by Steven J. Cary
The Brushfoots (Nymphalidae). This family is our second richest in terms of number of species and perhaps the most variable in terms of sizes, colors, patterns and behaviors. Despite the obvious differences in wing morphology, members all share a unifying structural character: on adults, the forelegs are reduced to tiny, brush-like structures, leaving only four functional legs. Many of our most familiar butterflies are members of this family. Pursuant to Pelham’s (2019) catalog, we have ~100 species in ten subfamilies.
True Brushfoots (Nymphalidae: Nymphalinae). This is a large and diverse group of 41 species which have been recorded in New Mexico, so far. Most are residents, but a few are subtropical strays. True brushfoots include species that range from small to medium-sized species, even some large ones. Color combinations range from blue to orange, white and black. Suburban gardens are frequently haunted by a variety of true brushfoots including Patches, Checkerspots, Crescents, Ladies, Tortoiseshells, Buckeyes and Commas.
- Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti)
- California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)
- Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
- Question mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
- Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus)
- Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)
- Green Comma (Polygonia faunus)
- Oreas Comma (Polygonia oreas)
- West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella)
- American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
- Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
- Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
- White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)
- Malachite (Siproeta stelenes)
- Rusty-Tipped Page (Siproeta epaphus)
- Gray Buckeye (Junonia grisea)
- Dark Buckeye (Junonia nigrosuffusa)
- Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
- Variable Checkerspot (Euphydryas anicia)
- Dotted Checkerspot (Poladryas minuta)
- Arachne Checkerspot (Poladryas arachne)
- Crimson Patch (Chlosyne janais)
- Definite Patch (Chlosyne definita)
- Rosita Patch (Chlosyne rosita)
- Theona Checkerspot (Chlosyne theona)
- Trans-Pecos Checkerspot (Chlosyne chinatiensis)
- Fulvia Checkerspot (Chlosyne fulvia)
- Coronado Checkerspot (Chlosyne coronado)
- Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)
- California Patch (Chlosyne californica)
- Gorgone Checkerspot (Chlosyne gorgone)
- Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)
- Sagebrush Checkerspot (Chlosyne acastus)
- Tiny Checkerspot (Microtia dymas)
- Elada Checkerspot (Microtia elada)
- Perse Checkerspot (Microtia perse)
- Texas Crescent (Anthanassa texana)
- Pale-Banded Crescent (Anthanassa tulcis)
- Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
- Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta)
- Tawny Crescent (Phyciodes batesii)
- Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchella)
- Mylitta Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta)
- Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon)
- Painted Crescent (Phyciodes picta)
- Graphic Crescent (Phyciodes graphica)
Aglais milberti (Godart 1819) Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (updated June 3, 2022)
Description. Milbert’s uppersides are black-brown with fiery post-median bands. Each band is basally yellow and distally red-orange. Blue dots decorate the margin. The ventrum is camouflaged black and brown. Range and Habitat. Milbert’s lives in subarctic areas from Alaska to Newfoundland and south in the western cordillera to California, Arizona and New Mexico. In our state it accepts a broad spectrum of habitats in Transition, Canadian and Hudsonian Zones (counties: Be,Ca,Ci,Co,DA,Gr,Li,LA,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,So,Ta,To,Un), 6500 to 12,500′ elevation. Life History. Aglais milberti has gregarious larvae that eat stinging nettle (i.e., Urtica dioica; Urticaceae). Pupae and adults can overwinter. Flight. Two overlapping mid-summer broods fly from June to August. The last one hibernates and flies again from March to May. New Mexico records fall between March 6 and October 22, but adults may fly on warm winter days, too. Adults seek nectar; males may hilltop. Comments. Rocky Mountain states have subspecies Aglais milberti subpallida (Cockerell 1889). Subspecies Aglais milberti pullum (Austin 1998) was described from specimens collected in the White Mountains of Arizona. In New Mexico, however, no consistent geographic pattern to variation in wing characters has yet been recognized. Some guides include Milbert’s Tortoiseshell in the genus Nymphalis. We have the nominate subspecies. The southernmost colony in North America appears to be in the high Organ Mountains of Dona Ana County, NM.
Nymphalis californica (Boisduval 1852) California Tortoiseshell (updated October 10, 2021)
Description. California Tortoiseshell is mottled brown and gray beneath and the wing margin appears ragged. It is bright orange above with a dark margin; iridescent blue spots highlight the hindwing margin. Range and Habitat. Essentially western, Nymphalis californica lives from British Columbia and Montana south to California and New Mexico. Here it inhabits open woodlands, typically 7,000 to 11,000′ elevation (counties: Be,Ca,DA,Ed,Ci,Co,Gr,LA,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,Si,So,To). We have relatively few records for this widespread species. Life History. Larvae eat Ceanothus species (Rhamnaceae). On 25 May 2000 at Coyote Creek State Park (Mo), gregarious larvae ate Ceanothus fendleri, the principal host in New Mexico. Pupae and adults overwinter. Flight. Hibernators fly from February 26 to May 21, peaking in April. A summer generation flies June 16 to July 22. Their offspring fly from mid-August 16 to late September, then hibernate. Adults bask and nectar. Comments. Our populations may belong to subspecies Nymphalis californica timidar (J. Scott & Kondla, 2014). California Tortoiseshell can have amazing population explosions and the resulting strays are known as far east as New York.
Nymphalis antiopa (Linnaeus 1758) Mourning Cloak (updated May 20, 2022)
Description. This large, familiar butterfly is dark maroon-brown above with irregular yellow margins and blue submarginal spots. With age, the maroon tint disappears and the wing margin becomes more ragged. Mourning Cloak undersides are mottled brown and black – excellent camouflage when hibernating underneath loose tree bark. Range and Habitat. Mourning Cloaks are widespread in North America, Central America, Asia and much of Europe. In New Mexico it can be seen in all counties at almost all elevations. Life History. Larvae eat foliage of a variety of deciduous trees. Willow (Salix; Salicaceae) seems to be the favorite here. Other Salicaceae hosts include cottonwood (Populus). Ulmaceae hosts include elm (Ulmus), including Siberian elm (hooray!) and hackberry (Celtis reticulata). In the Betulaceae, larvae eat alder (Alnus species). In the Moraceae, they like hops (Humulus lupulus) and mulberry (Morus species). They also eat ash (Fraxinus; Oleaceae), as well as Spiraea and Rubus (both Rosaceae). Eggs are laid in clusters and larvae are gregarious. Flight. Southern New Mexico adults may be seen any time of year in three or four broods; records span January 5 to December 19. Our Eastern Plains have two broods: one in September to October overwinters and flies again in March and April; their offspring fly in June. Our north-central mountains have flight peaks in April and again from June to August. Males patrol riparian or linear road corridors, perching on low-hanging branches or fallen logs. Adults rarely nectar, but instead seek nourishment from tree sap, rotting fruit, and water. Comments. In northern mountains, Mourning Cloaks will break diapause and fly on warm days in February, usually making it the first butterfly to be seen in spring.
Polygonia interrogationis (Fabricius 1798) Question Mark (updated December 8, 2021)
Description. Question Mark has a translucent white “?” mark on the hindwing underside. Its irregular-by-design wing margin and its dorsal orange and black markings are typical for the genus. The winter form is suffused with black and purple below. Range and Habitat. Question Marks live from the Atlantic coast to the Colorado Front Range and south into Mexico. In New Mexico it is mostly a species of the east and south, and mostly below 7500′ elevation (counties: Be,Ch,Co,Cu,DB,DA,Ed,Gr,Hi,LA,Li,Mo,Ot,Qu,RA,Ro,Sv,SM,SF,Si,So,Ta,To,Un,Va). Life History. Larvae prefer to eat plants in the Ulmaceae. Netleaf hackberry (Celtis reticulata) is the main native host in New Mexico. Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) also has become a favorite. Hops (Humulus lupulus; Cannabinaceae) and nettle (Urtica dioica; Urticaceae) are reported elsewhere. Flight. Overwintering adults fly February 10 to May 2. Subsequent overlapping broods fly May 28 to December 23, peaking in September. Adults siphon nutrition from tree sap, rotting fruit and moist earth, rarely from flowers. Comments. New Mexico’s first record was caught in Raton by J. R. Merritt in 1935. This butterfly may have been scarce in New Mexico until the 1930s, when Governor Clyde Tingley planted 25,000 Siberian elms in communities throughout New Mexico’s treeless, Dust Bowl-afflicted Eastern Plains.
Polygonia satyrus (W. H. Edwards 1869) Satyr Comma (updated July 17, 2022)
Description. Satyr Comma is a good copy of a dead leaf, like all Polygonia. Undersides vary from tawny to darker brown with a small, translucent ‘comma.’ Hindwing uppersides have three black spots and the submarginal row of gold spots are smeared together. Range and Habitat. Satyr Commas reside across boreal North America from Newfoundland to British Columbia, south to California, Arizona and New Mexico. Here, look for them in woodlands below 9000′ elevation, but not our southeast corner (counties: Be,Ca,Co,DA,Ed,Gr,Gu,Ha,Hi,Li,LA,Lu,MK,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,So,Ta,To,Un). Life History. Larval hosts include plants in the Ulmaceae, Salicaceae and Moraceae. The chief New Mexico host may be stinging nettle (Urtica dioica gracilis; Urticaceae). Adults hibernate under eaves of buildings, in clusters of dead leaves, and under loose tree bark. Flight. The summer brood flies from June to August. New adults fly in September to October, hibernate, then fly again in March to May. Extreme flight dates are January 23 and November 23. Comments. Our populations belong to the nominate subspecies, Polygonia satyrus satyrus.
Polygonia gracilis (Grote & Robinson 1867) Hoary Comma (updated January 15, 2021)
Description. Hoary Commas are dark, two-toned gray-brown on the underside and have the expected ‘comma.’ The dorsal hindwing has two black spots and the submargin has gold spots with gold halos. Range and Habitat. Polygonia gracilis flies in Canada, Alaska and the western cordillera south to California, Arizona and New Mexico. In New Mexico it prefers open conifer woodlands (counties: Be,Ca,Ci,Co,Gr,Li,LA,MK,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,Si,So,Ta,To,Un), usually 7000 to 10,000′ elevation. Life History. Currants and gooseberries (Grossulariaceae) are hosts. Larvae eat Ribes pinetorum in the Sacramentos (Ot). Ribes cereum, Ribes inerme, Ribes montigenum, Ribes lacustre and Ribes sanguineum are also used. Flight. Hibernating adults fly in spring, from March 9 to May 21. The next generation appears from June 12 to July 7. Their offspring fly in August and September and then overwinter. A partial third flight may occur in southern New Mexico. Our records fall between March 14 and November 6. Adults patrol creeks while feeding at flowers, tree sap and moist earth. Comments. We have the Rocky Mountain subspecies Polygonia gracilis zephyrus (W. H. Edwards 1870). it is remotely possible that Oreas Comma (Polygonia oreas), a more northern species, is lurking within our widespread population of Hoary Comma.
Polygonia faunus (W. H. Edwards 1862) Green Comma (updated December 4, 2021)
Description. Green Comma is small, with the same kind of irregular wing margins exhibited by the other Commas. Undersides usually are dark, like conifer bark. Subtle chevrons of dark green scales decorate the ventral hindwing submargins. A washed-out, almost immaculate ventral pattern also occurs. Above, the hindwing has two or (usually) three black spots and the dark submargin has orange spots that are small, bright, distinct and unconnected. Range and Habitat. Polygonia faunus live in boreal North America, including the western Cordillera south to California, Arizona and New Mexico, and the Appalachian Mountains south to Georgia. In New Mexico, look for it in mixed coniferous woodlands (counties: Be,Co,LA,Mo,RA,Sv,SM,SF,Ta), generally 8000 to 11,000′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat aspen and willows (all Salicaceae), birches and alders (Betulaceae), Vaccinium species (Ericaceae) and sometimes gooseberries (Ribes species; Grossulariaceae). Adults overwinter. Flight. Because of the short growing season in its habitat, Green Commas are univoltine, but in two flights. Adults emerge in summer, peak in August and September, then hibernate. Survivors fly again and mate in spring (May and June). Extreme dates are April 5 and November 10. Adults bask on rocks and logs, and seek nectar in alpine meadows. Comments. Our populations are subspecies Polygonia faunus hylas (W. H. Edwards 1872). Based on their host plants, our ‘Punctuation Mark’ butterflies generally arrange themselves in the landscape with Green Comma in the highest sites, Hoary Comma in the middle, then Satyr Comma and Question Mark at the lowest elevation sites. The name, Green Comma, is rather unfortunate, misleading because the green on Green Comma is very difficult to see and other ‘commas’ have small green patches, too.
Vanessa annabella (W. D. Field 1971) West Coast Lady (updated April 11, 2022)
Description. Our three ‘Ladies’ look alike and close inspection can be required for identification. All are orange-red above with black marks. On West Coast Lady, the four ventral hindwing submarginal spots are of equal size and well hidden. The dorsal hindwing has four blue-pupiled ocelli (the two in the middle are larger) capped inwardly by dark eyebrows. The dorsal forewing subapical area has a pale orange bar that is white in Painted Lady. Range and Habitat. This is our least common Lady. It occurs throughout western North America from British Columbia to New Mexico. Strays are reported from the Great Plains. In New Mexico it is widespread, but never common, preferring Transition and Canadian Zone habitats (all counties but Ch,DB,Ed,Gu,Ha,Le,Qu). Life History. Hosts are Malvaceae (e.g., Lavatera, Malvastrum, Malva, Sida, Sidalcea) and Urticaceae (Urtica species). Paul Opler saw larvae on hollyhock (Althaea species) in Taos (Ta). Adults, larvae and pupae overwinter. Flight. New Mexico experiences West Coast Lady peak flights in May, July and October. The autumn brood overwinters and flies again in spring along with adults eclosing from hibernating pupae. Extreme dates are February 26 and December 29. Adults nectar and males are moderate hilltoppers. Comments. Vanessa annabella also has gone by the name Cynthia carye (Hübner 1812).
Vanessa virginiensis (Drury 1773) American Lady (updated December 12, 2021)
Description. American Ladies look like Painted Ladies, but the hindwing below has two large eyespots. Above, the outer two ocelli are large and blue-centered. Orange on the dorsum tends toward coral; dark marks are reduced. Range and Habitat. Vanessa virginiensis lives in the Neotropics and in temperate North America. It can very mobile and is even reported from Europe. In New Mexico it occurs statewide (all counties) in fields and meadows, at any altitude. Life History. Larvae eat plants in several families, but they prefer composites (Asteraceae) from the genera Gnaphalium, Antennaria and Anaphalis. Adults and chrysalids overwinter. Flight. Vanessa virginiensis is uni- to bivoltine depending on altitude. Low elevations have a September flight that hibernates and flies again in April. Offspring fly from May to July, peaking in June. At higher sites, adults fly from June to August. Extreme dates are March 8 and December 17. Males are hilltoppers. Both sexes go to nectar. Comments. Despite a close resemblance to Vanessa cardui, the two are seen so often that one quickly learns to tell them apart.
Vanessa cardui (Linnaeus 1758) Painted Lady (updated January 15, 2022)
Description. Like its less common sisters, Painted Lady is orange-red marked with black above. The four or five ventral hindwing submarginal ocelli are variable in size. The dorsal hindwing has four ordinary small dark spots. Range and Habitat. Vanessa cardui is known from every continent. It breeds year-round in the American tropics and invades northward each spring. Expect it anywhere in New Mexico (all counties), almost any time. Life History. Larvae prefer to eat thistles (Cirsium species; Asteraceae), but they also use other composites and plants from other families. Flight. Adults invade in spring (March and April) and initiate multiple, overlapping generations from March to October. It is becoming more evident that autumn adults fly south to escape winter, which kills all life stages. Extreme observation dates are January 11 and December 30. In 1950, O. D. Standard found it scarce near Belen (Va) until November, when good numbers were observed. Males are strong hilltoppers, even defending rooftops in flat terrain and chasing intruders until dusk. Both sexes nectar greedily and are familiar garden guests. Comments. The spring influx of north-bound Painted Ladies is predictable, but their numbers vary widely from year to year. In some years, they so numerous that automobile traffic is a serious hazard to them. We are only beginning to learn about their southward flight in autumn.
Vanessa atalanta (Linnaeus 1758) Red Admiral (updated March 4, 2022)
Description. Red Admiral is distinctively marked with red stripes across a black forewing – Range and Habitat. Red Admiral is native to North America, Eurasia and North Africa. It is known from central Canada to Central America and it breeds throughout New Mexico (all counties), from 3300 to 10,000′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat stinging nettle (Urticaceae). Paul Opler found larvae eating Urtica dioica gracilis in Taos (Ta) on 30 July 1986. Scott (1992) found larvae on that host in Sapello Canyon (SM) on 23 August 1978. Urtica gracilenta is also reported. Winter is passed as adult or pupa. Flight. Two broods are completed annually in New Mexico. A late summer or fall generation hibernates and flies again in spring. Young of that brood mature and fly in summer: May to June in most places, but August in southwest New Mexico. Extreme dates are February 20 and December 7. Adults are rapid, erratic flyers; they seek nectar and water. Comments. “Butterfly, butterfly! Black with scarlet bands. . . . A scrap of velvet . . . swoops above the asphalt, soars over a speeding car and a tall building, into the humid azure of the April sky” (from Gods, a short story by Vladimir Nabokov, 1924). North American Red Admirals are Vanessa atalanta rubria (Fruhstorfer 1909).
Anartia jatrophae (Linnaeus, 1763) White Peacock (updated January 16, 2021)
White Peacock is a moderate-sized butterfly. It has a ghostly whitish cast with pale yellow and gray markings and an irregular wing margin. Anartia jatrophae is a tropical butterfly that breeds as far north as south Texas and south Florida. Any individuals that turn up here in our inland, upland, temperate climate state are purely accidental, but it does happen. Hostplants for larvae have been confirmed among the Verbenaceae, Acanthaceae, Lamiaceae and Scrophulariaceae, but no life stage can survive New Mexico winters. White Peacocks breed and fly throughout the year in tropical and subtropical areas. Adults are not strong flyers, but stay near the ground seeking nectar. Strays to New Mexico are most likely (yet very rare) during and after the summer thunderstorm season. Our single record is from Rattlesnake Springs (Ed), 13 September 1986 (S. Cary). Presuming that this individual strayed here from Texas, it belonged to the western subspecies Anartia jatrophae luteipicta Fruhstorfer 1907.
Siproeta stelenes (Linnaeus 1758) Malachite (updated January 16, 2021)
Malachite, probably named after a greenish copper mineral, is a large, showy, Neoetropical butterfly. Larvae eat Acanthaceae, but don’t expect reproduction in New Mexico. It strays rarely to south Texas, southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. One was caught just south of the NM/TX border at Choza Spring, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Culberson Co., TX, on 22 August 1987, by Richard Holland. The first substantiated New Mexico report was from Rattlesnake Springs, Carlsbad Caverns National Park (Ed) in summer of 2002 (G. Emmons, per CCNP biologist Renee West). A second individual was spotted in Victorio Canyon in the Florida Mountains (Lu) on 14 May 2009 by Larry Malone and Gene Jercinovic.
Siproeta epaphus (Latreille 1813) Rusty-Tipped Page (updated October 10, 2021)
New Mexico has one of only three US reports of this large, tropical butterfly. Our record of this distant and extremely unusual stray resides in the collection at Oregon State University in Corvallis. It was collected by C. Bruhn on 13 December 1960 in Mesilla (Doña Ana County). The only other known US reports of this species are from south Texas and one of those may have escaped from a zoo (Glassberg, 2017).
Junonia coenia: I think we need to include common buckeye in the species accounts. Lalonde and Marcus (2018: Fgure 8, p. 69) found specimens in NM that were deemed hybrids of all 3 combinations (based on mitochondrial DNA): grisea x coenia, nigrosuffusa x coenia, and nigrosuffusa x grisea. Cong et al., 2020 found that grisea and nigrosuffusa were sympatric in AZ while coenia and nigrosuffusa were sympatric in west TX; also: “Due to their recent speciation and incomplete reproductive isolation between species exacerbated by phenotypic plasticity within species (Vane-Wright & Tennent, 2011), it is challenging to assign Junonia phenotypic forms to taxa and to define species boundaries.” so we cannot exclude coenia. placing each individual buckeye with one particular species also is a challenge. maybe best we can do is acknowledge the genetic mixing. iNaturalist 137202299 has confirmed J. coenia in NM, so we need to add the appropriate species account.
Junonia grisea Austin & J. Emmel 1998 Gray Buckeye (updated December 19, 2021)
Description. Gray Buckeyes are of medium size. A brown dorsal background is highlighted by four colorful ocelli, two orange bars in the forewing cell, orange suffusion in the dorsal hindwing postmedian area, and a prominent white band angling across the top side of the forewing. Undersides are muted rosy brown. Range and Habitat. Junonia grisea is native to the Neotropics and subtropics from Mexico to southwestern US, sometimes straying farther north. In our state, it occurs regularly in Upper Sonoran Zone riparian areas, occasionally straying farther north and farther upstream (all counties but Gu,Ha,Ta). It is less routine above 7000′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat Plantaginaceae (e.g., Plantago) and Scrophulariaceae (including Linaria, Gerardia, Orthocarpus, Veronica and others). Marc Bailey noted oviposition and larval feeding on Veronica peregrina in the Jemez. Flight. Males patrol creek bottoms, perch on stream bars and chase away other butterflies. Adults come to nectar and moist earth. Junonia grisea is multiple-brooded in southern New Mexico. Extreme dates for adults are January 2 and December 26, basically year-round, though rather scarce in mid-winter. Adult numbers increase through the warm season. Comments. Recent genomic research (e.g., Lalonde and Marcus 2019, Cong et al. 2020) definitively separated western Junonia grisea from eastern Junonia coenia (Hübner), which is what we used to think we had in New Mexico. In 2020, observation in New Mexico of many individuals having phenotypes intermediate between Gray and Dark buckeyes suggested hybridization.
Junonia nigrosuffusa W. Barnes & McDunnough 1916 Dark Buckeye (updated December 10, 2021)
Description. Junonia nigrosuffusa is similar to Junonia grisea, but considerably darker above and with smaller eyespots. The white postmedian band that is so prominent on Gray Buckeye is smudged or muted tan-brown or orange-brown on Dark Buckeye. Range and Habitat. Junonia nigrosuffusa was formerly considered to reside from Central America north to the border region of the American Southwest; it was a year-round resident in south Texas and southern Arizona, but only a stray to southern New Mexico. Now it is routine along our southern border (counties: Ca,Ch,DA,Ed,Gr,Hi,Lu,Ot,Si) and an occasional wanderer north along riparian corridors (counties: Be,Ci,Li,LA,Sv,SM,SF,So,Ta,To,Va). At least in 2019-2020, it occupied much of the range traditionally occupied by Gray Buckeye. Observations of a fresh individual and oviposition in Los Alamos County in spring of 2020 imply at least occasional overwintering and seasonal breeding even in northern New Mexico. Life History. Larvae eat Scrophulariaceae. Mimulus species and Veronica anagallis-aquatica are used in Arizona and suspected in southwest New Mexico. Flight. There appear to be two flights here: May to June and September to November, but perhaps three flights now in southern New Mexico. Records fall between March 16 and November 29. Adult behaviors are identical to those of Gray Buckeye. Comments. Formerly treated as a subspecies of Junonia evarete (Cramer), recent genomic work (Cong et al. 2020) boosted Junonia nigrosuffusa to full species status. Expect that hybridization with Gray Buckeye will produce some intermediate forms.
may need to add Junonia stemosa Grishin 2020 (n. sp.) to our buckeyes. see 20221021 pics from Jim Von Loh
Euphydryas anicia (E. Doubleday 1847) Variable Checkerspot (updated October 5, 2022)
Description. No butterfly is more appropriately named. Variable Checkerspot is checkered all over with bands of red, white and black spots. Many different geographic races have been described based on local variations (see below). Range and Habitat. Euphydryas anicia lives in western North America from Alaska south to Sonora and from Nevada east to North Dakota, inhabiting all life zones, in one place or another, from Lower Sonoran to Alpine. This same range of habitats is occupied in New Mexico, but in a selective way such that this butterfly is absent from many places where it might be expected. Life History. Larvae usually eat plats in the snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae), including paintbrushes (Castilleja species), penstemons (Penstemon species), Besseya alpina and likely others. Young larvae live in communal webs at plant bases, then diapause for winter. Flight. Flight periods of the various subspecies are discussed in detail below.
Euphydryas anicia eurytion (Mead ) is a tundra creature that flies in mid-summer, June 30 to July 28, above 11,000 in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (counties: Co,RA,Ta). On the hindwing upperside, the submarginal row is almost always redded out, compared to subspecies alena, which flies at lower elevations. Males are strong hilltoppers that defend territories atop our highest summits, including Wheeler Peak.
Northwest New Mexico supports boldly-marked Euphydryas anicia alena W. Barnes & Benjamin 1926 (counties: MK,RA,Sv,SJ,Ta), generally 7500 to 10,000′ elevation. Red tones are reduced while black and white markings are more boldly expressed. ‘Alena’ Variable Checkerspot flies early, April 30 to July 5, at lower sites such as the Sargent Wildlife Management Area north of Chama, but it flies much later (July and August) at higher sites such as Hopewell Lake, demonstrating that it varies not only in its phenotypes.
Euphydryas anicia hermosa (W. G. Wright 1905) is large for this species, with a faded, translucent appearance that seems to result from graying of all the black marks. It flies in spring from the Mogollon Rim foothills south to Mexico (counties: Ca,Gr,Hi), 4800 to 7000′ elevation, March 5 to May 10. This butterfly flies at lower elevations and earlier dates than any other race of Variable Checkerspot in New Mexico. Males establish hilltop territories. A rare autumn flight sometimes occurs, as in 2022 (see below), and based on a sample of one, it is much redder than spring individuals.
Euphydryas anicia chuskae (Ferris and R. Holland 1980) has a yellow cast beneath and flies in the Chuskas (counties: SJ,MK) from June 22 to August 15. It flies at higher sites than Euphydryas anicia alena, with which it is generally sympatric in the Chuska Mountains. How these two taxa can remain separate in such close geographic and temporal proximity is a mystery that begs for a solution. We need a photo or two!
Reddish Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti (Ferris and R. Holland 1980) flies in open meadows in the Sacramento Mountains (counties: Ot), usually June 1 to July 21 at 8000 to 9000′ altitude. Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot larvae eat primarily Penstemon neomexicanus, but also Valeriana edulis (Valerianaceae).
Rocky Mountain Front Range subspecies Euphydryas anicia capella (W. Barnes 1897) is bright red above. Middle elevation populations in the northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains (counties: Co,Mo,SM,Ta) are tentatively assigned to this race. Members of those populations patrol meadows and fly rather late in summer (June 27 to August 26).
Comments. Taxonomic placement of Variable Checkerspot and its various local subspecies is under continual debate. Some experts place Variable Checkerspot in the genus Occidryas. Other experts place it within the species Euphydryas chalcedona (E. Doubleday). Arrangement here of the subspecies in New Mexico has largely been extrapolated from neighboring states, mostly Colorado, and future adjustments are likely. For many subspecies, a long series produces a puzzling variety of phenotypes. Comment 2. Adaptation to local conditions, local hostplant options, and evolution of local variants makes this butterfly the subject of several conservation efforts. In 1998, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). In 2001, the Service recognized the small home range and narrow habitat requirements of Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti and proposed to protect it under federal law. In 2004, the Service and the City of Cloudcroft formalized a Conservation Plan to protect the butterfly, in lieu of formal listing under the ESA.
Poladryas minuta (W. H. Edwards 1861) Dotted Checkerspot (updated August 9, 2021)
Description. Of medium-size, Dotted Checkerspot is unicolorous orange above with a black web of veins and transverse marks. Underneath, the hindwing has alternating bands of orange and white, accented with bold black marks. Range and Habitat. Poladryas minuta inhabits grasslands and shortgrass prairies east of the southern Rockies south to Mexico. It is regular on our northeastern and east-central Plains (counties: Co,Cu,DB,Gu,Ha,Mo,Qu,Ro,SM,Un), 5000 to 6500′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat Penstemon species (Scrophulariaceae), including Penstemon jamesii and Penstemon albidus in northeast New Mexico. Orange larvae overwinter. Flight. Dotted Checkerspots complete two generations per year, flying May 10 to October 2, but with peak numbers in May and then again in August to September. Adults fly to nectar; males hilltop, and it does not have to be a prominent hill. That hilltopping behavior is key to finding this bug in the vastness of the Plains. Comments. There is lingering debate as to whether our Eastern Plains populations are true Poladryas minuta or a plains expression (subspecies) of Poladryas arachne.
Poladryas arachne (W. H. Edwards 1869) Arachne Checkerspot (updated November 16, 2021)
Description. Arachne Checkerspot resembles Dotted Checkerspot, as you might expect, but the dorsal orange ground color is two-toned. Underneath, its orange and white bands are framed in black spider webbing. Range and Habitat. Poladryas arachne inhabits montane savannas from the central Rockies south to the Mexican Sierra Madre. It is regular here in New Mexico (counties: Be,Ca,Ci,Co,Gr,Li,MK,Mo,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,Si,So,Ta,Un), usually 6500 to 9200′ elevation, though it has been hilltopping higher in recent years. Life History. Larvae are white, eat Penstemon species, and overwinter. Flight. Arachne has one extended main brood. Records span May 14 to October 2, peaking in June to July. Fresh September adults suggest a partial second brood. Adults go to nectar; males go to hilltops to seek out females. Comments. Mogollon Rim colonies (Ca,Gr,Si) are subspecies Poladryas arachne nympha (W. H. Edwards 1884). Pelham (2021) lists Poladryas arachne gilensis (W. Holland 1930) as a legitimate subspecies described from a type locality later designated as the Gila Wilderness, but this seems likely to be the same creature as subspecies nympha. North-central New Mexico populations are the nominate variety. Poladryas arachne and Poladryas minuta sometimes appear to blend in the eastern foothills of Sangre de Cristo Mountains, fueling debate over whether they represent one or two species. There is only one record from the Sacramento/Capitan/Sierra Blanca complex (Li). Much work is still to be done with this lovely organism!
Chlosyne janais (Drury 1782) Crimson Patch (updated January 18, 2021)
Distinctive Crimson Patch has black forewing with many white dots and on the hindwing a large red patch. Below, the hindwing has a creamy white basal area with black dots and a red postmedian band. This subtropical butterfly is a breeding resident of Central America and Mexico that strays occasionally to the southern US. Larvae eat plants in the Acanthaceae family. Our single report is from Richard Holland, who caught it on 19 July 1986 at Rattlesnake Springs, part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park (Eddy County). Crimson Patch is multivoltine in its breeding range. Adults seek nectar and moist earth. Most members of the genus Chlosyne, including Chlosyne janais, are variable in phenotype.
Chlosyne definita (E. Aaron 1885) Definite Patch (updated April 21, 2023)
Description. Definite Patch has typical checkerspot size and features, but most diagnostic marks can be found on the underside. The ventral hindwing orange submarginal band has one white cell and the postmedian white band has bold black borders. Range and Habitat. Chlosyne definita inhabits open scrubland and grassland in southeast New Mexico and adjacent Texas south into Mexico. Here it is a Lower and Upper Sonoran Zone insect (counties: Ch,DA,Ed,Li,Lu,Ot,Si), usually below 5500′ elevation, but wandering to 8000’ in the Sacramentos. Life History. Scott (1986) reported bearded stenandrium (= early shaggytuft = Stenandrium barbatum; Acanthaceae) as a larval host. Marta Reece documented oviposition on that plant in New Mexico (see photo below). There may be other hosts, too. Flight. Definite Patch is bivoltine, flying in spring and late summer. Our records span March 23 to October 10. Adults usually fly in canyons, sometimes on hilltops, and nectar at yellow composites. Comments. The first New Mexico observation was by Stallings, Turner and Ehrlich, on 17 May 1959, at Carlsbad Caverns National Park (Ed). This butterfly is characteristic of the Chihuahuan Desert faunal influence in southeast New Mexico. We have the nominate subspecies.
Female Definite Patch (Chlosyne definita) ovipositing at base of Early Shaggytuft (Stenandrium barbatum); Dinosaur Trackways Nat. Mon., Dona Ana Co., NM; April 13, 2023 (photo by Marta Reece)
Chlosyne rosita A. Hall 1924 Rosita Patch (updated January 18, 2021)
Rosita Patch looks very much like Crimson Patch, with white-spotted black forewings and a large orange patch on the hindwing above. However, Rosita’s orange patch is two-toned and the hindwing underside is much less decorated with black spots compared to Crimson Patch. Our only repot of this rare stray to North America came from Noah Arthur, who spotted it in Las Cruces (Doña Ana County) on August 13, 2009, and wrote a nice note about it to the Lepidopterists Society News. See Arthur, N. 2009. Chlosyne rosita montana A. Hall, 1924 (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Melitaeini): a new record for New Mexico. Lep. Soc. News 51(3): 93-94.
Chlosyne theona (Ménétriés 1855) Theona Checkerspot (updated April 24, 2022)
Description. Theona Checkerspot is quite variable across its wide range, but fairly consistent within New Mexico. Here it has bright, alternating bands on the hindwing underneath; from margin inward they are white, orange, white, orange and white; all are crossed by black veins. Upper sides are banded light and medium orange. Range and Habitat. Theona lives in Central America and Mexico, north into the southwestern US. It inhabits Upper Sonoran Zone grasslands in southern New Mexico (counties: Ca,Cu,DA,Ed,Gr,Hi,Li,Lu,Ot,Si,So,Un), usually 4000 to 6500′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat Scrophulariaceae, primarily paintbrushes like Castilleja integra, Castilleja lanata, Castilleja elata and Castilleja laxa (Austin and Smith 1998); Brachystigma wrightii is a host in southeast Arizona (Bailowitz and Brock 1991). Black larvae, sometimes in groups, can be conspicuous on red bracts of the host. Flight. Theona is at least bivoltine in New Mexico. A spring brood flies in April and May. A rainy season flight, which may be two overlapping broods, occurs June 21 to October 9, peaking in August. Males hilltop; both sexes seek nectar and moist earth. Comments. The majority of New Mexico populations are southwestern subspecies Chosyne theona thekla (W. H. Edwards 1870). The darker Texas/Mexico subspecies Chlosyne theona bolli (W. H. Edwards 1877) is occasionally found as a stray to eastern New Mexico (Cu,Le,Qu). In its Texas breeding territory, larvae eat Leucophyllum species (Austin and Smith 1998).
Chlosyne chinatiensis (Tinkham 1944) Trans-Pecos Checkerspot (updated January 18, 2021)
Description. The Trans-Pecos Checkerspot looks generally like sister species Theona, but the upperside is unicolorous, pale, cantaloupe orange with much fewer dark markings. Underneath, the white hindwing has reduced orange, including a narrow submarginal orange band. Range and Habitat. Chlosyne chinatiensis is a regional endemic limited to Upper Sonoran grasslands of far west Texas and adjacent areas. In New Mexico it is rarely seen along our southeast border with Texas (counties: DA,Ed). Life History. Females of Chlosyne chinatiensis oviposit on Leucophyllum minus (Scott 1986). Flight. A meager handful of observations suggests adults are on the wing between June 6 and August 22, and especially on July 31. More observations might show two or three broods from spring into early autumn. Adults go to nectar and probably to moist earth. Comments. At the edges of their distributions in Eddy County, Chlosyne theona thekla and Chlosyne chinatiensis both occur, but infrequently. Some consider chinatiensis to be a subspecies of Chlosyne theona.
Chlosyne fulvia (W. H. Edwards 1879) Fulvia Checkerspot (updated October 10, 2021)
Description. Fulvia Checkerspot is quite variable above, from pale and orange to dark and black, as shown in the photos. It is creamy white below; compared to Theona, with which it rarely flies, even the ventral hindwing submarginal band is white. All veins are black. Range and Habitat. Chlosyne fulvia lives from Nebraska south to Arizona, Texas and northern Mexico. It prefers Upper Sonoran and Transition Zone grassland and savanna habitats and is routine in New Mexico (all counties). Its altitudinal range typically spans 5000 to 7000′, but it will stray to higher hilltops. Rene Laubach’s recent find at 11,100 above Santa Fe may be Life History. Scrophulariaceae are larval hosts. Eggs are placed in bunches and larvae are gregarious while small. Documented hosts in New Mexico include Indian paintbrush (Castilleja integra), plains paintbrush (C. sessiliflora) and Sierra woolly Indian paintbrush (C. lanata). Cordylanthus wrightii is used in southeast Arizona. Flight. Fulvia has one to three broods per year depending on conditions. Southern New Mexico records fall between March 18 and October 9. In north-central New Mexico, flight is May to September, peaking in July. Males doggedly patrol hilltops despite their apparently weak flight. Comments. At least within New Mexico, the great phenotypic variability of this species (see photos below) does not lend itself to subdivision into geographic subspecies. Nevertheless, observers in far southwestern New Mexico should keep an eye open for the very similar Chlosyne coronado (M. Smith & Brock, 1988), which occurs across the border in southeastern Arizona.
Chlosyne coronado (M. Smith & Brock 1988) Coronado Checkerspot (updated October 23, 2022)
Description. Compared to the very similar Fulvia, Coronado has more dorsal black suffusion. This is most evident on the dorsal forewing where three dark patches surround the pale cell spot, creating a strongly checkered appearance in males and females. Coronado also is about 10% larger (Smith & Brock 1988: 9-10). Coronado and Fulvia have orange scales on the abdomen. Range and Habitat. Coronado occurs in Southwest deserts, generally below 7000′ elevation. This means much of southern AZ, possibly southern UT, and far southwestern NM (county: Hi). Life History. Paintbrushes (Scrophulariaceae) are the principal larval hosts. Castilleja lanata and Cordylanthus wrightii are documented hosts in Arizona. Flight. Males stake out hilltop territories. Both sexes go to flowers and moist soil. A spring brood flies in response to winter moisture and a summer flight coincides with the monsoon season; that summer brood has not yet been documented in NM. Comments. Coronado is established in the NM Bootheel. Populations probably occur farther north into Grant, Catron, perhaps even McKinley counties, but Fulvia occurs there, too, so it will take some time and some study to define the range of occurrence for each.
Chlosyne lacinia (Geyer 1837) Bordered Patch (updated September 20, 2022)
Description. Bordered Patch is black above and below, but the band on the hindwing upperside varies from wide and glorious in eastern populations to narrow and white in western areas, rarely tending toward obsolete. Range and Habitat. This is a common Neotropical species from Argentina north to the southwest US, straying to the central US. Although it has been recorded from much of New Mexico, it is most regular at lower altitudes and latitudes (all counties but Ci,Gu,LA,Mo,RA,SJ), almost always below 7500’. Life History. Larval hosts are sunflowers (Asteraceae) in several genera. Cockerell (1900) noted larvae on annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and Helianthus ciliaris in the Mesilla Valley (DA). Other host genera include Ambrosia, Tithonia, Viguiera, and Xanthium and Ximenesia. Flight. Bordered Patch is multi-voltine. A spring flight peaks in April; overlapping broods form another peak from July to September. Extreme dates are April 3 and November 26. Males hilltop; adults of both sexes come to nectar and water. Comments. Western subspecies Chlosyne lacinia crocale (W. H. Edwards 1874) has a narrow, white hindwing band and prevails in Arizona. Eastern subspecies Chlosyne lacinia adjutrix Scudder 1875 has a broad, orange hindwing band and prevails in Texas. The two forms meet and interbreed in southern New Mexico, but C. l. crocale predominates. Forms “rufescens” and “nigrescens” were described from Las Cruces by William H. Edwards.
Chlosyne californica W. G. Wright 1905 California Patch (updated February 11, 2022)
Description. California Patch is colorful black and orange punctuated with rows of white dots. It could be mistaken for the eastern version of Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia adjutrix) but for the row of orange-brown spots at dorsal forewing and hindwing margins and the broad orange scaling in the postmedian area of the ventral forewing. Similarity to the variable C. lacinia makes it hard to be confident of C. californica identifications when within the range of the former, as southern New Mexico is. Range and Habitat. This is a routine species of lowland deserts from southern CA and southern NV east to central AZ and south into Baja California. In New Mexico, we know of four occurrences of the California Patch phenotype (counties: Be,Ca,Gr,SF), all presumably via dispersal from southern AZ. Life History. One known larval host is Geraea canescens, commonly known as desert sunflower. There is some evidence that it may use Stenoloba spp. or Heliomeris spp. in southeast AZ. Flight. Where it breeds, California Patch is double- or triple-brooded depending on precipitation events. Males seek hilltops; adults of both sexes come to nectar and water. Local population explosions and expansions do occur. Supplementary Information. California Patch is included in the NM fauna on a tentative basis because of its similarity to Bordered Patch, which is extremely variable. Back in 1991, Bailowitz and Brock (1991:225) could point to only one California Patch report from southeastern AZ. A butterfly fitting the C. californica phenotype had been seen amidst flocks of C. lacinia, so they took a conservative approach and treated California Patch as “hypothetical” in that region. Three decades later, something had changed. Those same authorities (Bailowitz and Brock 2022: 177) reported that a major influx of butterflies with the California Patch phenotype had spread across southeast AZ in late summer of 2012. That was followed by some local breeding/reproduction in the Tucson area into 2013 and 2014, some involving what would be a new potential larval host for California Patch, Viguiera stenoloba, which grows in southern NM, too. Spooling ahead nine years to late summer 2021, photos posted to iNaturalist and BAMONA suggested a similar eastward expansion of the California Patch phenotype into southeast AZ and beyond. The California Patch phenotype has been photographed four times in New Mexico and those occurrences are not randomly scattered over time. One, apparently our first, was documented in Bernalillo County on Sept. 30, 2012. The other three were recorded on Sept. 14, Sept. 20 and Sept. 23 of 2021, in Grant, Catron and Santa Fe counties respectively. Thus, all known occurrences of the California Patch phenotype in New Mexico coincided with population influx events of that phenotype in southeast Arizona. If the AZ creatures were California Patch, then so were New Mexico’s. They could have been oddball Bordered Patches, but that seems unlikely.
Chlosyne gorgone (Hübner ) Gorgone Checkerspot (updated September 28, 2021)
Description. This butterfly has familiar orange-with-black markings typical of many checkerspots. To confirm you’re looking at Gorgone Checkerspot, check the upperside forewing apex for three tiny white dots. Check the ventral hindwing for white bars exhibiting strong diagonal orientation. Range and Habitat. Mostly a Great Plains denizen, Gorgone occurs from the Front Range to the Great Lakes and from Canada to the Gulf states. In New Mexico it inhabits our northeast plains and north-central mountain meadows (counties: Be,Co,Cu,DB,Gu,Ha,LA,Mo,Qu,RA,Ro,Sv,SJ,SM,Ta,Un,Va), typically 4500 to 8000’ elevation. Life History. Hosts in the West are composites (Asteraceae), such as various Helianthus species, Iva (Cyclachaena) xanthifolia, Ambrosia trifida and Xanthium pennsylvanica var. strumarium. Larvae hibernate. Flight. Montane populations are univoltine, flying from May 14 to July 16, peaking in June. Plains populations are bivoltine, flying from April 30 to September 26, peaking in May to June and again in September. Adults are avid nectar seekers and males may hilltop. Comments. At Oasis State Park (Ro) on 18 September 1999, males dune-topped, larvae munched leaves of Helianthus petiolaris, and a chrysalis clung to a stucco wall six feet off the ground. No subspecies are currently recognized.
Chlosyne nycteis (E. Doubleday 1847) Silvery Checkerspot (updated January 19, 2021)
Description. Silvery Checkerspot looks like an oversized Phyciodes. It is orange above with checkered wing fringes, black marginal areas and orange postmedian bands. Underneath, the hindwing has a submarginal band of dark circles. Range and Habitat. Chlosyne nycteis likes moist meadows in the eastern US. It also colonizes montane riparian areas in the southern Rockies, including New Mexico (counties: Ca,Co,Li,LA,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SM,SF,Ta,To,Un), typically 7300 to 9100′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat many composites (Asteraceae). Scott (1992) found larvae on cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata var. ampla) throughout northern New Mexico. Half-grown larvae hibernate. Flight. Univoltine adults fly from May 20 to September 7, mostly June and July. They frequently visit streamside flowers. Comments. Our populations are western subspecies Chlosyne nycteis drusius (W. H. Edwards 1884), which is darker than the typical eastern US version. The Sacramento Mountains population seems not nearly as dark and may be an undescribed subspecies.
Chlosyne acastus (W. H. Edwards 1874) Sagebrush Checkerspot (updated March 8, 2021)
Description. Sagebrush Checkerspot is orange above within a black grid that is light on males, but bold on females. Underneath, the hindwing has white marginal and postmedian spot bands. The intervening orange band is watermarked with small, white circles. Range and Habitat. This butterfly is native to the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains. It lives in open woodlands and sage savannas in western New Mexico (counties: Be,Ca,Ci,Gr,Li,Lu,MK,RA,Sv,SJ,Si,So,Ta,Va), generally 4500 to 9200′ elevation. Life History. Chlosyne acastus larvae eat various Asteraceae. Ellery Worthen found wild larvae on Macaeranthera bigelovii in Albuquerque. Other hosts include M. canescens, M. asteroides, M. viscosa and Aster species. Flight. Sagebrush Checkerspots complete at least one, sometimes two, generations per year. Northwest New Mexico colonies fly from April 20 to July 10, peaking in May and June, plus one report for September 3. Southwest New Mexico populations fly from January 29 to May 20, peaking in April, with four late records (July 5, 6; Sept 4, 23), which would seem to represent a partial second flight provoked by a strong summer monsoon. Comments. Subspecies Chlosyne acastus acastus (W. H. Edwards) occupies our northwest quadrant, The more darkly marked subspecies, Chlosyne acastus sabina (W. G. Wright 1905) prevails in southwest New Mexico. The latter was formerly treated as a subspecies of Chlosyne neumoegeni (Skinner 1905). In 1998, Richard Holland discovered a disjunct colony of Sagebrush Checkerspot on Carrizo Peak (Li).
Dymasia dymas (W. H. Edwards 1877) Tiny Checkerspot (updated December 3, 2022)
Description. Tiny Checkerspot is one of three very small checkerspots in our fauna; each is orange above with black maculations. On the hindwing underside of Dymasia dymas, orange and white bands appear to fit comfortably; the outermost, marginal band is white, usually. The final photo below shows that, in either subspecies, some individuals have an irregular sliver of orange between the VHW band of bulbous white submarginal spots and the margin. By “irregular” I mean it is not of consistent width along its entire length. Glassberg (2017) points out another useful character: on the top side of the abdominal segments, black scales encircle some orange scales. Range and Habitat. Tiny Checkerspots are breeding resident from Mexico north to California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They inhabit Lower Sonoran Zone scrubby canyons and flats. In New Mexico, Tiny inhabits our southern deserts (counties: Ca,DA,Ed,Gr,Hi,Lu,Ot,Si,So,Va), usually below 5500′ elevation, but occasionally over 9700′ in recent years. Life History. Larval hosts are Acanthaceae. Tetramerium hispidum is a host in southeast Arizona (Bailowitz and Brock 1991). Scott (1986) listed use of Beloperone californica and Siphonoglossa pilosella. Flight. Two annual broods are apparent; adults fly from April 1 to October 13 with peak numbers from April to May and again from July to August. Dymasia dymas flutters weakly to nectar at flowers on the bottoms of desert canyons and washes. Comments. The range of nominate Dymasia dymas dymas from Texas extends into southeastern New Mexico while the range of Arizona subspecies Dymasia dymas chara (W. H. Edwards ) extends into southwestern New Mexico. The latter form has a more prominent white postmedian patch on the forewing above. Zhang et al. (2021) provide substantial genomic evidence to synonymize Dymasia Higgins 1959 and Texola Higgins 1960 with Microtia H. Bates 1864. BOA has adopted that change as of 12/2/22.
Texola elada (Hewitson 1868) Elada Checkerspot (updated December 3, 2022)
Description. Elada Checkerspot is even smaller than Tiny Checkerspot. Underneath, the ventral hindwing orange and white banding appears as if it has been squeezed into a too-small space. That’s because it has an extra band: the marginal band is orange rather than white as in Dymasia dymas. On topsides of abdominal segments, black scales do not encircle orange scales. Range and Habitat. Elada occupies most of Mexico and extends north into Texas and southeast New Mexico, where it inhabits our warmest life zone, Lower Sonoran. Within that zone it inhabits the lowest elevation canyon bottoms and arroyo bottoms. In New Mexico look for it below 5000′ elevation in the southeast (counties: DA,Ed,Ro). Life History. The Acanthaceae family provides larval hosts for Elada. Host plant candidates include Siphonoglossa pilosella (Scott 1986). Flight. There appear to be two broods per year in southern New Mexico. Adult flight records span April 28 to September 28, with peaks in spring and late summer. Adults inhabit stands of thorny shrubs in desert canyons. They fly weakly, yet deliberately, seeking nectar and mates. Comments. We have the northernmost subspecies, Texola elada ulrica (W. H. Edwards 1877). Zhang et al. (2021) provide substantial genomic evidence to synonymize Dymasia Higgins 1959 and Texola Higgins 1960 with Microtia H. Bates 1864. BOA has adopted that change as of 12/2/22.
Texola perse (W. H. Edwards 1882) Perse Checkerspot (updated December 3, 2022)
Description. Perse Checkerspot is a dead ringer for Elada Checkerspot. Underneath, the ventral hindwing orange and white banding appears as if it has been squeezed into a too-small space. The marginal band is orange and of relatively uniform width throughout. Range and Habitat. Perse occupies most of Mexico and extends north into Arizona and southwest New Mexico. It inhabits low elevation arroyos and canyons in Lower Sonoran Zone habitats. In New Mexico look for it below 5500′ elevation in our southwest corner (counties: Ca,Gr,Hi,Lu). Life History. Larval hosts are in the Acanthaceae and likely include Anisacanthus thurberi (Bailowitz and Brock 1991). Flight. There are two broods per year. Adult flight records span April 2 to October 11, with peaks in spring and late summer. Adults like stands of thorny shrubs in desert canyons. They fly weakly, yet patiently, seeking nectar and mates. Comments. Texola perse was treated as a subspecies of Texola elada until Pelham (2019) elevated it to full species status based on anticipated (not yet published) molecular DNA studies. Thus split, the very similar Perse and Elada Checkerspots occur across our southern tier of counties and it is not completely clear where one stops and the other begins. Zhang et al. (2021) provide substantial genomic evidence to synonymize Dymasia Higgins 1959 and Texola Higgins 1960 with Microtia H. Bates 1864. BOA has adopted that change as of 12/2/22.
Anthanassa texana (W. H. Edwards 1863) Texan Crescent (updated November 17, 2021)
Description. Texas Crescent, though closely related to the various Phyciodes species, looks more like the Bordered Patch from above. It is relatively small and black with white postmedian bands on the hindwing. Dorsal wing bases are mottled black and dark red. Undersides are camouflaged. The forewing has a characteristic “bite” taken out of the margin. Range and Habitat. Anthanassa texana occurs from Central America to the southern US, stretching coast to coast from California to the Carolinas. In New Mexico it is mostly found along watercourses in the south and below 6000’ elevation, but it does stray farther north with some regularity (counties: Be,Ca,Ch,Co,DB,DA,Ed,Gr,Hi,Li,Lu,Ot,Qu,Ro,Sv,SM,SF,Si,So,To). Life History. Acanthaceae serve as larval hosts for this butterfly. Reported hosts include Dicliptera resupinata (Bailowitz and Brock 1991), Dicliptera. brachiata, Jacobinia carnea and Ruellia carolinensis (Scott 1986). Greg Forbes has suggested it may use Aster spinosus (Asteraceae) in Las Cruces. Flight. Peak adult numbers in April to May and again in September suggest that Texas Crescent is bivoltine here, but strays can wander in anytime. Our records span March 6 to November 29. Adults patrol bottoms of moist desert canyons in search of nectar, moisture and mates. Comments. T. D. A. Cockerell first recorded Anthanassa texana in New Mexico on 20 April 1899 at Dripping Springs, 5600′, in the Organ Mountains (DA). Some authors treat Anthanassa as a subgenus within Phyciodes.
Anthanassa tulcis (H. Bates 1864) Pale-Banded Crescent (updated October 10, 2021)
A specimen of Pale-Banded Crescent residing in the Snow Entomological Museum at the University of Kansas is labeled “Rincon, N. Mex.” and “July” (Cary and Holland 2002). Attached to it is another label identifying it Anthanassa ptolyca (H. W. Bates), or Black Crescent, but I think this is incorrect. The two are similar, but Black Crescent seems even less likely to have made its way to New Mexico. This Snow specimen may very well be a legitimate New Mexico record. In 1883, the Southern Pacific Railroad connected to the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, thus completing a southern transcontinental rail route. Eastern travelers bound for California rode the AT&SF rails south to Rincon, in northern Doña Ana County, where they changed trains to roll west toward California. As a railroad hub where naturalists and collectors had some time to kill before boarding their connecting trains, Rincon became a minor source of butterfly specimens of that era, though many lack data that are de rigueur today. Snow passed through Rincon twice in the summer of 1884 while travelling to and from Silver City, and again in later years when he collected in southern Arizona. Situated along the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico, Rincon is a likely place to expect summer vagrants moving north. This specimen may be the basis for the New Mexico report by W. J. Holland (1905) of Eresia punctata W. H. Edwards 1870, which has been synonymized with A. tulcis. Pale-Banded Crescent also strays to southern Arizona and south Texas.
Phyciodes tharos (Drury 1773) Pearl Crescent (updated May 6, 2022)
Description. All crescents are named for the pearly, crescent-shaped spot at the ventral hindwing margin. Pearl Crescent is orange above with black marks arranged just so. Ventral colors are tawny with dark patches on the forewing; dark smudges surround the ventral hindwing pearly spot. Range and Habitat. A ubiquitous resident of meadows and disturbed areas in eastern US, Phyciodes tharos is restricted to relatively low elevations in the Southwest. Here, it likes riparian sites (counties: Be,Ca,Ch,Co,DB,DA,Ed,Gr,Gu,Ha,Hi,LA,Lu,Mo,Ot,Qu,RA,Ro,Sv,SF,Si,So,To,Un,Va), traditionally below 6000′ elevation, but recent observations suggest it is colonizing higher sites up to 7000′. Life History. Larvae eat foliage of many composites (Asteraceae). Hosts in the west include Aster exilis, Aster praealtus, Aster texanus, Aster (Virgulus) ericoides and Aster hesperius. Winter is passed by hibernating larvae. Flight. Phyciodes tharos is multivoltine in New Mexico, flying March 8 to November 18, with maximum adult numbers in April, July and September. They fly near the ground and seek out nectar in weedy riparian areas. Comments. It was only a couple decades ago that Phyciodes tharos and Phyciodes cocyta were distinguished as two separate species. Without voucher specimens, some historical reports cannot be assigned confidently to either one.
Phyciodes cocyta (Cramer 1777) Northern Crescent (updated October 10, 2021)
Description. Northern Crescent is very similar to Pearl Crescent, but upper surfaces have the median orange patches more intact and less interrupted by dark transverse lines. Females are quite dark. Range and Habitat. Northern Crescents occupy higher, colder habitats than Pearl Crescents. They live in Canada and the Great Lakes, in the Appalachians, and in the Rockies south to Arizona and New Mexico (counties: Ca,Co,Li,LA,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,To,Ta,Un), usually between 7300 and 9200′ elevation. Life History. Composites (Asteraceae) are larval hosts. Scott (1986) listed Aster laevis, but others are likely, too. Larvae overwinter. Flight. Phyciodes cocyta completes one generation per year with adults about from May 12 to August 26. Adults visit meadow flowers. Voltinism and habitat can sometimes be used to separate Phyciodes cocyta from Phyciodes tharos. Comments. Past names for this taxon have included Phyciodes pascoensis W. G. Wright, Phyciodes morpheus (Fabricius) and Phyciodes selenis (W. Kirby). The unique population in the Sacramento Mountains (Li,Ot) was recently described as Phyciodes cocyta apache J. Scott & Opler, 2017.
Phyciodes batesii (Reakirt ) Tawny Crescent (updated October 10, 2021)
Description. Tawny Crescents resemble Pearl and Northern Crescents, but with more extensive dark marks above. The dorsal forewing of males has a yellowish postmedian band, making them two-toned orange. On the hindwing below, the brown patch surrounding the crescent spot is washed out. Range and Habitat. Phyciodes batesii ranges across most of temperate Canada and the Great Lakes, reaching south along the Appalachians to Georgia and south along the Rockies to northeast Arizona and northwest New Mexico. In our state it appears to be limited to the Chuska Mountains (counties: SJ) within the Navajo Nation and straddling the Arizona border, where it is found in fields and open areas, 6500 to 9,000′ elevation. Life History. Hosts are Asteraceae, but specifics are unknown. Flight. Tawny Crescent is univoltine with adults in June and July. Richard Holland’s records for the Chuskas fall between June 22 and July 23. Adults bask and fly about fields and shrubby savannas in search of nectar. Comments. Arizona and New Mexico have the southwestern-most of all populations, subspecies Phyciodes batesii anasazi J. Scott 1994.
Phyciodes pulchella (Boisduval 1852) Field Crescent (updated January 21, 2021)
Description. Field Crescent stands out from most other crescents because its uppersides are highlighted with offset black, orange and yellow bands. Wing fringes are checkered. The hindwing below comes in two versions: tawny and little-marked or alternating tan and white bands. Adults sparkle when freshly emerged. Range and Habitat. This butterfly occurs through western North America from Alaska south to Mexico. In New Mexico it inhabits pine savannas, roadsides and fields, where it is one of our most common and widespread crescents (all counties except Ch,Cu,DB,Gu,Le,Lu,Qu,Ro), typically 6000 to 10,000′ elevation. Life History. Larval hosts are Asteraceae, of which Aster adscendens, Aster ericoides and Aster porteri are found in New Mexico. Larvae hibernate. Flight. Phyciodes pulchella is bivoltine here. Timing of the two generations is generally May to June and again August to September. All New Mexico records fall between April 5 to October 22. Adults bask and fly around fields and mountain meadows in search of nectar, especially fleabane. Comments. This butterfly was previously called Phyciodes campestris (Behr 1863) and Phyciodes pratensis (Behr 1863), until the recent review by Scott (1994). New Mexico populations are placed with subspecies Phyciodes pulchella camillus W. H. Edwards 1871.
Phyciodes mylitta (W. H. Edwards 1861) Mylitta Crescent (updated October 10, 2021)
Description. Dorsal orange on Mylitta males is yellowish and uniform, whereas females have two colors of orange. Black marks on the dorsal hindwing tend toward obsolescence. Mylitta is brighter, and less darkly marked, than most other Phyciodes. Ventral markings and patterns vary in intensity, as shown in the photos below. Range and Habitat. Mylitta lives in montane western North America from British Columbia through Mexico. It inhabits fields, roadsides and meadows across New Mexico, but not the Llano Estacado (all counties but Ch,Cu,DB,Ed,Le), usually between 5400′ and 9200′ elevation. Life History. Larvae eat a variety of thistles (Asteraceae) including Cirsium arvense, Cirsium proteanum, Cirsium occidentale, Cirsium vulgare, Cirsium breweri, Cirsium hydrophilum and Carduus pycnocephalus (Scott 1986). Flight. Mylitta is bivoltine in the plains and mountains, with peak numbers in May and again in July. The second brood is abbreviated and late at high altitude. Mylitta is trivoltine in southern New Mexico, flying from February 26 to November 7, peaking in April and again July to October. A capture on January 6, 2012, by Elaine Halbedel, gives one pause. Adults patrol stream corridors. Comments. New Mexico populations belong to the nominate subspecies. Subspecies Phyciodes mylitta arizonensis Bauer 1975 was described from Arizona’s White Mountains high country and may be found to occur in adjacent parts of New Mexico.
Phyciodes phaon (W. H. Edwards 1864) Phaon Crescent (updated March 29, 2022)
Description. Phaon Crescent is gaily colored. Forewing uppersides have contrasting bands of black, cream and orange, resembling Painted Crescent. Separate them by checking undersides, for Painted Crescent has a nearly immaculate hindwing while that of Phaon has markings more typical of other crescent. Ventral forewing near the costa has a white bar framed by broad dark bars; the dark bars are narrow in Painted Crescent. Range and Habitat. This butterfly lives from the Carolinas west to southern California and south to Central America. In New Mexico it prefers wet Chihuahuan Desert habitats. It is regular only along the lower Pecos River, usually below 4000′ elevation (counties: Be,Ch,Cu,DB,Ed,Gu,Ot,Qu,Ro). Recent northern sightings (Co,SM,Un) are either strays or temporary colonies that freeze out in winter. Life History. Larvae eat riparian mat-plant (Phyla lanceolata, Phyla nodiflora; Verbenaceae). Adults may overwinter on our southern border. Flight. Regular sightings between March 27 and December 5 imply continuous breeding during the warm season. Phaon adults fly weakly and close to the ground near the host, nectaring at its white flowers. Comments. Eastern New Mexico University has New Mexico’s first specimen of Phyciodes phaon, collected near campus (Ro) on 31 July 1965. Rattlesnake Springs, part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park (Ed), is a good place to see Phaon. A likely stray was seen at Sugarite Canyon State Park (Co) on July 24, 2021.
Phyciodes picta (W. H. Edwards 1865) Painted Crescent (updated November 16, 2021)
Description. Perhaps our most distinctive member of this genus, Painted Crescent has a unique creamy white ventral hindwing that is immaculate, except for a few thin black squiggles and shadows near the margin. It has alternating white and dark bands on the forewing above. Range and Habitat. Phyciodes picta occurs from Mexico north to the southern Rockies and the southern High Plains. In New Mexico it inhabits disturbed areas, pastures and prairies almost statewide (all counties but To) usually below 8500′ elevation. Life History. According to Scott (1986), larvae eat Convolvulus arvensis (Convolvulaceae) in New Mexico and Colorado, although asters (Asteraceae) are the traditional hosts. Half-grown larvae overwinter. Flight. Painted Crescent completes two or more annual generations. Northern New Mexico has spring (May) and late summer (August) flights. Low elevation bottomlands produce overlapping broods from March 31 to October 15. Comments. New Mexico populations belong to the nominate subspecies. Jemez Springs (Sv) is the type locality for aberration “jemezensis” Brehme, described in 1913, from John Woodgate’s collections.
Phyciodes graphica (R. Felder 1869) Graphic Crescent (updated August 17, 2021)
Description. Graphic Crescent is small and orange like its congeners. It is flat orange above with concentric black lines. Beneath, the forewing median and postmedian orange patches are enclosed in black boxes. Range and Habitat. This crescent is native to Central America and Mexico. It breeds as far north as Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and may wander to the Great Plains. Phyciodes graphica breeds in mesquite-filled canyons below 6000’ elevation in southeast New Mexico, but it strays elsewhere (counties: Ch,Co,DA,Ed,Gr,Gu,Hi,Li,Ot,Qu,Ro,So,To?,Un). Life History. Larvae eat Acanthaceae including Siphonoglossa pilosella (Scott 1986) and Dyschoriste decumbens (Bailowitz and Brock 1991). Flight. Phyciodes graphica must be 2- or 3-brooded here, because adults are seen consistently between March 6 and October 12. Its normal behavior, dodging through thorny shrubs, makes it hard to catch or photograph. Comments. An American Museum of Natural History specimen from Cedar Creek Camp, 5 miles north of Ruidoso (Li) on 30 June 1961, is the oldest New Mexico record. This butterfly also has been known as Phyciodes vesta (W. H. Edwards), the Vesta Crescent.