Gulf Fritillary caterpillar

gulf-fritillary-caterpillar.jpg  While picking blueberries on Saturday, I found this little guy.  I didn’t know what he was until I looked him up in my favorite FL butterfly book, Florida’s Fabulous Butterflies. 

Family:  Nymphalidae      Subfamily:  Heliconiinae

The Gulf Fritillary caterpillar is shiny black, with reddish-orange stripes on its top and sides.  There are four rows of spines which are harmless to humans.  




The butterfly of this caterpillar feeds only on nectar, not on pollen.  It is not a true fritillary.  A true fritillary feeds on pollen, has longer rounded forewings, and stay north and west of Florida. 

An adult butterfly has bright orange uppersides and iridescent silver spots on the underside.  It cannot survive freezing temperatures at any stage of its life. 

 I got all of this information from the book mentioned above.  I did see one of these butterflies flying around the bushes.  I tried to get a picture, but it was too busy.  😀

Life Cycle of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly

My son was stung on the palm by a caterpillar, a few years ago.  He put his whole palm down on top of the caterpillar, by accident and then came in screaming.  He had welts and you could tell the entire caterpillar got him.  It took weeks for it to clear up, but to this day, if he gets hot and sweaty the welts show back up.   He won’t go near a caterpillar now and all the ones with spikes are poisonous to him.   I don’t blame him for running.  🙂


13 responses to “Gulf Fritillary caterpillar

  1. Poor boy. I don’t blame him for being scared of them either.

    Thanks for the lesson.

  2. See……….see!!!

    This is why bugs are BAD!!! BAD!!! BAD!!! They hurt sweet, innocent little boys!

    Death to all bugs……especially mosquitoes, hornets and huge bumble bees.

  3. Um, Tanya, without those huge bumble bee, you wouldn’t have those beautiful flowers and veggies in your garden. 🙂 Mosquitoes, now they can go away forever.

  4. I can see why he didn’t want to get close to the caterpillar.

    The many pictures and detailed info on the web page that you linked, “Life Cycle of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly” is very nice.

  5. WOW… the butterfly is beautiful! I am sorry your son was stung… I am guessing that you didn’t keep the caterpillar?
    I am planning to plant a butterfly garden next spring. I may try and plant the bushes this fall to begin the garden.

  6. I planted a passionfruit vine in my back yard because I wanted the flowers and fruit, not the caterpillars!!!! My vine is growing fine, but covered with these bugs…. can I do anything to get rid of the caterpillars?

  7. Rozz, I really don’t know what you can do about that. I would just pick them off.

  8. OK, thanks. Do you know if they are damaging the vine at all? Will the vine still produce if I allow the bugs to cohabitate?

  9. I think it will produce, but the caterpillars will eat it. I suggest you go to your local garden shop with a leaf and a caterpillar and ask them what to do.

  10. I bought the passion vine for the caterpillers. I love having butterflies flying around in my yard and I still enjoy seeing flowers from the passion vine. Gulf Frittilaries ar gorgeaus butterflies

  11. My sweet little cat got stung by this caterpillar (I too “had” a passionvine) and her tongue swelled up and she could not even swallow her own siliva. I had to take her to A&M Veterinarian Hospital 5 hours away and $3000.00 later and a lot of Clindamycin, amoxicillin and IV fluids and IV steroids and IV pain medication she is somewhat better. It has been almost 3 weeks now an her tongue and nose are still inflammed and she is still on steroids and pain meds by mouth. I read the above reply from the man whose son got stung on the hand and still has problems years later. Sorry but my cat is much prettier than an butterfly. I killed all the caterpillars and then threw the plant in the garbage.

    • The spines of the caterpillar are harmless to humans and I assume are harmless to animals as well. I am thinking this is not the one that got your cat.

      I am glad you got rid of the caterpillars and the plant, but I’m sorry no pet is worth going into debt for.

  12. So sorry that your son was stung…. I’ve read about these caterpillars and it says that they are harmless. They also turn into beautiful butterflies.

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