For years and years, Bay checkerspot butterflies enjoyed a comfortable, if short, life throughout thousands of acres in the Bay area. Although fairly picky about their environment, these butterflies thrived in serpentine grasslands. Serpentine, our State rock, breaks down into soil poor in the nutrients that all plants need. But native plants have adapted to these austere conditions, and, in turn, the checkerspot has evolved to depend on a handful of these native plants.
In March and April, female butterflies lay clusters of eggs on California plantain. Tiny black caterpillars hatch ten days later. The caterpillars feast on the plantain and grow quickly. Some caterpillars move to other food plants, including purple owl’s clover. As the plants die off in the summer heat, the caterpillars stop eating and enter diapause, a resting state.
When plantain germinates after fall rains, the caterpillars resume eating. Once they are large enough, the caterpillars form pupae in early spring. A few weeks later, adult butterflies emerge. In the mere ten days they live as adults, the checkerspots fly about the serpentine grasslands, sipping nectar from native wildflowers. They mate, lay eggs, and die, completing their year-long life cycle.
Next to Chapter 2.