Friday, August 19, 2011

Variegated Fritillary

   I first noticed this Variegated Fritillary on a Red Clover flowerhead, but she didn't give me a chance to take a picture.  Then I noticed the same butterfly flitting around the yard and briefly landing here and there.  I thought if I followed her those actions would give me some chances for good photos.  As I pursued the butterfly, I noticed that there was a pattern and purpose in her flitting around.
   Can you guess what the butterfly was doing?  Note her shadow on the violet leaf.
Variegated Fritillary, Euptoieta claudia, laying an egg on a violet leaf
 I observed her land on violet leaves and lay an egg or two.  The fritillary would fly around the yard about a foot off the ground and was obviously scouting for suitable egg-laying sites.

Here is a photo of one of the eggs the butterfly laid.
   I hope the eggs hatch before the lawn gets mowed, although another observation I made was the butterfly would select small or younger leaves on which to oviposit.  I staked out a violet patch with big obvious leaves, anticipating some easy close-up pictures, but she just flew over a few times and went on to other smaller leaves.  I'm not sure of the reason for selecting the smaller leaves, but that may unintentionally benefit the eggs by keeping them out of the mower's way.
Variegated Fritillary, Euptoieta claudia, ovipositing on a violet leaf
   The fritillary would occasionally land on a clover leaf or small dandelion leaf, but it would instantly leave.  From those observations I would guess the fritillary was using visual cues for locating the violet host plants.  Then upon landing, using chemical cues to verify if the leaf was the correct host plant and determine its suitability as a oviposition site.                                        
There is probably more to it than that, but needless to say, I was impressed with her host plant selection capabilities.
Ah yes, it was pleasant to observe and ponder the host plant locating abilities of the Variegated Fritillary.  Also, thanks to her egg-laying pauses, I had a few chances to take some tolerable photos.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my Dana, those pictures are far beyond tolerable. They're wonderful !