Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Gorgone Checkerspot Comes Home

Gorgone Checkerspot (Chlosyne gorgone)

This project started out here at the Nature Museum nearly a year ago when we attempted to get female Gorgone Checkerspots to breed in the lab. The first week of July, 2009, we got 3 females. They laid a bunch of eggs in the lab and we started raising the caterpillars. Sometime in August they stopped feeding, and in September we put them to bed for the winter. In April we roused them from hibernation, learning in the process some important things about holding butterflies over the winter. We had 94% survival over the winter (!). The larvae have been eating like mad, and pupated about two weeks ago. Yesterday (June 3) we brought about 250 adults out to the Nachusa Grasslands for field release.

Vincent and Robin releasing Gorgone Checkerspots

Nachusa Grasslands is a huge prairie site owned by The Nature Conservancy. It contains perfect dry hill prairie habitat that the Checkerspots require. the caterpillars feed on pale purple coneflower. As you can see in the photograph above, there is ample hostplant on the gravel hills to support a population of this butterfly.

Robin shakin' it

Many of the butterflies needed to be coaxed out of the cage

The butterflies were transported in cylindrical screen-sided cages. They needed to be coaxed out into their new home. Perhaps they knew that they were entering a predator-filled world.

Dot's Knob

Nachusa is a beautiful prairie that covers rolling hills. the drier tops of the hills (or knobs) are the preferred habitat of this species. We released the butterflies on Dot's Know and Doug's Knob- named for two early supporters of Nachusa.

I really hope this was a productive mating

We saw lots of mating- both in the cage and with released butterflies. I hope lots of egg laying follows. It will be another year before we know whether there has been successful reproduction on site. Welcome home Gorgone Checkerspots!

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At 00:27, Blogger Ted C. MacRae said...

Great stuff!

What kind of management regime does the prairie get?

At 06:26, Blogger Floridacracker said...

Great Work Doug!

At 06:49, Blogger Lemuel said...

I hope that your efforts meet success. They are a beautiful creature.

At 10:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful! I just showed the post to my family. It's heartening to see the photos of the butterflies put out into their habitat.

At 13:46, Blogger Ur-spo said...

How proud and happy must feel, congratulations to you all.

At 18:50, Blogger Randy Emmitt said...


I've only seen gorgones a few times in NC. great job you are doing and I can't wait to hear what it goes next year with the released gorgones.

Got our 80th butterfly in the yard today a Zebra Swallowtail, thinking there is nothing new to come here now.

At 11:11, Blogger rodger said...

There you go with the porn again...and I thought this was a family friendly site.

Great work Doug...I can hardly wait for next year's update!

At 19:50, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Oh, Doug, congratulations! How wonderful to know that your breeding and release was a success. Let's hope they like their new home and reproduce on their own! I see that big grin on your face! Is this place also Doug heaven? Do you think they know they have such a dedicated benefactor?

At 11:49, Blogger Steve Borichevsky said...

Wonderful to see that they are mating our in the wild. Thanks for all you help with this project!


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