The Gorgone Checkerspot Comes Home
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.
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.
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.
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.