Thursday, September 17, 2009

Baltimore checkerspot butterfly

Now that my sixth grade daughter has learned about lab safety (for example, don't put chemicals in your eyeballs, don't play with biological waste such as dissected frog livers), she and her classmates in Investigations into Science have delved into their first unit - The Butterfly Habitat Project.

She was interested to read this Washington Post article at school to learn about our Maryland state butterfly - the Baltimore Checkerspot (photo). Unfortunately, the Baltimore Checkerspot is in danger. Here's what she informed me about...

  • The plant the butterflies thrive on, the White Turtlehead, is being eaten by the exploding population of the white-tailed deer.
  • The deer are also consuming the larvae as they eat the leaves of the plant.
  • Their habitats are being lost due to development and crop agriculture.
  • Drift from insecticides being applied contributes to the problem.
  • Global warming contributes to habitat change.
  • Since the 1990's, the population has been drastically reduced. The Baltimore Checkerspot colonies are now only found in about 5 counties.

Here's what the Baltimore Checkerspot needs for survival:

  • Wet meadows with lots of White Turtlehead - their required larval food.
  • A habitat kept open and sunny, but with very limited mowing.
  • For long-term survival, they need a patchwork of nearby sites located no more than 1/4 mile from then next.

There are major conservation projects around the area:

  • Efforts are being made to fund deer exclusion fences.
  • Scientists and conservationists are looking for ways to raise butterflies in captivity to replenish the population (The Baltimore Zoo, Carroll County Outdoor School, and other locations participate).
  • Landowners will search for colonies.

Sources:, my daughter, The Washington Post

EDITED TO ADD: Sixth graders - that's cool that you're reading my blog to get ideas for your project, but please click and read this post about using credible sources in your project!


  1. Who brought the smart girl? Seems like your daughter has her act together. Sounds like a chip off the jol block. You and your dad have given her a love of nature. Tell her she has taught us all well. thanks for an interesting post!

  2. Very impressive for a 6th grader! Sounds like a great class, too! Makes me long for those good old school days...okay, not really!

  3. thats great to know your daughter's project. Although many butterfly species are endangered here as well but another reason is tendency of people to like double and triple flowers. your father's pond was really pretty.

  4. I too have learnt a lot looking through the simple text books of my child. I think it is a good way of keeping up with the current trends in environment issues that affects us. Kids nowadays have access to a wealth of knowledge.

  5. I'm really impressed that this is a unit being taught at school, and that it's being taught at the beginning of the school year gives ample opportunities to reflect and build on the topic throughout the rest of the year. Conservation efforts begin with education, and teaching our children about the danger our habitats are in is the key to future ecosystem and wildlife protection. Your post has made me very happy (though sad about the plight of the Baltimore Checkerspot).

  6. Your daughter did amazing research. And so interesting for us ecology-minded adults.

  7. This is a really informative post! Your daughter must be one smart cookie, and how neat that school is giving her the time and encouraging her to form opinions about conservation. :-)

  8. this girl very talented and should be in high school

  9. i am in sixth grade and i am doing that project to i know what she knows i wish she could help me on my project

  10. I am in your daughters class and we finished that unit and now we are doing going green! By the way check out , it's google but it saves energy.

  11. That's cool Michael, thanks for letting me know! I wish the searched for items would also show up on black low-wattage screens too though...

  12. Thank you so much! I am also in sixth grade working on the Baltimore Checkerspot project. This answered alot of my questions and helped with my required power point. Just wanted to say thanks soooo much! BTW, did your daughter by any chance have to choose a location? i'm stuck and need a national park around the right size. right now i'm using brookeside gardens in md, good choice?

  13. Hi Mia,

    My daughter said she did have to choose a location. I'm almost positive that Brookside Gardens is not a NATIONAL park, but a COUNTY park. My daughter did not have to choose a national park specifically.


  15. Thank you so much! I am doing the butterfly project and this has been soooo helpful. Thanks for all the resources and info! This was a great post to make. Thanks again!

  16. go bamboo butterflies!!! thanx this was awesome!!!!

  17. i'm a 6th grader doing a butterfly habitat project, and this was super awsome! i'm sooo glad i found this!

  18. this helped me do my checkerspot restoration project thanks soooooooo much!!!!!!

  19. im from MVMS and im giving FULL credit to you! THNK YOU :D


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