Cochise County Insects: Bordered Patch Butterfly, Chlosyne Lacinia, Caterpillar and Adult

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For the first time ever, I had photos of both caterpillar and adult stages of a butterfly. The lucky winner was the Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia) found out behind the Border Fort (our domicile) in Cochise County, Arizona…and “lucky” was definitely the operative term. Interesting black caterpillars with red-orange areas atop the segments (and black dots inside the colored areas) were not identified when they showed up in considerable numbers on the exterior walls of the building. They were just there to pose for the camera. Who knew what they really were?

That photo op happened on August 29 (2014). Five days later, on September 3, an easily identified Bordered Patch butterfly got busy harvesting nectar from a huge stand of golden crownbeard flowers a few yards northwest of the building. A casual Google search happened to bring up pictures of the Bordered Patch caterpillar—and bingo! Instant recognition!

Which made sense. Golden crownbeard is a known host plant for Bordered Patch caterpillars and often frequented by adult butterflies as well.

Yeah. It all makes sense now.

The caterpillars were not huge, only an inch or so long, but they photographed well.

Bordered Patch caterpillar hanging out on a concrete stucco building wall in Cochise County, Arizona.

Bordered Patch caterpillar hanging out on a concrete stucco building wall in Cochise County, Arizona.

Bordered Patch caterpillars wall climbing on the buddy system.  Note that the red-orange patterns are not equally visible in the two individuals.  Also, to give a sense of scale, that "round thing" next to them is the head of an 8d nail.

Bordered Patch caterpillars wall climbing on the buddy system. Note that the red-orange patterns are not equally visible in the two individuals. Also, to give a sense of scale, that “round thing” next to them is the head of an 8d nail.

The adult Chlosyne lacinia feeding on the flowers in the following photos could not have been one of the caterpillars shown above. Life cycle studies have shown it takes, on average, around 12 days for a maxed out caterpillar (that is, one that’s ready to build a chrysalis and begin transforming) to be reborn as a butterfly with splendiferous wings. The butterfly photos were taken just five days after the caterpillar photos, so…

Bet they were related, though. Bordered Patch butterflies do love those golden crownbeard plants.

There are quite a few butterfly species around here who make photography a real challenge in that it takes them about half an eye blink to land on a flower, suck up some nectar, and hit the air again. Fortunately, the Bordered Patch is a lot more mellow than that. It would repeatedly land on a flower and stay there long enough for the Canon PowerShot to aim and shoot at least once and often several times.

Curiously–at least one other species was observed doing this as well–the critter didn’t just land and stay in one position. Instead, it stepped off a complete circle around the flower, sucking up nectar from one spot, shifting around a bit, grabbing nutrition from the new spot, rinse and repeat until at least one full go-round had been completed.

Awesome.

The Bordered Patch butterfly lands on a golden crownbeard flower and starts sucking up nectar.

The Bordered Patch butterfly lands on a golden crownbeard flower and starts sucking up nectar.

Apparently exhausting the first nectar well, the butterfly shifts to its left, finding a new spot for nectar-sucking.

Apparently exhausting the first nectar well, the butterfly shifts to its left, finding a new spot for nectar-sucking.

This circle-to-the-left behavior continues, the Bordered Patch shifting again...

This circle-to-the-left behavior continues, the Bordered Patch shifting again…

.again...

…and again…

...and again...

…and again…

...and again.  At least with this individual, the process was repeated on each new blossom until the butterfly had made at least one complete circuit.

…and again. At least with this individual, the process was repeated on each new blossom until the butterfly had made at least one complete circuit.

Another stroke of luck provided a camera shot of the ventral (underside) wing surface of the butterfly. As any butterfly watcher knows, some species habitually fold their wings when they land while others just as regularly leave theirs spread wide open. Catching a butterfly in flight with anything short of a camcorder is not easy, so most of the pictures are taken while the butterflies are perched somewhere. This results, of course, in easy pics of the ventral surfaces for closed-wing critters and equally easy shots of the dorsal surfaces for open-wing species…but not vice versa.

Thus it was a true treasure to get the following photo of the Bordered Patch’s underside, backlit by the sun and lighting up the frame.

Bordered Patch butterfly, ventral wing surface, backlit by the sun.

Bordered Patch butterfly, ventral wing surface, backlit by the sun.

And for now, th-th-that’s all, folks!

Butterflies and Sunflowers 063 (2)

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