Part III of the Fritillary Butterfly Saga or: Teeny Tiny Piranhas

When last we left off, my family had gotten an adult caterpillar (Gulf Fritillary family), a group of caterpillar eggs (Gulf Fritillary family), and one chrysalis (Monarch family).
The eggs all hatched overnight one night in the dark, super tiny caterpillars came out, and immediately went to work eating Passion Flower leaves. When we checked on them in the morning, and found they’d hatched, we discovered they’d eaten the Passion Flower plant down to the nub. It was my fault, the Butterfly Farm sent one plant with the fully grown caterpillar, and despite the warnings they posted, I’d still thought this would be enough to feed the teeny tiny babies when they hatched. Boy was I wrong. These things are little monsters! Look how tiny they are – and they ate the entire plant!:

So we had big problems. There’s no way I was going to let the fully grown caterpillar and these babies die of starvation. That’d be beyond cruel and this was all my fault. Thing is, these guys were shipped from Florida, and we live in Pennsylvania. Was I going to be able to even buy a Passion Flower around here? I was delaying calling the local nurseries. I knew the answer would be “What? Never heard of it.” I emailed the butterfly farm and asked them if there was an alternative food for them. I started Googling alternative Fritillary caterpillar foods. My wife kept insisting I call the nursery, but I was such a smarty-pants I was sure they wouldn’t have one. Finally I gave up and called. Both nurseries near our house had Passion Flower vines. Come and get one. I asked them to PLEASE hold it for us – we have starving caterpillars at home!

The Passion vine is a really pretty plant. The flowers are amazing. This plant was huge compared to the one we had. Can’t tell from the picture, but it’s about 5 feet tall on a trellis! Cost me $30 – which was a bargain. The nursery was really nice and gave us a discount since this one was kind of growing out of control. So we put it in the greenhouse with the baby caterpillars and hoped for the best. The adult caterpillar (named Spike) formed a chrysalis (picture in the next post) and everything seemed like it was on the right track, but was it?…

(The answer is “No” – but I’ll explain in Part IV)

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