Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar photographed by Jeff Zablow at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, GA

It’s August and this Agraulis vanillae caterpillar is right on schedule. Satiated and secure in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. No stresses to manage. No family tensions, no TV, no texting, no horrendous news of the bloody battles going on in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria…just doing what Gulf frit caterpillars have done since who knows when?

Their hostplants are abundant here. Passionflower vines are found along the many canals of this one-time  rice farm, now National Wildlife Refuge. At the South Carolina – Georgia line.

Me, I was covered. Yep, covered in OFF! It was a fresh batch of OFF! the woodland variety, and I was like an aircraft carrier during the Pacific campaign in WWII. Swarms of enemy above me, in this case, more than one species of mosquito. You don’t see our friend here being stalked, because not a single arthropod could be seen harassing it. Does anyone out there know why Gulf fritillary caterpillars possess such protecia? 

What pleasure it must afford these caterpillars, knowing that more than likely they will survive the metamorphosis to adulthood…and they will be among the most beautiful winged beauties of all.

Jeff

N.B., I did once see an adult Gulf fritillary in Pittsburgh, in the Outdoor Gardens of the Phipps Conservatory. You just never know!

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge photographed by Jeff Zablow

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a rich and robust habitat. The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge was teeming with wildlife in August 2012 when I photographed butterflies every morning during a week-long vacation. Located in the southeastern corner of South Carolina, the Refuge is an 18 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia. Readers might be interested to know that it was once a rice farm. If you drive another 20 minutes you’ll see beautiful Tybee Island where we stayed.

I saw alligators, herons, turtles, frogs, gulls and richly colored butterflies. The Viceroys were especially striking, with breathtaking contrasts of orange next to black. I was not satisfied with the photographs I came home with. You guessed it, those viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) were especially leery of my approach. They are a wetland species, and Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is home, sweet home to them.

I’m planning to return in mid-August with the determination successfully photograph the Viceroys!

Jeff

 

Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar

Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar photographed by Jeff Zablow at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, GA

This photograph was taken in August in Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, actually in the southeastern corner of South Carolina, though it’s only about a 20 minutes drive from Savannah, Georgia. Our one week vacation blast was spent on Tybee Island. Mornings were spent at the  Refuge. Mosquitoes were thrilled to greet me along the former rice paddocks in the Refuge. OFF didn’t seem to deter them. They were professionals.

Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) were in abundance that morning. Variegated fritillary caterpillars were also easy to locate and photograph. Most of the caterpillars spent the morning eating the leaves of passionflower vines (see our post today: Passionflower). By late morning the caterpillars were slowly moving down the stems of the vines. Were they headed to Siesta?

Resplendent in their red-orange stripes, white stripes and black spines, they confirm my wingedbeauty.com  argument: That butterflies are more beautiful than the magnificent jewelry of the very finest designers.

While I was working to photograph this larval gem, I was prey for perhaps 2-3 species of mosquitoes. The caterpillar was 100% free of such pests. Does anyone know why?

Jeff

Variegated Fritillary Butterfly

Variegated Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Mosquitoes were wolf-packing me as I moved along the dikes of this one-time rice farm. I was paying the price for my adventure. Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, is just a 25 minute drive from Tybee Island. I spent my mornings at this lush refuge, followed by lazy August afternoons at the beach, and then evenings exploring Savannah. If OFF had been 100% protective, this trip would have been perfect.

We’ve posted dorsal images of Euptoieta Claudia. This shot offers a colorful look at the ventral wing coloration and form. The seriousness of this butterfly’s focus on eating nectar is one of several reasons for concluding that it’s a female. The wildflower is likely a Verbena. Clarification from one of my readers would be greatly appreciated.

Variegated Fritillaries favor the same habitat as do Gulf Fritillaries. Both butterflies are very strikingly beautiful; bejeweled, if you will. I was so busy moving with my camera from one Variegated Fritillary to an equally comely Gulf Fritillary that I only later realized that my shield against mosquitoe bites was partially successful.

That’s what I love about Fritillary Butterflies. When the table is set with nectar-pumping wildflowers, these Brushfoots can be easily approached and photographed. They value the sweet nectar, and single-mindedly devour it. So find a fresh Fritillary, follow it to a nearby suitable bloom and follow our suggested Technique approach. It’s all worth it when eye-candy such as this butterfly is yours to enjoy and remember.

Jeff