Variegated Fritillary

TreeRootsOctober 19, 2013

The other day, I found two Variegated Fritillary cats on pansies at work. I brought them home, and am feeding them my pansies (they won't eat the passionflower vine).
I was wondering, with the weather chilling, if they can still make the migration this late in the season? Should I be keeping them outside, or keep them inside and just release them when they are adults?
I couldn't find much info on this, so help would be appreciated. I'm in TN, btw

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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I haven't been able to find out much information about how variegated frits live their lives, either. I found a late VF cat a few weeks ago on P. incarnata, which is the only type passionvine I've known them to use, they don't like the various hybrids or P. caerulea, as far as I know. I raised it myself, and it's now a chrysalis in a cage with spicebush swallowtail chrsyalides on my porch. I'm going to leave it where it is - I don't think bringing chrysalides in the house is a good idea, since they're apt to emerge in a warmed house during the middle of winter, when there are no other VFs around for them to mate with and no nectar or host plants available. If I were you, I'd do the same, even though I don't know if VFs regularly spend the winter as adults or chrysalides - I'm hoping this one will show me. I think it's going to overwinter, since it's been long enough for it to emerge - they don't usually take too long - but if their normal routine is to overwinter as adults, it may die.

I guess I'll find out. Keep us posted as to how yours does, since the books don't give much if any information.


    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 3:36PM
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I read that the VF is a migrant in the North and does not overwinter. Most Northern species of Fritillaries overwinter as very young cats that don't feed until the following Spring, when the Violet leaves are young and tender.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 3:50PM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

Very interesting! Just an idea--maybe if you have a rearing cage, one of those butterfly pavilions or someother structure, you can keep them in that outside somewhere.

It would be interesting to see what would happen with them. I can't find my one very thorough guide book, and if MissSherry isn't sure either, and the below link also mentions that there's no certaintly about how/whether they overinwter in northern states, it definitely seems a mystery. So, you'd be doing us all (and science) a favor, by keeping them in some kind of container in a natural setting. :)

Keeping them in a container outside would help to mimic the natural conditions--perhaps putting in a layer of garden debris/leaves to give them an area that would mimic garden conditions. If they overwinter as a cat, they'd most likley find shelter under some leaves at the base of a plant. And the container would let you know exactly where they were.

Gosh, what an awesome find! :) It's also nice to know that the pansies weren't treated with some kind of pesticide that would kill them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Var Frit life info

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 11:54AM
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How did those VF cats do?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 9:26AM
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Thanks, everyone, for the advice. I've been keeping them outside in a pop-up net. It was pretty warm, but it just recently got cold. It's been two weeks maybe since the first cat pupated, and it still has not emerged. The pupa coloration is darker, though... I'm not sure if that's a bad thing, or not-



Bergergrrl, good idea about the leaves. I added some to the net just now-

That leaves me with the one pupa (the other cat in the picture in my first post died while pupating...not sure why, just went limp) and two later instar cats

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 4:00PM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

So fun to follow this. The leaves idea was if it were going to overwinter as a caterpillar, which is obviously not the case. :)

Hmmm---keep us posted if it ecloses; if it doesn't soon, then you'd probably need to treat it as an overwintering chrysalis.

Have fun!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 6:11PM
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It's a little worrying... it was warm today (for Fall), but it's gonna get freezing next week. This guy was still out eating today-

I hate to watch them die in the cold (if they can't overwinter, that is). I wish I could keep them inside, and let them feed off of pansies as adults... :(

    Bookmark   November 10, 2013 at 7:08PM
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They would only lay eggs on Pansies and would require some sort of nectar to survive indoors, along c a lot of sun and some warmth.
You can try a plastic dish scrubber sitting in a dish of reconstituted Hummingbird nectar a day or so after eclosure (Most butterflies do not feed right away after eclosure).
This works at our annual live butterfly exhibits here in Madison.
You can also obtain some carefully chosen plants from your local greenhouse, such as Lantana or Pentas. Keep as well lit as possible. You may also want to wash your plants well to remove any and all pesticides.
Fritillaries may even take a bit of overripe fruit, such as banana.
You may get a few days to two weeks in the adult stage.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2013 at 10:50PM
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I do have some lantana, but it's not blooming. Why can't pansies sustain adults with their nectar? Are they too hybridized?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 4:58PM
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You could try, though I've never thought of Pansies as nectar plants.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 11:21AM
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The pupa died. Looked out there today, and it the tissue had broken at the grip. :(

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 7:01PM
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I'm sorry to hear that:( I guess some things weren't meant to be.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 12:13PM
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