Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly

Silvery Checkerspot butterfly (Chlosyne nycteis)

Silvery Checkerspot butterfly (Chlosyne nycteis)

Years ago my brother noticed that some kind of insect critters were skeletonizing the bottom leaves of his purple coneflowers.  They didn’t bother the flowers, just those large bottom leaves that drag the ground.  We turned a leaf over and discovered a group of about 20 tiny caterpillars munching.  No amount of internet searching at that time revealed the identity of these, so we brought them into “protective custody” to raise indoors.

Moth or Butterfly ?


Even when the caterpillars were fully mature, we still didn’t know if they would become moths or butterflies.  This was before we wrote our butterfly book, so we were just beginning to learn about their life cycles.


Like many other species, these caterpillars would drop off the plant and roll into a ball when disturbed.  They were prickly to handle, but did not sting or irritate our skin.

Chrysalis versus Cocoon

Silvery Checkerspot chrysalis

By now we were pretty sure there was a butterfly inside each lovely pupa.  The caterpillar did not spin a protective cocoon, and the chrysalis was not the typical amber-brown color that so many moths have.  Each chrysalis displayed variations in color… some with more black and some with more orange.

Silvery Checkerspot

Mystery Solved !

Lo and behold, lovely little butterflies emerged two weeks later.  We thought at first they were Pearl Crescent butterflies, but those have solid black dots on the bottom wings.  The Checkerspots have some dots with white centers.

Silvery Checkerspot on flowers

According to various internet sites, these butterflies will also host on  members of the Asteraceae (daisy family) – especially Wingstem (Verbesina) and Sunflower (Helianthus), but also Aster and Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).Being a citizen scientist can be a lot of fun!  There are always new things to learn.


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  1. says

    Once again, Judy, great photos and information. Glad you were curious enough to discover what those tiny caterpillars were. The chrysalises are works of art. I think it’s easy to overlook these small butterflies.However, I consider them delightful citizens of our backyard.
    Betty Hall recently posted..My first monarch of the year!

  2. says

    ‘preciate someone finally spelling out the difference for me…. Now I know that I’ve been shooting pearl crescents. When I’ve posted them, I’ve looked at side by side pics, and couldn’t see enough difference to matter. Now I need to go back and fix those posts…

    I wonder if you’d be able to id the black cats and the black chrysalis with gold specks on my brugmansia.
    stone recently posted..September in the garden

  3. says

    I came across similar crescent butterfly caterpillars, feeding en masse on a coneflower, several years ago. Luckily I reached for a guide book/computer before I reached for a way to “save my coneflower”! Learning what they were, I left them alone. A month later, you could hardly tell that they’d been on the coneflower at all. I love seeing the chrysalisses (chrysali? LOL!) in this post – I’ve never taken them inside to raise, and I’ve never found one in the wild. I do see the caterpillars almost every summer now, feeding on something, and I just smile and look forward to seeing lots of little orange butterflies later in the summer.
    Cynthia, aka Gaia gardener recently posted..Glimpses Into Other Lives….

  4. says

    Oooooooo! Judy! I loved reading your post! I have so very much to learn from you! I’m wondering if I can send you photos of butterflies for identification via your website – ones that baffle me, for instance eyed browns, or what are they?

  5. says

    “Protective Custody” – how funny! You guys always make me laugh with your quirky brand of humor.

    I have not seen a Checkerspot before in SE Florida, what a beauty! Also I noticed in your first photo that it almost has the appearance of an owl’s face across the top part of the body/wing area – the thorax (?) being the “owl’s” beak. What do you think?
    Dawn Schneiderman recently posted..The Florida Fall Veggie Garden – Are You Ready?

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