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Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly

Taylor'scheckerspot, Aaron Barna/FWS

Scientific name: Euphydryas editha taylori 

Status: Endangered 

Critical Habitat:  Designated

Listing Activity: The Taylor's checkerspot butterfly (locally known as the Whulge checkerspot) became a candidate species in October 2001. An annual review of the species was completed annually from 2002 through 2011, when FWS was tasked with developing a proposal to list the species.  On November 4, 2013, the Final Rule to list Taylor's checkerspot butterfly as an endangered species under the ESA became effective.  (Photo: A. Barna/FWS)


    Historical Status

    The Taylor's checkerspot butterfly is a species once found throughout native grasslands of the north and south Puget Sound, south Vancouver Island and the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  The historical range and the species abundance is not precisely known because exhaustive searches did not occur until recently. Northwest grasslands were formerly more widespread, larger and interconnected - conditions that likely would have supported a greater distribution and abundance of Taylor's checkerspot. Before its decline, the checkerspot was documented at more than 70 sites in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. These sites included coastal and inland grasslands (prairies) on southern Vancouver Island and surrounding islands in British Columbia and the San Juan Island archipelago, as well as open prairies on post-glacial gravelly outwash prairies and balds in Washington's Puget Trough and Oregon's Willamette Valley. In Oregon, there were 14 recorded sites from which this subspecies had been either collected or observed over the last century.

    Current Trends

    Today, the Taylor's checkerspot is extirpated (locally extinct but exists elsewhere) from British Columbia and all but two locales in the Willamette Valley. By 1989, fewer than 15 populations remained in the Pacific Northwest, and by October 2002, there were only four confirmed populations.  At the time of listing in 2013, several new populations had been identified on the north Olympic Peninsula and we now have 11 populations in Washington, one in British Columbia, and two in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, both in Benton County.  It is being conserved in Oregon under the authority of the Benton County Habitat Conservation Plan. 

    Description and Life History

    The Taylor's checkerspot butterfly is conspicuously checkered with an orange to brick red, black and cream checkered pattern.  It is a medium-sized butterfly with a wing span of 5.7 centimeters (2.25 inches). The ventral surface of the wings are primarily orange with bands of cream cells. The dorsal portion of the wings has a proportionate mix of black, orange, and cream. It is one of the smallest of the Edith checkerspots with short, stubby wings.

    Taylor’s checkerspots produce one brood per year.  Adults emerge in the spring, usually during April and May, with a flight period from 10 to 14 days.  Adults mate and the female may produce up to 1,200 eggs and lay clusters of 20 to several hundred eggs on the undersides of host plants. Larvae emerge and normally form five instars before entering diapause in mid-June to early July.  Late instar, post-diapause larvae emerge to feed in winter (February) and may disperse up to 10 meters/day as they seek pupation sites. During post-diapause larval dispersal, larvae are protected by concealment and the defensive bitter chemicals sequestered from their host food plants.  


              Habitat requirements for the Taylor's checkerspot consist of open grasslands and native grass/oak woodland sites where abundant food plants are available for larvae and adult feeding.  These sites include inland prairies on post-glacial, gravelly outwash, coastal bluffs and balds. In Washington and Oregon Taylor’s checkerspot larvae feed on native plants from the Broomrape (Orobanchaceae) family (Castilleja hispida, C. levisecta, Tryphasaria) in addition to the non-native Plantago lanceolata and the native Plantago maritima of the Plantaginaceae family.  Other annuals documented as larval host foods include several species of speedwell (Veronica spp), blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora and C. parviflora) and sea blush (Plectritus congesta). The two remaining populations in Oregon also depends upon P. lanceolata, however, plentiful golden paintbrush (C. levisecta) has been planted where Taylor’s are found and they are using the species for egg laying and as a larval and adult food resourceThroughout the entire range of the Taylor’s checkerspot, prairie habitat was historically maintained, in part, through frequent burning by Native Americans.

    Reasons for Decline

    The major limiting factors affecting the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly are related to the significant loss of suitable habitat that is largely due to agricultural and urban development, encroachment of trees, and spread of invasive plants which threaten the native grasslands in which the species is found.  Pesticide use and recreational activities may pose a direct threat to the butterflies themselves. The impact of these threats has led to a smaller and smaller number of existing populations.  Most of the remaining checkerspot habitat patches are a considerable distance from one another, likely well beyond dispersal distance. Natural re-colonization is unlikely as populations disappear, but captive breeding and reintroduction have been shown to be successful for creating new populations for the subspecies. 


    Ehrlich P. R. and I. Hanski  2004.  On the Wings of Checkerspots: A model system for Population Biology.  Oxford University Press.  371 pp.

    U.S Fish and Wildlife Service 2013.  Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered Status for Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and Threatened Status for the Streaked Horned Lark; Final Rule. Federal Register Volume 78:61452.

    James David G. And David Nunnallee 2011.  Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies.  Oregon State University Press.  447 pp.


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