Bring the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly Back to Campus
Why this butterfly?
It is the state insect of Maryland!
We can’t think of a more appropriate way to effect change and make an impact than by bringing this butterfly back to the University of Maryland campus.
About the Checkerspot
The Baltimore Checkerspot is a vividly colored orange, white and black butterfly that was chosen as the state insect of Maryland in 1973. Named after Lord George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore because the coloring on the adult butterfly (orange and black) matched the colors on his heraldic shield.
Baltimore Checkerspot chrysalis at top and butterfly on bottom (Photo courtesy of Matt Perry)
Sadly our state insect is extirpated in all but 7 counties in MD. The remaining 11 wild populations are small in number and fragile.
Baltimore Checkerspot wild locations (map courtesy of MD Department of Natural Resources)
The Checkerspot's host plant is the white turtlehead (Chelone glabra), a native plant that grows in wet meadows and stream banks. It is a favorite of deer who have decimated this critical plant population, eliminating the Checkerspot as well.
White turtlehead (photo courtesy of Frank L. Williams)
The preferred habitat for this beautiful butterfly are wet, stream-fed meadows with few trees. Adult butterflies feed on nectar from common milkweed, wild blackberry, native honeysuckle, foxglove beardtongue, mountain mint, etc. However, the caterpillars, or larval form of the butterfly, must feed on the host plant, the white turtlehead.
Who we are
Our group is a collaboration between the vanEngelsdorp Lab (www.vanengelsdorpbeelab.com), Pollinaterps, and the UMD Arboretum (arboretum.umd.edu).
The vanEngelsdorp Lab is nationally recognized for efforts in reducing honey bee colony loss, and has students studying native pollinators. PollinaTerps is a volunteer group comprised of UMD students, staff, faculty, local scientists, and community members working together to build a pollinator-friendly campus through research, education, and habitat creation and preservation. UMD’s Arboretum actively works towards expanding pollinator habitat on campus.
What we want to do
We are seeking funds to reestablish colonies of the Baltimore Checkerspot on the UMD College Park campus. Funds will be used to build deer enclosures to protect the native white turtlehead once planted, and to establish protected meadows on campus featuring this plant. Donations will be further used to purchase white turtlehead plants and seeds for the enclosures and meadows, and to pay for UMD greenhouse space to grow these and other pollinator friendly plants.
Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly feeding on milkweed (Photo courtesy of Matt Perry)
Additionally, we will fund the equipment and research, working with the Smithsonian Natural History Museum as well as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, needed to correctly collect butterflies from existing sanctuaries, hand-rear Checkerspot caterpillars to be released on campus, develop and place educational materials and signage, and do initial studies on the genetic diversity of the campus butterfly population to help avoid inbreeding. Protocols developed by the Smithsonian will be followed to ensure that measures are taken to preserve and protect existing native populations.
Call to action
We are excited to help create a refuge for our state insect right here on campus. This is something all students, faculty and staff can take pride in sharing and working toward. Join us in bringing back the Baltimore Checkerspot!
Gifts in support of the University of Maryland are accepted and managed by the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, Inc., an affiliated 501(c)(3) organization authorized by the Board of Regents. Contributions to the University of Maryland are tax deductible as allowed by law. Please see your tax advisor for details.