The Wood Folk Diaries: Volume 3, Chapter 16: Silvery Checkerspot and Coneflowers

Dear Wood Folk,

The silvery checkerspot (chlosyne nycteis) looks a lot like a northern or pearl crescent, and sometimes it’s called a silvery crescent. These crescents are hard to tell apart, especially the females. You can see pictures of the silvery on iNat. It appears to be dotted with white spots, unlike the northern and pearl. So far I’ve only spotted the silvery caterpillar, not the adult butterfly! I’ll continue looking!

Ontario has around 9 species of checkerspots. 6 Species are listed on iNaturalist for Haliburton county, and by far northern crescents are the most populous.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a silvery checkerspot, it’s territorial and may even check out what you’re doing near its flowers. An alternate name for it is “streamside checkerspot”, which is a hint to one of the best spots to find it. Moist open woodlands, black eyed Susan and aster blanketed roadsides near streams offer the highest chance of a sighting. Sometimes they are spotted in meadows and clearings in the woods.

Silvery Checkerspot Plant Allies

Silvery Checkerspot (chlosyne nycteis)  caterpillar
Silvery Checkerspot (chlosyne nycteis) caterpillar

The partially grown caterpillar overwinters here and after pupating the silvery checkerspot may survive into Autumn.

The caterpillars host on the aforementioned asters and various rudbeckia like Black-eyed susan. Some of their favourite asters are very common around Haliburton: flat-topped white (doellingeria umbellata), swamp (aster puniceus), and wood asters (eurybia spp.) cover the bulk of the asters I see frequently at the 1 and 100 acres and various trails in our area.

They also may host on sunflowers (helianthus spp.) including the native woodland sunflower (h. annuus) and the Jerusalem Artichoke many gardeners have planted hereabouts for food (h. tuberosus). A big deal in both herbalism and butterfly gardening, the near native purple coneflower (echinacea purpurea) is a silvery checkerspot host plant too! I’ve always loved echinacea for nectar for adult butterflies, and due to the fact the stalks with blooms hold up past our first frosts of late September or October!

Coneflowers are one of the silvery checkerspots host plants
Coneflowers are one of the silvery checkerspots host plants

For those in Southern Ontario, native wingstem (verbesina alternifolia) hosts them too.

The adult silvery checkerspot butterfly’s favourite native plants for nectar may be milkweed and dogbane. Spreading dogbane is a shrubby plant with pinkish clusters of tiny bellflowers. It’s often overlooked for pollinator landscaping. It’s an attractive fast and somewhat aggressive spreader. If you’re looking to fill an area quickly both milkweed and dogbane are contenders and they go naturally together.

Butterfly Families & Species in Ontario

5 Butterfly families and ~167 butterfly species are found in Ontario, Canada *links to our related Wood Folk Diaries:

Butterflies of Ontario has them lined up by family, with many pictures. Before stumbling upon iNaturalist, I used Butterflies of Ontario for virtual butterfly identification. As you can see by the blue links, we’ve covered quite a few kinds. But we’ll soon write about other types of pollinators. And I have an itch to write about Ontario’s poisonous plants ASAP! There’s a high chance the later will come next!

Please Like, Comment, Share! We'd love to hear your stories and knowledge! Thank you!

Leave a Comment