Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Baltimore Checkerspot - Euphydryas phaeton

Baltimore Checkerspot
Now that spring is arrived in the temperature is warming up "except for today", I look forward for the new flowers starting to bloom along with all a small creatures coming out either from hibernation or eggs hatching. Around the field station in the meadows at Allens Pond Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary starting in late April or early May the overwintering caterpillars of the Baltimore Checkerspot Euphydryas phaeton will emerge and start feeding.
Baltimore Checkerspot Caterpillar Environmental Photo
Baltimore Checkerspot Caterpillar Feeding on Plant Leaf

Baltimore Checkerspot Caterpillar in the Morning Dew

Once the caterpillars reach full size, they will form a chrysalis in which they will transform into an adult. This stage usually takes approximately 2 weeks.
Baltimore Checkerspot Chrysalis

At Allens pond the butterflies will emerge in early July and their flight lasts approximately 2 weeks.
Baltimore Checkerspot Feeding on Thistle

The Baltimore Checkerspot was named for the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, because it's colors of orange and black with the same colors that were on Lord Baltimore's heraldic shield. The Baltimore checkerspot in 1973 was named the official insect of Maryland.

Baltimore checkerspot's range from southern Manitoba Eastern Nova Scotia itself to Nebraska Kansas and Georgia. In New England is found everywhere except northern Maine. They are found in meadows, both wet and dry and have scattered colonies throughout the state.

Baltimore checkerspots are members of the family Nymphalidae, the Brushfooted butterflies. The wingspan of the checkerspots is approximately 2 1/2 inches. The food of the caterpillars includes English Plantain , Common Plantain, Arrowwood, and False Foxglove. The adults will feed on mid-summer flowering species.

The lifecycle starts after the adults emerge and they mate with deposition of eggs on the underside of hosts plant leaves. It takes approximately 20 days for the eggs to hatch. The little caterpillars will crawl to the top of the leaves and will live in a communal nest that they construct with silk. The caterpillars will stop eating and early autumn and then descend to the base of the food plants and overwinter in the leaf litter where they will emerge in the spring and start the cycle all over again.

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