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Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Baltimore Checkerspot

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Image Credit: Gary R., taken at the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Swanton, VT
Full-sized image of the Baltimore-Checkerspot-Butterfly Thumbnail image of the Baltimore-Checkerspot-Butterfly
Image Credit: Gary R., taken at the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Swanton, VT
Full-sized image #2 of the Baltimore-Checkerspot-Butterfly Thumbnail image #2 of the Baltimore-Checkerspot-Butterfly
Image Credit: Gary R., taken at the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Swanton, VT
Full-sized image #3 of the Baltimore-Checkerspot-Butterfly Thumbnail image #3 of the Baltimore-Checkerspot-Butterfly
Image Credit: Lori S. from MI
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Orange and black, like Lord Baltimore's coat of arms, this butterfly spans farther west than just Maryland.

Updated: 06/19/2023; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Like the city and the oriole, the Baltimore Checkerspot was named after Lord Baltimore, an English baron that started a colony in North America back in the 1600?s. The baron?s family coat of arms consisted of black and orange checkers, and the butterfly shared those same colors.

The butterfly is black in the middle, but has a lot of color on the outer parts of the wings. Each wing has a single row of large orange spots along the bottom edge. A narrow black and white checkered fringe sits at the very edge beneath it. On the topside of the wings, up to four rows of white spots can be seen on the forewings and two white rows are on the smaller hindwings. Two large orange spots by the base of each wing sit on either side of the body. These orange spots may be solid and round, or fragmented by black veins. The leading front edge of each forewing has a thin orange line next to the head. The black body has rows of small white dots one it.

When the wings are raised, the underside of the wings is appears much lighter. The orange and white rows are still present, but they are bordered by black lines and take up more space on the wings. The face has a dab of orange on it between the eyes, and the clubs on the black antennae are also orange. This butterfly has black and orange legs, and the front pair may not be easy to see because they are short.

The caterpillar for this butterfly is black and orange, like the adult. It is covered in black spikes and its body may be completely orange, completely black, or have black and orange rings around it. It feeds on plantain and false foxglove, but its favored host is turtlehead, a native plant also known as balmony or turtle bloom. The chrysalis for this caterpillar is white with orange and black spots on it. Despite its name, the butterfly?s range extends all the way to the Mississippi River. Look for it in damp meadows, where turtleheads are likely to grow.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Nymphalidae
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          Genus: Euphydryas
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            Species: phaeton

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Euphydryas phaeton
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 44mm to 76mm (1.73" to 2.99")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; orange; white
Descriptors: rows of white spots; orange bottom spots; orange rim border; large orange spots by head; black center; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 44mm (1.7in) and 76mm (3.0in)
Lo: 44mm
Md: 60mm
Hi: 76mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Baltimore Checkerspot may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Baltimore Checkerspot. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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