Baltimore, Begosh!

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at the Jamestown Audubon Center in Jamestown, NY.

They’ve eluded me for many years. I kept my eyes open, for their wetland hostplants, Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), and I’ve found them, many times in many places. But these spectacular checkerspot butterflies, no such luck.

During a visit to the Jamestown Audubon Center in Jamestown, New York, I enjoyed the friendliest, warmest reception that I’ve ever gotten from the staff of an Audubon Center. Relishing the experience, I left the Visitors Center building. Standing at the edge of their cultivated Butterfly garden, my eyes, always keen to spot butterfly movement or color, signaled Stop! Look! There on the ground cover was a Baltimore checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas phaeton). Would it flee? It didn’t, and I took photograph after photograph.

So many years since my last encounter with a checkerspot at Powdermill in Rector, Pennsylvania. I was as happy as . . .

I count this photograph as one of the most satisfying images I’ve photographed. It’s a real American beauty.


6 thoughts on “Baltimore, Begosh!

  1. Baltimore Checkerspots hold a special place in my heart also. The first one I ever saw was at Jamestown Audubon several years ago and it took my breath away! I was a volunteer gardener at the time, taking care of the butterfly garden, and one of the first host plants I added to the garden was white turtlehead (chelone glabra) as it is the host plant to Baltimore Checkerspots and are becoming endagered in many places due to habitat loss of wetlands and thus turtleheads as they are a wetland plant.

    What really fascinates me about Baltimores’ (other than their striking beauty in all stages of development) have such an interesting life cycle,

    Many butterflies emerge from a chysalis in the spring, mate and lay eggs on host plants and produce one or two generations during spring and summer, and the last generation of summer goes into chysalis and winters over.

    Baltimore Checkerspots differ as their summer generation of caterpillars winter over in a colony on turtle-head plants, or on the ground under the turtle-head plant, burrowing under leaf litter, and do not emerge until Spring when the ground warms up and turtle-head plants emerge in the spring. When the half grown caterpillars come out they continue growing, make strikingly beautiful white chysalis with orange and black markings. When these adult butterflies emerge in June- July they mate and lay a rack of tiny red eggs on the turtle-head plant . When the caterpillars hatch, they make a nest of silk, which sometimes includes more than half of the plant, where they live and feed as a colony.
    and then the cycle begins anew . . . . . . .


Comments are closed.