Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spare that Violet


Pity the poor violet.  Hidden among the more showy flowers, it is a native that frequently get the same respect from a gardener that dandelions get on a golf course.  Close up they have their own beauty but there is a lot more to love about them.  They raise Great Spangled Fritillaries in the early spring.  Master Naturalist and videographer Linda Bower explains below, then watch her fantastic video of the caterpillar in action.

Linda Bower
 The Great Spangled Fritillary requires violets and leaf litter to survive. This is a very shy caterpillar, unlike any I've filmed before. It curls up into a "C" shape or drops off a leaf when it feels threatened. It prefers to stay low in masses of violets and is often found hiding under leaves. This butterfly has an unusual life cycle. It lays eggs in the fall and overwinters as a tiny caterpillar. It awakens when violets begin to leaf out (its only host plant). It forms its chrysalis in leaf litter. The adults fly and mate all summer.

This year's caterpillar season is almost over. Please check your violets if you decide to remove them from your garden beds. Place the caterpillars in an area of violets that you won't step on and do not rake! (To find them - look for chewed leaves and then carefully search the immediate area, including underneath leaves. The caterpillar's spines won't hurt you.) You will be richly rewarded for your efforts. The first clip of eating is in real time, the second is at 50% speed.

Now watch her video here.

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