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The Ticket to a Front Row Seat Watching Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar's Become Butterflies

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Or Why Pollinator Gardens Need Native Host Plants

Mating gulf fritillary butterflies in my yard mean more butterflies!

The people who tell me their pollinator garden doesn't need native plants invariably follow up by pointing out how much the butterflies just adore their butterfly bushes.

I scream a little inside my head and take a few yoga breathes to stop myself from launching into a lecture about why butterfly bushes are not only relatively useless plants in a yard's natural ecosystem, but how they are also an invasive non-native species. I remind myself that fairly recently my own gardening journey also included multiple butterfly bushes.

My goal is to move the needle on eco-friendly landscaping, so I explain there will be even more butterflies in their garden if they plant native host plants for butterflies to lay eggs on. Stories about the overabundance of gulf fritillary butterflies in all stages of the life cycle in my yard neatly illustrate my point.

The J shape means a caterpillar is starting to pupate - the white swelling behind the head are the wing buds

When I find a chrysalis in my yard it brings me right back to the excitement I felt in my 2nd grade science classroom when I first watched monarch caterpillars in an aquarium going through metamorphosis. This sense of wonder is possible for anyone who chooses to plant native host plants in their yard; it's a win-win for both man and nature.

This gulf fritillary caterpillar crawled on my porch and starting forming a chrysalis (pupate) on my potting bench
She turned into this chrysalis over the course of a day
After 9 days a fresh gulf fritillary butterfly emerged from its chrysalis and stayed a bit to dry and straighten her wings.

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