Journal archives for May 2019

May 22, 2019

My Experience Growing Native Passionflower for Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Habitat

I have never raised butterflies before. Actually, I had my heart set on raising edible plants. Passionfruit are similar to pomegranate, with juicy sacs around the seeds. However, I discovered that a certain butterfly's larvae exclusively eat this plant and are very plentiful in my area.

In late Spring 2018, I dug up 3 passionflower vines from a nearby clearcut and transplanted them in my front yard. By the time the plants outgrew my store-bought trellis, the caterpillars arrived! They ate the plants til they were nearly bare. The caterpillar population declined, the plants grew back, then the caterpillars came again. This time, they did eat the plants until they were completely void of leaves. I spent this first year observing the population increase & decline and the status of the plants.

in Spring 2019, more than 3 passionflower vines have sprouted near the transplants from last year! They must have developed a good root system before the caterpillars stripped the leaves. I now have 7 individual vines! These vines are behind those growing in the clearcut, which already have rigid semi-woody vines, stiff tendrils, and many flowers. They are long enough to climb the nearby shrubs/saplings. Meanwhile, 4 of my vines are 5 ft long, most of which is still fairly flexible for training on the trellis. I have 1 open flower and several buds. 3 vines are new sprouts.

I observed the caterpillar population last year, rather than interfere, because I wanted to find out how many caterpillars the plants could sustain (and, of course, I didn't have the heart to thin them out, condemning some caterpillars to starvation). I expected to replant this year due to the devastation the caterpillars caused, but was pleasantly surprised to find the plants grew even more stems from the roots!

I did not observe many pupae transform into adult butterflies in 2018. Most of those that made it to pupa stage must have died while inside the chrysalis. I only found 3 empty chrysalides. I did not see any new butterflies drying their wings.

This year, I will tally the pupae and empty pupae. It's nice to know how many made it to adulthood. I could also tally the total caterpillars observed each day, after all, I count them anyway just for fun. I won't be able to get an accurate success ratio, though. The caterpillar numbers go up and down daily depending on new hatches and predation. There is no cover to protect them from hungry birds. Therefore, I don't actually know the starting number of caterpillars to compare with the ending number of empty chrysalides.

Posted on May 22, 2019 16:05 by redpenny redpenny | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 29, 2019

Insects Attracted to the Passionflower Vine

Note: There will likely be multiple updates to this journal post, as more insects are observed and identified.

Summer 2018, the passionvine habitat was a popular hangout for Orange Assassin Bugs (Pselliopus barberi). They came to suck the juices out of the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars. They may yet, return this year. Double check the ID, document with photos (Source to use https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/82026-Pselliopus-barberi)

I think I may have seen milkweed bugs last year also. Need to look for this year

This spring/early summer, the Two-Lined Spittlebugs (Prosapia bicincta) are making it their home. Every time I walk out to train the vines on the trellis, I feel one land on my ankle and crawl up my leg. This is a new bug to me, and I have yet to discover what attracts it to the vines. It is apparently a Leafhopper (which explains why they jump on me) and as a juvenile it lives in spit-like foam (spittle) where it feeds on juices from the plant (Source: https://www.whatsthatbug.com/2009/07/14/two-lined-spittlebug-2/).

Update 5/31/19
A new Leaf-Footed Bug has come to the Passionvine habitat! Acanthocephala terminalis (one of the Leaf-Footed Bug family) has a dark gray body with red feet and red tips to the antennae.

What a coincidence that I found an observation of this bug just a few days ago in Tatum, TX. I decided to favorite the observation in case it showed up here, and here it is!

Update 7/30/19
The first few Gulf Fritillary caterpillars have finally showed up! In fact, one made it to adulthood before I even found it. I have had a lot fewer insect visitors to my vine than I had hoped for. Definitely fewer than last year. Many of the flowers are now getting pollinated and turning into fruit. The plants and insects are not thirsty, that's for sure. It's been an usually wet summer. I managed to catch photos of a Carpenter Bee, Bee Assassin Bug, and my first Gulf Fritillary caterpillar found this year.

Posted on May 29, 2019 19:06 by redpenny redpenny | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment