Butterfly Bucket: Bordered Patch Butterfly

bordered patch butterfly
Chlosyne lacinia

Thanks to The Transmutational Gardener for hosting the Butterfly Bucket List, a new wildlife blogging event all about butterflies I am looking forward to learning a lot. A lot — because I am starting pretty much from zero here.

In fact, I was feeling a little hesitant about contributing because not only do I know so little about butterflies but I really struggle with photographing them. (Therefore: turn away now if you are looking for reliable information or great photos!)

Bordered Patch Butterfly aka Sunflower Patch Butterfly

The Bordered Patch Butterfly is a really common butterfly around here. Since the caterpillars eat the leaves of daisies, sunflowers and ragweed which are all plants that literally grow everywhere like weeds, they rarely go hungry. The imagos have multiple flights throughout the year meaning one can even see them in the winter if the temperatures have been mild.

But you know: it is an orange butterfly. There are more than 200 species of orange butterflies just in Texas alone. Learning to identify butterflies feels a bit daunting. How can I tell this is a bordered patch butterfly and not something else?

I suspect there is a special circle of hell where nature lovers who have been naughty go when they die. In that place they are surrounded by orange butterflies, little brown birds and yellow composite daisies. Every day there is a high stakes exam testing them on their identification skills.

Scenario: Subject is tied to uncomfortable plastic lawn chair.

Demon: Look closely at the photo. Identify the butterfly. You have 5 seconds to respond.
Poor Unfortunate Soul (bead of sweat forming at the brow): Is it a Checkerspot Butterfly?
Demon: Bah. Idiot! Your punishment is to listen to Rush Limbaugh for one hour. You will wear the high definition headphones to better appreciate the spittle.

So colour will be an inadequate clue. It gets worse. Some species, like this one, are known to be wildly variable. So here’s what I learned:

Step one: Skip over the blob around the thorax that looks vaguely like a Rorschach test item. Step two: Look for white spots. The white spots running along the wing edge and along the orange bits could possibly be used as a kind of field mark or start point. The only other butterflies I know of that have white spots like that (and yeah, I realize that isn’t saying much) are the checkerspots I’ve seen. Checkerspots and the bordered patch butterfly belong to the same genus — Chlosyne — for my purposes that is close enough and an ok place to begin.

So note to self: look for a border of white spots. Ah. Maybe that is how it got the name ‘bordered’ patch. The spots border the orange patches.

Nymphalinae

As I learned all this lovely nerd lore and contemplated my eventual fate I also found out that the bordered patch butterfly is a member of the True Brush-foot (Nymphalinae) group of butterflies. A large group — it includes pretty much all of the butterflies I can name.

bordered patch butterfly 2
bordered patch butterfly

If you look at these butterflies sideways it kind of looks like they only have four legs because their forelegs are tiny. Picture T-Rex arms and you’ll get the idea. Those front legs are used as sense organs — probably for smelling and tasting things. That lovely characteristic makes them easier than some other butterflies to see and photograph. After they land on a flower they have a tendency to rotate in a circle as they do whatever it is they are doing. Eating, laying eggs, independently inventing the calculus, plotting world domination …. I do not actually know.

I do know that I am grateful for those moments — otherwise I’d never get any pictures at all.

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33 thoughts on “Butterfly Bucket: Bordered Patch Butterfly

  1. That is a lot of butterflies….I wish we had but a fraction here….this is one I have never heard of or seen so I really do like this meme!

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    1. It is going to be a challenging one for me. Which means it is one I really ought to put some effort into. Your garden photos always show gorgeous flowers. There must be all kinds of butterflies there that might seem ordinary to you but might be totally exotic to a newb like me.

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  2. Thank you for the butterfly lesson. I am going to have to visit Texas so I can use the knowledge you’re sharing. In New England, we’re very much running out of butterfly species and it’s so sad. I always rejoice when I see a butterfly, even if I don’t know what it is.

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  3. Thats funny Debra, I can relate to those beads of sweat! Lovely photos and love all of your information on your beautiful Butterfly too.

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    1. Thanks, Julie. The photos are really only so-so. Capturing butterflies — any butterfly — in focus is still on my bucket list. hahaha

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  4. Thanks to alerting me to the Butterfly Bucket List. I’ve already posted the only butterfly pics we have for this year, but I’ll plan on participating in July. Your Border Patch Butterfly may be common in your area, but it is a beauty. Love the color!

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  5. good luck – keep that vision of the the plastic chair and the demon looming over you and you will try harder – on the glass doors of my bedroom I met a most beautiful pale moth with tiny feathering at the end of its wings. At less than an inch across it perfectly presented the classic ‘butterfly’ shape – a light beige with a few darker tones at the top of the wings and a line of black dots marched along the edges. And then the final statement – a single bigger black dot on each wing. so I researched the Lepidoptera species of Southeast Australia to learn that of the estimated 22,000 species only 10,000 have been described and named. Perhaps this creature has yet to be discovered I mused as I scrolled the mug shots of woolly bear moths, fringed moths, lace moths, emperor moths, monkey moths – heaps of them but not my new friend.
    and then I gave up on the identification lark…so all power to you sister.

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    1. The butterfly you describe sounds like a beauty. It would be pretty darn exciting if you had found something new. What to call it? Maybe a faeriefly?

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  6. A beautiful butterfly and welll done on such great photos. They are so hard to capture, they just don’ t keep still. I can see that this is a challenging meme, you have so many beautiful butterflies. We have fewer different sorts here, so avoiding your butterfly identification hell should be easier.

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    1. I wasn’t terribly happy with the photos so I thank you for your encouragement. I do think this is going to be a challenging meme but you know … I decided to relax and not worry too much about the ID part. I think I’ll use it as an opportunity to get out more to LOOK for them.

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    1. Thank you. I thought it was pretty, too. And when it actually paused for a moment — long enough for me to press the camera button — I liked the little thing even more. haha

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  7. Wonderful post, Debra! Your photos of your butterfly are every inch as beautiful as those I’ve seen elsewhere on the web! From what I’ve seen on my county lists we don’t see this one here, but we do have a number of its Brushfoot relatives (including some of those 200 with orange color!). You said that the caterpillars eat the leaves of daisies and sunflowers — some very, very small caterpillars have been playing around on my Black-Eyed Susans and I’ve found them ensconced in petals that have been folded over. I wonder if these are butterfly caterpillars? I’ll have to do some investigating and will keep an eye on them! What great information about your butterfly. Thanks for joining in!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement. From what I read, these butterflies lay caterpillars that clump together so it is certainly possible.

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  8. In the preschool garden a few summers back we found a bounty of caterpillars on the daisies and sunflowers. We were able to raise them to adults in the classroom and have a playground release. They were very cooperative teaching materials, though we were never quite sure if they were bordered patches or checkerspots. There was surprising variety in the chrysalids, so they may have been mixed. Hardy little butterflies. Our unit was a much greater success than when we ordered monarchs or red admirals by mail.

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    1. I have had similar experiences. I used to order painted lady caterpillars for the classroom. They were a big hit and there is nothing quite like seeing kids smile as they wear butterflies as rings on their fingers but one time at recess we found a chrysalis that was moving in the garden. The butterfly was struggling to get out. I brought it into the classroom for the kids to watch and I have to say that the spontaneity of the experience made it all really real to the kids. They were like: this is happening all around us; these bugs are real. heh

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  9. Wonderful! I’m seeing mostly fritillary, sulphurs and swallowtails here. Well, and lots of little brown jobs.

    I’m attempting to enjoy any photographs I get without trying to name the butterflies. I do recognize most of the usual suspects, to a point at least… (and heartfelt thanks for describing that circling tendency – I’d seen it and wondered) It looks like I’m setting up for a whole lotta Rush in the great eternal…

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    1. I am really torn on the idea of ID-ing things lately. On the one hand it does kind of deepen my appreciation. It is nice to have an idea of what a thing is or how it fits into the bigger picture. On the other hand the act of naming can remove me from the actual experience. And don’t tell Jim this but I am feeling a little anti-Science lately.

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      1. It sounds like there is a story (maybe a post?) in that last statement. And, I won’t tell Jim if you don’t.

        For me I get too caught up in documenting every novel everything to the detriment of experiencing the wonder of seeing them for the first time. I see more when I’m sitting still (or leaning over working) than I do when I’m prowling about with my camera. Or perhaps I should say I see differently?

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  10. I think that special circle of hell should be reserved for those who decided that there are over 200 species of butterflies in Texas.

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