ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The State Insect of Maryland: The Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly

Updated on December 27, 2020
fcmosher profile image

You've got bugs—Fred's got answers! Fred's Bughouse is your one-stop-shop for useful information about everything buggy.

Source

Maryland's state insect is the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly. It was designated in 1973, one of the earliest insects to be honored as a state emblem. It was chosen in part due to its bright orange and black colors, which are the same as the colors of the Calvert family, Maryland's founders.

The Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly's Scientific Name

Maryland's state insect belongs to a group of butterflies that are distributed around the world, from chilly northern regions to steamy tropical zones. The scientific name for this group is the family Nymphalidae. It There are many kinds of butterflies in the group, and they all share some special characteristics.

The scientific name of the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly is Euphydryas phaeton. That means the genus name is Euphydryas and the species name is phaeton. Scientific names have the genus name first and the species name second. This is something like having your last name first – it shows you belong to a closely related group, but within that group are individual species. The Baltimore checkerspot's species name is phaeton. Therefore the insect's scientific name is Euphydryas phaeton. Scientific names are always in italics.

Source

Checkerspot Butterfly Identification

Checkerspot butterflies are much more common in the American West and Southwest than in the East – in fact, the Baltimore checkerspot is the only representative of its genus east of the Rocky mountains. In many years of stalking butterflies in all environments, I have yet to encounter a Baltimore checkerspot, a reflection of their rarity. These insects live in colonies and they seldom stray very far from these populations, so unless you stumble upon a field that hosts a colony, you are unlikely to find this species.

This is a very pretty little butterfly, as are all of the Euphydryas checkerspots. The ground color is a deep chocolate brown. Around the margins of the upper wings is a double row of bright orange and yellow spots or lunules. Underneath, the "checker" effect is beautifully enunciated with a complex pattern of orange, yellow and brown. The males and females are similar in appearance.

Caterpillar of the Baltimore Checkerspot
Caterpillar of the Baltimore Checkerspot | Source

Baltimore Checkerspot Early Stages and Caterpillar

After mating, the female checkerspot butterfly lays her fertilized eggs on leaves of the caterpillar foodplant, turtlehead, false foxglove, plaintain, and ash. As they eat and grow, the caterpillars construct silk "nests" where they shelter from predators like wasps, birds, and spiders.

Over the course of a few weeks, the tiny checkerspot caterpillars eat and grow. Since they have an exoskeleton, a cuticle-like body covering, they have to shed their skin in order to get larger. With each shedding of the skin, called "instars," the caterpillar gets larger. Finally the mature caterpillar sheds its skin and becomes a pupa; the adult butterfly hatches out in the spring and the process repeats.

Complete Metamorphosis

"Complete metamorphosis" is the term used to describe the life cycle of insects that go through a four-stage sequence of forms. For butterflies, this means egg-larva-cocoon/chrysalis-adult. It helps to take the butterfly as the example, although dragonflies, bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and many other insects also go through complete metamorphosis. Like butterflies, they all have larvae and all of the other developmental stages.

The Baltimore checkerspot butterfly is typical of the insects that undergo complete metamorphosis. The eggs are laid on leaves of the foodplant, and the caterpillar that hatches out eats the leaves of the plant. As it grows, it sheds its skin, also known as molting. The stages between molts are called instars, and after the last instar, the caterpillar sheds its skin one more time.

Source

The last tine the caterpillar sheds its skin, it enters the cocoon/chrysalis phase, known by scientists as "diapause." It's also called a "pupa." Inside the pupa, the insect's cells are rearranging. They actually break down into a kind of goop, and then reassemble to form the body and wings of the adult butterfly or moth.

The final "instar" occurs when the insect hatches out of the pupal skin. It is now ready to mate and continue the cycle. The adult feeds just enough to promote the goal of mating and laying eggs; other than that, it has no purpose on this planet.

The "Spanish fritillary," a European relative of the Baltimore checkerspot
The "Spanish fritillary," a European relative of the Baltimore checkerspot | Source

Butterfly Conservation and Protection

Although the Baltimore checkerspot is considered relatively rare, it is not critically endangered at this point. The butterfly has a wide, if scattered, range across the eastern United States. However, butterflies of all kinds are completely reliant on having the right food plants and environment if they are to survive. When humans tear up fields and forests to build subdivisions and industrial parks, it's the butterfly's home that gets destroyed. We need to be thoughtful and careful, or butterflies like the Baltimore checkerspot could easily become endangered.

Resources

The following sources were used for this guide:

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)