Thaddeus William Harris might have liked this series of images. A Massachusetts entomologist and botanist, Harris (1765-1856) went on to become the librarian at Harvard. But he achieved a form of immortality when the noted lepidopterist and paleontologist Samuel Hubbard Scudder named this butterfly for him: Harris’ Checkerspot (Chlosyne harrisii).

That’s a copulating pair above from Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben, Maine, on June 30, 2017. And below is a female laying eggs yesterday on her host plant, Flat-topped Aster (Doellingeria umbellata), in Lincoln Plantation, Maine. Once she was done and flew off, I flipped over the leaf for a photo of her “clutch.” From those eggs will hatch outrageous black-and-orange caterpillars, which will feast on the asters until late summer, when they go dormant and overwinter in the leaf litter. Next spring the caterpillars will resume feeding, pupate, and the adults will emerge to continue the cycle. 

Watch for the checkerspots now, but don’t confuse them with the common and cosmopolitan Crescent (Phyciodes) species also now on the wing. That final shot below shows each one.

Steuben, Maine, on June 26, 2017

Harris’ Checkerspot (Chlosyne harrisii) on the left and the similar Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta) on what appears to be coyote scat. Their wing positioning can be more more similar than what we’re seeing here, although note the more squarish forewing tips on the checkerspot.