Butterflies in the Lupines

One thing that happened in the last few weeks is that the garden shifted from being fairly dull and lifeless to being full of all kinds of wonderful things. Well, caterpillars at any rate. It appears that there are some caterpillars enjoying the comfortable habitat of my California natives garden. A cursory web search says these are likely to be Gulf Frittilaries, but any correction on that score is welcome, as I know squat about caterpillars (Edit: or maybe they're Whatevers).

They totally love the Rodeo Red lupine, though. Good taste, those Gulf Frittilaries Whatevers.

Lots of caterpillars

And another look at a different collection of them. There are a few groups like this all over the various lupines in the planting strip. They are specifically hanging out where the thistle arches over various lupines protectively.

More caterpillars

And close in, so you can all tell me I'm right or wrong:

Gulf Frittilary caterpillars

The thistle is going all seedy on me, and I've been letting it (note the bodacious powdery mildew on that rose there). I did prune some of the blooms off before they blew, but the seeds are valuable to birds and they add to the cover on the ground.

Thistle seeds

Also, the blowing seedheads are lovely.

Thistle seedhead

My little planting strip has turned into quite the habitat. This was, of course, rather the point in planting it, but what with the babies all over the place, I feel less able to deal with the increasingly urgent Bermuda grass problem. So today I pulled a bunch of grass then balled it up and left it in place, should it be needed for cover. I do think it helps that I've been spraying the roses with a fungicide that does not have an insecticide.

Natives garden

Part of my suspicion about the identification of my caterpillars comes from the clouds of these Gulf Frittilaries (again: I think) Actually, these are Skippers hanging out two feet away in the lavender. They fly around with each other, then skip from flower to flower on the lavender.

Gulf Frittiliaries in the lavender

Yellow-brown wings with black dots, charming smile, cute little antennae. Nice little butterfly, all things considered.


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posted by ayse on 07/30/06


The butterflies are skippers. Gulf Fritillaries are much larger with bright coloration.

I'm not sure what the cats are. If you are interested, you can raise them indoors, but you have to keep giving them new lupine to eat (and clean the frass droppings -- it's like a dog but without the walking...) and keep them safe until they form a chrysalid and emerge. Then you can photo the butterfly and that's easier to ID. I would guess a blue butterfly as many species use lupine as a host plant.

what fungicide are you using? is it effective against black spot? we've had tons of birds and bees and all sorts of visitors to the rose garden, so I'm afraid to spray for black spot (it's been a wet summer, I've been following proper watering protocols) because I don't want to kill my little friends.

Thanks, CJ. They do look more like the skipper photos on Google than the GFs.

I guess I'll just watch the caterpillars and see what they turn into.

Amanda: I've been using Green Light fungicide, and it's supposed to be good for black spot. We haven't had much of that this year: just lots and lots of powdery mildew. But maybe that's because the fungicide is being really effective. I think I will be stopping or stepping down my spraying, though, because of the huge amounts of insect life going on around the rose hedge.

Ayse, I was really excited, hoping that it was the organic one that you had mentioned trying out last week. However, I'm afraid to use what you've recommended, it looks like it could be toxic to water dwelling creatures. I like crabcakes too much to poison the Chesapeake bay! Thanks! If I find a good organic fungicide, I'll share.

I'm afraid that even organic fungicide is toxic to water-dwelling creatures (I used Safer for my experiment a couple weeks ago: same deal). I mean, it's fungicide. Fungicide kills small organisms. It's toxic, no matter how you made it to begin with.

The best you can do is be careful in application, not use it near waterways or drains to waterways (all fungicide will break down given enough soil to work through before getting to a body of water), and limit your use to necessary situations. You need to be careful like that with organic products, too, though enough people think otherwise that they are (ironically) causing major problems in waterways.

My rose garden is located about 10 feet from a sewer drain, so I have to be extremely careful. Thanks for letting me know that organic is not the way to go either. I may just leave the situation alone, prune the infected canes and clean out all the mulch and leaf litter and see if the problem cures itself. I walked through the rose garden at the nearby college and noticed that their heavily coated in chemicals roses aren't looking significantly better than mine, so I may just try to wait until the plants aren't as stressed by the Japanese beetles to try to tackle the black spot further.

Yeah, when you're that close to a drain it's hard. We're kind of lucky because we don't get rain all summer, so we don't have to worry about washoff into the storm drains (if we're careful about watering and overspray, of course).

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