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
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.
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.
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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