Butterfly of the week

I’ve been a bit remiss at posting regular challenges, so I’ll try to pick up the pace.  Who can tell me anything about this butterfly?  The most you’re getting is that it is from the Western half of the US.  Credit for family, genus or species and ridiculous credit for subspecies and where it is from.

Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti

Ted managed to pretty quickly ID this lep with stunning accuracy for a beetle-guy.  You lep-ers reading this should hang your head in shame for not jumping on it faster.

As mentioned in the comments, this butterfly only flies around the resort town of Cloudcroft, New Mexico in the Sacramento Mountains.  For years they have been fighting to have this listed as an endangered species, but have failed at every attempt (the most recent rejection was August 2009).  The town relies almost exclusively on winter ski resorts and developers have put up a successful fight against protection.  The entire area is within the Lincoln National Forest, but they have only closed the area to butterfly collecting, not development.  When asking the forest service about this butterfly they unequivocally state that the checkerspot is endangered (even though it’s not).  Of course they do not want you to collect it – but if you offered a few million to develop its habitat, that’s a different story.

5 comments to Butterfly of the week

  • I’m going with one of the checkerspots – family Nymphalidae, genus Euphydryas. I’m not very good with the species, but with all that orange and very little whitish coloring I’m guessing E. anicia capella from the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains.

  • Great guess – but not quite. You do get credit for getting the species right though!

  • Oh, well that wouldn’t be Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti (Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly) from central New Mexico, would it? If so, that’s a great shot of a rare subspecies. If not, well, these checkerspot subspecies are too difficult for me. :)

  • Yes, it is! I should make these harder… or stop posting images I’ve already uploaded to Butterflies of America! ha. Although, kudos for getting this correct, still required digging through the anicia subs, these checkerspots can be a headache to ID.

    I was there last summer and got a few great shots of this rare butterfly. It was actually pretty common along forest roads around the town. Within an hour I saw 4-5 puddling – made for a pretty easy photo-op.

  • Ha! Actually, I didn’t find the photo at BofA until after I’d made my 2nd guess, honest. Those points are mine! Actually, I was using BugGuide when I settled on anicia – I wasn’t sure about it but chose it because of the very orange capella subspecies. When you confirmed anicia it was then easier to search for other subspecies. I came across a photo of cloudcrofti on a FWS conservation plan document and it was a dead ringer.

    Finding species/subspecies of highly restricted geographical occurrence is one of the best things about this business (taxonomists arguments about validity notwithstanding)! There must be something special about the Cloudcroft area – there is a buprestid beetle known only from that area that I looked for once (unsuccessfully).

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