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Old 06-01-2013, 01:21 PM   #1
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Default Baltimore Checkerspot life cycle complex?

I am trying to confirm this information about a communal tent during the first winter after a season on the turtlehead. This would mean a somewhat large stand of chelone would be more likely to have eggs and would certainly dictate stopping turtlehead clean-up if indeed the communal tent is on the plants. Does anyone have more information or a link with this kind of data?

The Ives Road Fen is in Michigan near Tecumseh. Seeing this first hand would be awesome.

https://www.facebook.com/IvesRoadFen

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Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton)-Mahala found this chrysalis in the southern part of the main fen. The caterpillars of this species feed on turtlehead their first year and overwinter in a communal tent. In the spring they disperse and feed individually on a variety of plants before forming a chrysalis. A butterfly emerges in several weeks. The female will lay all her eggs in a cluster of up to 700.
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Old 06-01-2013, 09:52 PM   #2
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In answer to my questioning someone from Ives Road Fen shared this link. It is an article about a biologist that recorded the life cycle of the Baltimore Checkerspot, including pictures. He confirmed the fact that some Baltimore Checkerspot are using a non native narrow-leafed plaintain in place of the more and more rare white turtlehead/chelone as an initial host and the web like communal tent. Great photo slide.

Butterfly can't leaf it alone, so biologist lends a hand | BrandeisNOW

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Perhaps the most interesting oddity is that, with its natural food plant in steep decline, it has adapted to a completely unrelated and dissimilar species.
White turtlehead (Chelone glabra), which is native to eastern North America from Newfoundland south to Georgia, once was the only plant on which female checkerspots would lay eggs and the only plant on which young larvae would feed.
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Turtlehead became rare. But the checkerspot found an alternative in the narrow-leafed plantain (Plantago lanceolata). This summer Olson, who normally would want to be rid of invaders such as this, made special arrangements to protect and enclose specimens of it on the Brandeis grounds
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Creating conditions for checkerspot proliferation, restoring the food web by propagating white turtlehead and enjoying the bragging rights that come with success have made Olson a frequent visitor to the brush, weeds and wetlands behind Farber Library. His checkerspot project three years old and growing also has drawn in other Brandeis employees, from library staff to groundskeepers
Upon hatching, the larvae remained in a tight cluster on the plantain foliage and spun a gossamer tent around themselves. They fed on leaves enclosed in the tent and periodically shifted its position to replenish their food supply. Most butterfly larvae are independent feeders; checkerspots are distinctly social.
And there is a final, truly rare change in the caterpillars when they revive in the spring: Their very picky feeding habits will have melted away. In addition to white turtlehead and narrow-leaf plantain, over-wintered caterpillars will feed on broad-leaved plantain, an additional species of turtlehead, shrub honeysuckles, ash trees and many other plants
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:15 AM   #3
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I have turtlehead here. I've never seen a communal tent before but that doesn't mean it's not a natural occurrence. I can't imagine the folk at Ives Road Fen would make up what they're seeing. Who has been "cleaning" up Chelone. Seriously.... I've never heard of anyone cleaning that plant up before.... it's a wetlands indicator species. Don't tell me there are people out there "cleaning" it up so they can conduct research on whether or not the species could perpetuate itself on plantain>>>?
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Old 06-02-2013, 03:05 PM   #4
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By clean-up I mean the cut back of dead stems in fall or even spring in a personal garden. I grow turtlehead and a year or so ago the native seed growers gave white turtlehead to those willing to grow for seed. It grows well in garden situations but doesn't like drought.
With this information we would know not to clean up the dead stems, if you see the web like tent over several caterpillars, until it is warm enough for the caterpillars to start looking for food in spring.


The researcher/biologist planted lots of turtlehead but also put caterpillars he had raised on some existing narrow-leaved plaintain and put cages around to protect so that he could observe.


So the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly lays all her eggs at one time on white turtlehead or narrow-leaved plaintain. The tiny caterpillars stay together and form the communal tent. They then over-winter within this tent together only separating after it warms up enough in spring for them to find food. At that time food becomes the leaves of a variety of plants not used by the adults to lay eggs.

A complex and somewhat unusual cycle don't you think?
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Old 06-02-2013, 07:03 PM   #5
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Ahhhhhhhhh.... cut back. That makes more sense.... now I understand.
--
The cycle as I understand it doesn't seem complex or unusual to me at all.... a fascinating adaptation.... yes!!! Now.... if only some Baltimore Checkerspots would find my Chelone and lay eggs on it so I could see a communal tent myself!!!
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Old 06-05-2013, 11:39 AM   #6
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Sounds like a combination of tent caterpillar tents and an overwintering hibernaculum.

I've read about other caterpillars that change their food source after overwintering. Makes sense since the original host plant may not leaf out early enough for the caterpillars to dine in the spring. Wish I could remember some examples.

Wish I could raise some BCs around here but I'm in the wrong part of Ohio.
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:08 AM   #7
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My ex and I found Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillars once on a hike in NE PA. I was pretty certain what they were and he took pics. When we realized what they were, we went back to find them, but could not. We planted a ton of white turtlehead in a marsh that he dug in the yard. It was growing quite well the last time I saw it. I don't know if he's had any checkerspots yet. I know they are uncommon here in south NJ.
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Old 07-11-2013, 10:01 AM   #8
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I saw a checkerspot here several weeks ago. I ordered some white turtlehead plants. If they like narrow plantain they will be very happy here. My pasture is loaded with narrow leaf plantain.
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