Plants and Animals

Chlosyne gorgone Gorgone checkerspot

species photo
James Adams

Key Characteristics

This medium-sized butterfly has a wingspan of 3.2 to 4.0 cm. The upper wing is orange with black markings and the striking pattern of the underside shows a zigzag pattern of brown and white bands (Nielsen 1999; Schweitzer et al. 2011). Caterpillars are black with white variegation along the sides and a black head (Allen et al. 2005). The larvae feed on the undersurface of host plant leaves where they live in a web of silk when young, growing more solitary as they develop. Late instar caterpillars overwinter.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: X - Presumed extirpated (legally 'threatened' if rediscovered)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: SH - Possibly extirpated


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Oscoda 1 1931

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


The Gorgone checkerspot uses a variety of species in the Asteraceae family as host plants, including sunflowers (Helianthus spp.), black-eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia hirta), and loosestrifes (Lysimachia spp.) The southernmost populations use woodland sunflower (H. divaricatus; Gatrelle 1998). Populations in Mason County, IL are reported to oviposit on prairie sunflower (H. petiolaris; Nielsen 1999). Eggs are laid in clusters on the leaves of the host plant. The larvae feed on the undersurface of host plant leaves where they live in a web of silk when young, growing more solitary as they develop. Late instar caterpillars overwinter.

This species may use a variety of habitats where host plants are abundant, including old fields, savannas, dry prairies, sandy ridges, glades in woodlands, wooded roadsides, powerline right-of-ways, open pine forests, and barrens. The butterfly can thrive in disturbed and early-successional sites. Adults may be found in numbers on scat.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Habitat destruction through industrial, residential, agricultural, and recreational development is perhaps the leading threat to this butterfly. Use of pesticides and herbicides, as well as disease, pathogens, and parasites are likely to negatively impact populations. Invasive species, non-consumptive recreation (e.g., ORV use), and decline in nectar sources may also be a problem in some areas. Prescribed fire will provide openings needed for this butterfly as it is likely declining in parts of its range due to woody species encroachment. However, excessive prescribed burning is likely a threat to this species, therefore it is imperative that land managers establish unburned refugia in suitable habitat during prescribed fires. Deer readily eat larval host plants, presenting a threat to this species’ survival. The reduction of ORV traffic by road closure is recommended in or near known extant sites or areas with potential for the species.

Active Period

Flight from fourth week of May to fourth week of August

In Michigan this butterfly may have one or two broods per year, with the first flight beginning in late May or early June and the second in July/August. In Wisconsin it is known to have two or more broods (Glassberg 1999), and in Iowa it has three broods. Interestingly, this butterfly has only one brood where it lives in Georgia and South Carolina (Schweitzer et al. 2011). It is possible that these Sand Hill populations in southern states have become univoltine due to the lack of nectar in the habitat for later-season generations. Elsewhere throughout its range, this butterfly may have three to four generations per year.

Survey Methods

Surveys are needed to determine the status of this species in Michigan, and any sites where it is found should be documented, protected, and managed. Nielsen (1999) notes that it has been documented in six counties throughout Michigan, with the most recent in Van Buren County in 1958. The Gorgone checkerspot may be found along with Karner blue and frosted elfin in barrens and would likely benefit from management for those species.

Visual, aerial net

Survey Period: From fourth week of May to fourth week of August

Time of Day: Daytime
Humidity: Humid
Cloud Cover: Clear
Air Temperature: Above 60 degrees
Wind: No Wind
Survey Method Comment: Here we present ideal conditions, however surveys can be conducted during other conditions as well.


Survey References

  • Klots, A.B. 1951. Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Butterflies. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 349pp.

Technical References

  • Allen, T.J., J.P. Brock, and J. Glassberg. 2005. Caterpillars in the Field and Garden: A Field Guide to the Butterfly Caterpillars of North America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 232pp.
  • Gatrelle, R.R. 1998. The rediscovery, taxonomy, and biology of Chlosyne gorgone gorgone and Chlosyne ismeria (Nymphalidae) in Burke County, Georgia. Taxon. Rpt. 1(2):1-9.
  • Glassberg, J. 1999. Butterflies through Binoculars: The East. Oxford University Press, New York. 242pp.
  • Nielsen, M.C. 1999. Michigan butterflies and skippers: A field guide and reference. Michigan State University Extension Bulletin E-2675, East Lansing. 248pp.
  • Schweitzer, D. F., M.C. Minno, and D.L. Wagner. 2011. Rare, Declining, and Poorly Known Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera) of Forests and Woodlands in the Eastern United States. U.S. Forest Service, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, FHTET-2011-01. USDA Forest Service, Morgantown, West Virginia. 517pp.