I have Variegated Frit eggs

susanlynne48(OKC7a)September 22, 2012

A nice little Mama visited 2 days ago and laid eggs everywhere on the passion vine. I collected lots of eggs. Do they overwinter as larvae? If so, what should I do to preserve the larvae until next spring?

I think she was "egg dumping". She laid eggs all day and was gone yesterday.


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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Congrats on the eggs, Susan! I haven't even seen a variegated frit all year, at least that I can remember. I got eggs and cats last year, but this year has been a total bust!

My books say they migrate southward and overwinter as adults. I don't remember ever seeing any VFs flying in the winter here, so they must go to south Florida or south Texas or maybe Mexico?
One very mild winter, three gulf frits overwintered outside as caterpillars on the passionvines/P. caerulea, which remained green all winter, but made no new growth. When spring began and the vines started making new growth, the cats started eating again, pupated, and became the earliest gulf frits I've ever had. If gulf frits could do that, I wouldn't be shocked to find out that variegated frits might overwinter as caterpillars.

I hope you've got enough passionvine leaves to feed them. My vines are nubs, the gulf frits having eaten every last bit. I'm feeding two small GF cats on new sprouts I can find here and there coming up from the ground or on the vines themselves. I've released 6 gulf frits already today, and there's another one in the cage that I need to go let out - this is the gulf frit time of year!


    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 2:33PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Susan, I saw my first variegated frit of the year today in my garden. The gulf frits have eaten all the passionvines, but I have a good many violets in my garden - I'll be watching them for caterpillars.
I got this picture of it in the evening sun-


    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 6:40PM
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You must have been very patient, or she was very cooperative. I tried and tried to get an open wing image of the female in my garden. I got one wing open from the angle I used, the only one I could maneuver in. They move so quickly and are easily disturbed. Very nervous little butterflies.

I hope you get eggs. I should have raised some in spring when I had tons and tons of them all over the passion vines, but I was still getting the garden ready for veggies and doing so much work, I just didn't get it done. I am hoping the eggs I collected will produce a few cats. I must have collected about 50 eggs, but I doubt that many will hatch in captivity. I also have quite a few more GF eggs as well that I collected. The mama GF was laying on everything under the sun, including Morning Glory leaves that intertwine with the passion vine, pieces of bark on the pine tree, etc. So funny how they do that. I have PV all over the places in several locations, but they have chosen to use only 2 of the locations. Weird.

This has been a good year for them. I hadn't seen any for several years - I think it was 2007 when I last saw any.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 8:02PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

It wasn't easy to get its picture, Susan, but there's a bench near its favorite flower in my garden - Brazilian button - so I just sat there and waited for it to land and nectar, which it did. I also got a picture of a newly emerged male gulf frit on Brazilian button that I liked -

I haven't seen a pipevine swallowtail in weeks, even though I released quite a few several weeks ago. Here's hoping they'll come and lay eggs on the pipevines, since there's a lot of new growth on them. I'd like to have some chrysalides to overwinter.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 10:21PM
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I love the Centratherums and would love to grow some. For some reason I keep forgetting about it. It would be a half hardy annual here and would probably self-sow. It seems like the butterflies really love it. Beautiful photos, MissSherry!

I don't consistently get PVS butterflies here in OKC. It must be the cut off line for its range. I don't get Spicebush either. Course, I don't have host plants for the SBSTs. I gave up on trying to raise Spicebush. Just does not like my garden, soil, environment, something. It grows wild in the Eastern part of the state, but I am central. Eastern Oklahoma gets more precip and has preferable environmental conditions than OKC. Tried Sassafras, too, but very hard to get started and I really don't have any room for a tree now.

One thing I can grow for sure is Passion Vine. I fully intended to pull up most all of the suckers, but the influx of Variegated Frits in spring stopped that effort in its tracks. I have so much of the stuff right now, and it is trying to spread underneath the sidewalks into the front beds. I do pull this up. If I get it when the shoots are young, it won't come back in that spot.

In late summer, early fall, I've noticed that the VFs will lay eggs higher up on the plants, rather than on the newer growth close to the ground. I guess that's because they prefer laying eggs on new growth. By summer's end, new growth is higher up on the vines, unlike spring when it is lower/ground level.

They definitely prefer the P. incarnata over the P. 'Lavender Lady'. I have found no GF eggs on it. When that was the only passion vine I had, they would use it. But not since I put in the incarnata.


    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 7:56AM
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I was gathering food and found 4 more GF cats, so I have 6 now. The other 7 have all pupated.

I was changing out the food in the container. For now, I have both the GFs and VFs in the same container. I was being careful to move the GF cats to the new food, when I noticed the smaller, teen-nine-neensy caterpillar on a tendril. I had to look twice, and then three, four, and five more times before I finally was able to ascertain that it was, indeed, a VF cat. It looked like a tiny little scratche on the tendril at first, and not like a caterpillar. I feel like first time fathers must feel when they initially hold their infants - like I was going to break them or something dire.

These cats are soooooo much tinier than the GF cats! I carefully started to go thru the old food and realized I must be missing some of them, and upon closer inspection, I was. They are so tiny, tiny, tiny! I found a couple more on tendrils (the eggs were not laid on tendrils, so they had crawled onto them), and they are almost IMPOSSIBLE to see!

No longer trusting my eye - my very old eyes at that - I put all of the food, old and new, back into the container for fear I would be missing some of the hatchlings. There's not much frass at this stage and if there is, it is microscopic! I will keep adding new food, but will wait a couple days until I can see them better (I hope) before I clear out the container......very carefully. I don't know what else to do at this point.

My only concern is whether the GFs will eat the VFs. If you think so, I can at least go and move the GF cats to another container. They are small, but still so much bigger than the VFs. Don't think I've ever dealt with such tiny little babies as these VFs!


    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 3:49PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I usually keep my caterpillars separated according to size, Susan, but if both GFs and VFs are very small, there probably won't be a problem. It's just when you have a medium or larger cat in the same cage and eating the same food as a little bitty one that there's a problem.

I'm glad you've got cats!


    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 4:40PM
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I was outside and found another GF cat. I hope these guys have enough time to grow, pupate, and eclose before the cold sets in here.

I have never raised VF cats before, so I was shocked at the size of the larvae. I think they'll be okay for now. I'll probably separate them in the a.m. I have a cage ready for the GFs already. The VFs can stay in the container they're in right now until they get big enough for the "big boy" cage. I think the BSTs will have pupated by then and I can use their cage after cleaning it up some.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 5:05PM
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The VF larvae remain very small. Are they just slow to gain any size on them? I keep feeding and feeding them.

I separated the GF and VF larvae by size, so some very small GF cats remain in the enclosure with the VF cats. However, the GF cats are growing in leaps and bounds and daily I move a few to the other, large cat, container.

The reason there are many more GF cats in various instars of growth is because everytime I go to collect food, I find more cats - at least 2 per day up to 8 per day. So their numbers have increased exponentially over the last week.

I almost stuck a couple of Armyworm cats in the cages. I found them on passion vine, and at first glance, they just looked like small GF cats that were nearing time to molt into another instar of growth. Whoops! I released them back into the garden.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 11:28AM
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megan_anne(TX U.S. z8a)

Armyworms? Oops, LOL!! Trust me, as shady and dark as my once-bright and sunny butterfly garden is now, I'd almost raise that armyworm just so I can have another caterpillar! I almost took in a tomato hornworm for the same reason. That "ugly" thing was munching on plants in our neighborhood community garden. He got a nice "meal" of Spinosad instead!

You KNOW you're desperate when you think about raising hornworms!!


    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 1:23PM
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Oh, Megan, I am not a Hornworm Hater! I've raised many of them. The rest I just move from my Tomatos to my huge Datura which they readily opt for. If not, I would let them eat the tomatos. They are such cool adult moths, and I love to watch them nectaring in the evening. I grow the Datura and white blooming 4 o'clocks just for them.

I am afraid if we don't warm up soon for an extended time I may lose my caterpillars. The BSTs will overwinter as chrysalises just fine, but the frits won't.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 3:57PM
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rickinla(8B SW AL)

The GFs have taken over at my place, there are at least 10 butterflies in the backyard at any time and my Passion Vines are really being eaten up. When I bought my 1st vine in early summer, it was for the blooms. Now I've bought 2 more for the GFs. Next year I plan better, and plant a few sacrificial vines away from the house so I can enjoy the blooms and the butterflies.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 11:32AM
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Rickinia, I'm not sure planting sacrificial vines will help. It's kinda the classic "if you plant it, they will come" scenario, lol! You'll probably just get a ton more Gulf Frits visiting your vines.

Did you plant Passiflora incarnata, or P. caerulea? They don't eat the blooms on my incarnata for some reason. When all I had was P. 'Lavender Lady', they ate the foliage AND flowers to the ground. Now that I have P. incarnata, they are eating the foliage and leaving the blooms alone, as well as the P. 'Lavender Lady'. I'd like to hear other's experience with cats eating blooms and on which Passion Vine.

BTW, the reason I got incarnata was because I wanted the Variegated Frits, too, and they will ONLY eat P. incarnata and certain species of violets. I have lots of wild violets, but I have never had cats on them. The few that layed eggs on my violets this year, moved to the passion vine after hatching.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 8:27AM
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