The butterfly garden at Foster Botanical is a great place to decompress. Try sitting among some of Hawaii's seventeen species of butterflies, as see if you don't agree. That's where I became acquainted with the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. It's about two and a half to three inches in length, and a beautiful deep orange. The undersides of the wings sport silvery white spots, making it a stunner from top to bottom. One tip for correct identification is the three white dots encircled in black on the forewing. Its name comes from its migration over the Gulf of Mexico. The range is as far north as Northern California and south through Central and parts of South America. At night, this butterfly may roost in loose groups, usually no more than six feet or so off the ground. The caterpillar of Agraulis vanillae has a passion for the passion vine (Passifloraceae), which is the host plant for this species. The caterpillars emerge from small yellow eggs and are black and orange with lots of dark spikes. The bright colors and spikes are a defense mechanism, advertising to would-be predators that they should stay away. The spikes are actually soft, and do not sting. This is true for most butterfly caterpillars, it is some of the moth caterpillars that can inflict a nasty sting.
The larval (caterpillar) stage of this butterfly lasts for about two weeks, during which time there are several molts. Entomologists refer to the developmental stage between molts as an instar. This is followed up by the pupal stage, when the caterpillar forms a chrysalis that looks very much like a withered leaf. In about two more weeks the stunning butterfly emerges and pumps hemolymph through its wing veins. Hemolymph is to insects as blood is to mammals and birds - a fluid that contains nutrients such as proteins and sugars. Instead of hemoglobin, insect "blood" contains hemocyanin, which turns bluish-green when oxygenated (that's why bugs don't bleed "red blood" when squashed). Once the wings are fully expanded, the metamorphosis is complete, and the world is graced by one more beautiful pulelehua.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.