Fritillary Butterfly Gone Rogue

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Egg on Passiflora incarnata (Maypop) a native larval host

I’m an observer of nature which is how I learn things. Sometimes nature can throw a curve ball. Through my kitchen window I spotted a Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly nectaring at the Bidens alba just off my patio. Being a favorite butterfly of mine I grabbed my trusty Nikon point and shoot from the dining table and headed out to try to stealthily creep up to get a photo of this beauty in constant motion for my “Central Florida Critter of the Day” blog. I got a few shots and was satisfied I probably had a good one to share.

Egg on Blackberry? What gives?

Since I only write about what happens in my own yard, I learned a long time ago to not use a SD card in my camera because I’d never get back in the house if I had unlimited shot capacity at hand. I allow myself the 20 or so high quality photos that can be captured on the camera’s internal memory. That way I get back inside within a reasonable amount of time, am not overwhelmed with too many photos or choices and I don’t get a sunburn. I also rarely go back inside without full capacity on the camera being used…I believe in efficiency and there is ALWAYS something of interest to be photographed in nature. It is a habit that has served me well…although it can be a bit frustrating at times to get that “memory full” message when an amazing creature is in front of you. Still, there is a delete button to make room for a once in a lifetime shot.

Ok, Using the maypop, that’s more like it.

At any rate, I glanced up and saw a Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) fluttering over where the Florida native Maypop Vine  chose to pop up this year. I figured I’d finish off my photos over there. That’s when I noticed that she laid an egg on the blackberry stem hidden within the maypop. I took a photo as she fluttered beneath my hands.

What’s it gonna eat when it hatches wayyyy out there on a spider silk strand?

I got another shot of her actually hitting the intended maypop target with an egg. I was in the middle of taking a photo of a planthopper when I noticed Miss Frit had laid an egg on a single silk strand of a web of the resident Long-jawed Orb Weaver Spider (Leucauge argyra). The butterfly continued to flutter around when I saw her lay an egg on some Sida rhombifolia. That’s when she fluttered so close to me that I swear she was trying to lay an egg on ME. This butterfly had gone rogue…laying everywhere. Even the Bidens alba was “egged”.

On Bidens alba? the maypop tendril is right there, come on…..FOCUS…get some better aim.

So, what did I learn?

  • Not all butterflies have good aim;
  • Just because a butterfly lays an egg on a plant doesn’t necessarily mean it is a host plant;
  • The adage “Close only counts in horseshoes (and hand grenades)” needs to add “and butterfly egg laying”
Oh my….another miss….this time on Sida sp.

There were plenty of visitors stopping by including a dragonfly, a few wasps, ants and others that I’m sure won’t care which buffet the eggs are on.

Addendum:  came across a research study which indicates there may just be a method to their madness: “Egg-laying patterns in butterflies in relation to their phenology and the visual apparency and abundance of their host plants”



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