Butterflies in the Garden
The very thirsty Silvery Checkerspot
After being tethered and tightly wrapped since last autumn, checkerspots in the garden are like tiki bar openers, brightly dressed and very thirsty.
I see the silvery checkerspot, Charidryas nycteis, feeding in groups at everything: bee balm, summer phlox, Shasta daisies — blooming or not, even experimenting with the artificial woodgrain of vinyl siding on our house.
Larvae feed on turtlehead, both Chelone glabra (white) and lyonii (pink). Turtlehead requires constant moisture, so populations of checkerspots tend to wet meadows.
Checkers feed summer and fall, then lay eggs in clusters. The eggs hatch and partially develop as pupae, then hang suspended, literally and figuratively, in brown-speckled white cases over the winter. This period of suspended growth is called diapause, a useful tactic to survive inhospitable seasons whether cold or long and dry. Warm weather triggers full development and liberation.
Silvery’s larger cousin is the Baltimore Checkerspot, Maryland’s official state butterfly, a rarer sight.