Sunday, July 17, 2011

Butterfly Season

Baltimore Checkerspot
A couple posts ago I mentioned a chrysalis I’d found – a Baltimore Checkerspot. The adult emerged on July 4, Independence Day for everyone I guess. When I got home from the parade it was hanging out on my porch, drying its wings.

Now I see Baltimore Checkerspots everywhere, checking out the milkweeds and Black-eyed Susans growing wild in my garden. This time of year they’re also checking out egg-laying sites: the narrow-leaved English plantain and the common plantain that make up lots of what passes for my lawn. Their caterpillars – orange-and-black-banded with black spines sticking out – will nosh on plantain leaves until fall and then they’ll find a cozy spot beneath the leaf litter to spend the winter.

Meanwhile, the Checkerspots and other butterflies are flitting about collecting nectar. If you sneak up close, you can watch them unroll their long tongues to reach the nectar in flowers. They also spend a fair amount of time basking in the sun – the Baltimore Checkerspots hold their wings open so you can see their beautiful colors.

Butterflies also hang out in “puddle clubs”. You can see them at the edges of mud puddles, usually a whole bunch of them, and it looks like they’re licking the mud. That’s how they get the minerals they need.

Besides the Baltimore Checkerspot, here are a few of the other butterflies people are finding in back yards of upstate NY:

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Black Swallowtails
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Summer Azure
White Admiral
Pearl Crescents
Orange Sulphur
Common Wood-Nymphs
Silver-spotted Skippers
Dun skippers
Great Spangled Fritillary
European Skippers
Bronze Coppers
Banded Hairstreak

What do you see in your back yard?
If you're looking to get involved with butterfly projects, check out project Butterfly Wings, Monarch larva and journey north projects - links are listed under "Get Involved in Real Science" in one of the right-hand columns.


  1. I've planted turtlehead to try to lure the Baltimore checkerspot, but with no luck. I'm so glad to see they're turning up somewhere!

  2. If you have any plantain - they seem to really like that! (for laying eggs)I see them in my hayfield where I have: queen anne's lace, black-eyed susan, goldenrod, asters of all types, various milkweeds, mullein, sorrels, jpe pyeweed, st. johnswort and more. So my guess is that if you just leave a weedy area, they will come.