us.

    I got lucky when I acquired my P. 'Lavendar Lady'. A nursery (now defunct) that sold several kinds and I came upon it quite by accident. It sounded pretty (I wasn't really heavy into gardening yet), so I purchased it. The only thing I knew about it was that it had "purple flowers". When it first bloomed late that summer, I was totally thrilled with the beautiful colors, shape, and habit of the plant. I've loved it since then, and continue to love it to this day. Sure, it gets pretty ratty looking most summers, after the Gulf Fritillary's have stripped it of flowers and leaves (they LOVE the flowers), but to see those beautiful butterflies makes it worthwhile.

    There are mail order sources for Passion Vines if you're interested.

    Susan

  • 13 years ago

    My Lavender Ladies are blooming continually now, Susan, and the flowers are indeed beautiful!
    Several of the gulf frits are hanging in the "J" now, but I'm guessing it'll take a little longer for them to pupate, since the temps are cool at night.
    Two male GFs showed up in my garden yesterday, so more and more are visiting - when these emerge, there will be even more - YAY!
    Sherry

  • 13 years ago

    Susan, oh thank you. You are so generous with me. I can't make it until next week. I'll try to email you about which day.

    I have one plant from you that I need to find out what it is. I lost the name. It's has roundish/oval leaves. It has survived and grown still left in its cup. I have it sharing space with the copper iris you gave me. (I have the iris container sitting in an old dutch oven that holds water. It seems to make the iris happy.) Whatever the mystery plant is, it has plans to survive :) I would love some button bush and the other plant too.

    I peered at my false nettle the other day. It struggled in the heat, but I think it's going to survive. It was a rough year for transplants.

  • 13 years ago

    Susan, I just found a nursery who said they would have P. incarnata in the spring, but I might be interested in Lavendar Lady and would appreciate your giving me the address for ordering. Do you have the problem with incarnata running wild in your yard?

    Sylvia

  • 13 years ago

    Sylvia, passion vines will be passion vines, and they generally run amok! There are probably some that are better behaved, but none that I know about, and none that are suitable for the Gulf Fritillaries.

    I didn't order my 'Lavendar Lady' but found it locally. There are two good online passion vine nurseries that I know of, though, and since you are in North Carolina, Zone 9 Tropicals is the closest. They also have a Top 5 Garden Watchdog rating.

    Unless you have a greenhouse, I would wait until spring to order and plant your passion vine, though. In zone 7 it would be risky to plant it now, IMHO.

    Lisa, did I give you an Amorpha fruticosa? Did the plant I gave you bloom this summer?

    I won't have any Monarchs by next week, but you are welcome to the plants. The Button Bush is looking kind of sad, and needs to get into the ground. If I already gave you an Amorpha, you may not want another one. But, if you want 2, you're welcome to it. I don't have the space for 2. I can also give you the seeds for the Giant Milkweed.

    Susan

  • 13 years ago

    My Lavender Ladies haven't sprouted up everywhere like my P. incarnata and P. 'Incense' have, Sylvia, so I'd say LL is a lot better behaved. The gulf frits use it every year, the cats thrive on it, and the flowers are to die for!
    Five gulf frits have pupated successfully today, and all but two of the rest are in the "J" - the other two were still eating this evening. I can't wait to release them!
    Sherry

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