So many species of butterflies are making their brood flights now. I love to watch these colorful insects as they flit around, most often in search of nectar to eat or host plants on which to lay their eggs.
A couple of days ago I watched chalcedon checkerspots (Euphydryas chalcedona) as they fed on naked buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum) plants near Rock Creek (Shasta County CA). These butterflies, also called variable checkerspots, are common in the sagebrush flats, chaparral, high prairies, open forests and alpine tundra of the Western United States, ranging from Alaska to Baja and from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains.
Chalcedon checkerspots are variable in color and pattern with the upper wings having white or yellow spots on a brown or black background, while the underside of the wings are patterned in a lighter brown and white. Adults feed on flower nectar. Eggs are laid in groups on the undersides of host plants – penstemon, Indian paintbrush, snowberry, honeysuckle, monkey flower, figwort and forget-me-not to name a few. The caterpillars are spiny and feed together on the host plants, often surrounded by a gauzy “silk nest”. Caterpillars in the later stages (3rd and 4th) of their development can hibernate in leaf litter or under rocks over the winter. The free-hanging pupae are white with dark blotches. (A reminder: the life cycle of a butterfly consists of egg, caterpillar, pupa and adult in that order.)
What a pretty sight to see about fifty of these medium-sized (1 1/2″ to 3″) butterflies feeding in the summer sun. Enjoy the Summer Solstice!!