About a week ago I noticed a favorite patch of Woodland Sunflower, Helianthus divaricatus, being quickly gobbled up by gregarious, tiny caterpillars. I took pictures of the less than one half inch critters, and started pouring over my many books on butterflies, moths, and caterpillars.
I always love a mystery – caterpillars eating beloved plants – good or bad? I was relieved to find that the sunflowers were being eaten by the larval stage of a lovely, native butterfly. The culprit? The butterfly, Silvery Checkerspot, Chlosyne nycteis. This is good! My woods, up here on the Blue Ridge are a butterfly garden!
Silvery Checkerspots have a wingspan of between 1.5 and 2 inches. Their host plants, or plants that their caterpillars eat, are Black-eyed Susans and Sunflowers. Adults chow down on the nectar of Red Clover, Common Milkweed, and Dogbane.
Almost grown caterpillars of the Silvery Checkerspot overwinter at the base of their host plants. I’m so pleased that the woods up here provide a good environment for Silvery Checkerspots!
AND I have no problem sharing the gardens around my cabin with native butterflies, even if sometimes things end up looking a bit battered. It is all for good.