Caterpillar that screams don’t eat me!
Location: Venice, CA 90291
December 27, 2010 5:04 pm
Dear WhatsThatBug,
I saw this bold caterpillar walking west toward the beach in sunny Venice Beach, California. The caterpillar was fairly large, about half a pinkey length and the first think I noticed about it was its beautiful red/blue stripes along its back and its fierce black spikes. Any idea what type of caterpillar this Venice Beach visitor/local might be? Hope you enjoy the photo and happy holidays!
Signature: Venice Todd

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

Hi Todd,
This is a Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar, the immature stage of one of the most common butterflies in Southern California.  The Caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary feeds exclusively on the leaves of the passionflower vine, a common introduced plant, and the introduction of the plant in areas with warmer climates is responsible for the range expansion of the butterfly.  It is our understanding that both the butterfly and food plant are native to Mexico, Central America and South America, but the religious symbolism of the flower has led to its cultivation in warmer areas of the United States, and that cultivation has allowed the pretty orange butterfly to also expand its range.  Since this individual caterpillar was not found on the plant, it is a likely bet that it is about to metamorphose into a chrysalis.  When the caterpillars are mature, an oxymoron since the caterpillar is actually the immature stage of the mature butterfly, it leaves its food plant and searches for an appropriate site to transform into a stationary chrysalis.

Location: California

One Response to Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

  1. Laura says:

    Thank you! These guys are eating my lilikoi up in Hawaii. Good to know what they are – I’ll bring them to school for my preschoolers to learn from 🙂 that way I can control how much they munch my crops!

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