Monday, August 18, 2014

Orange Caterpillar with Black Spikes

Most gardeners are happy to see butterflies in the garden; the winged insects are often cheerfully colorful, and they may serve as pollinators that help the flowers produce seeds and fruit. Many gardeners, though, are less happy to see the larvae of these butterflies, because they can be such voracious eaters of our beautiful plants. Also, some caterpillars may seem to be less attractive than the adults they will eventually become.

The larval/caterpillar stage of the Gulf fritillary butterfly is one such example. A gardener's first reaction on seeing such a spiky creature might be to wonder, "Does it sting?" The good news is that it doesn't.

Gulf fritillary caterpillar on passionflower vine.  PHOTO/courtesy Amy W.
The University of Florida has described the Gulf fritillary on its Featured Creatures pages, and its description includes the information that the caterpillars are found primarily on passionflower vines. The page adds, "Larvae may feed on all parts of the plant and can rapidly defoliate host vines." 

For fuller information about the butterfly and its other stages, including its migration and overwintering habits, visit the above linked page.