Saturday, May 8, 2010

Munching on Sweet violets.

We have sweet violets growing wild everywhere. They are in the woods, in the yard, in my garden. i am constantly digging them up and transplanting them, before my husband mows them over. i use them to border the lettuce bed, strawberry beds and in my flower garden. Sweet violets are quite beneficial, and useful for those who like to forage for wild food and medicinals. Violets are wonderful because all parts of the plant can be used, and all members of the viola family are edible. i like adding a few blossom to my salad.
My friend Danielle has a great post on making Violet Jelly over at her blog One Green Tomato. Then, swing over to 5 Orange Potatoes blog to see some other fabulous violet recipes.

Sweet violets are also the host food for Fritillary caterpillars.
About a week ago, we came upon an interesting looking caterpillar in our yard. It was black and spiky, and one we have not seen before. So after a bit of googling. We identified it as a Great Spangled Fritillary Caterpillar. What does it eat? Sweet violets of course!

So we decided to try raising it inside, so we could watch it transform. We have raised monarchs and swallowtails...this would be the first time raising a Fritillary. So i created a habitat using an large pickle jar. i planted a huge clump of sweet violets in the bottom, and added a few rocks and dried leaves. Unlike some of the other caterpillars we've raised the Fritillary doesn't form it's chrysalis up high on trees. It rather likes to form it under rocks, dried leaves or logs.

Also, unlike the usual caterpillars we've raised, these guys are nocturnal. So i didn't get very many photos of him. He does most of his munching and crunching at night. During the day he would hide himself within the dried leaves and rest. i would have to get out my flashlight to find him hidden under the leaves in the very center of the jar. He grew quite quickly, and after only a few days had already doubled in size.

A little over a week after we brought him inside, i found him hanging upside down hidden deep within the dried leaves. We left him alone, and when i went back to check he had already formed his chrysalis. i removed a few of the leaves he was wrapped up in so that he was visible.

Hopefully in a week or so, we'll be able to witness the transformation to butterfly. i couldn't find a time frame, on how long they stay in the chrysalis stage, but i am guessing a week or two. This is always such a fun and educational experience for the kids (and me!!). We raise butterflies every summer, but it is always exciting to find/raise a new type. We will be raising painted ladies in the next week or two (from a kit), and i am hoping to find swallowtails and monarch caterpillars again this year as well.
So don't forget to come back, and see the final pictures of our Great fritillary when it emerges and is released. You can also follow us on our adventures with raising Painted ladies (very soon!). As always, i will be documenting all the stages. :)


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