Thessalia leanira
Leanira Checkerspot

Family Description:
Alternate Common Name:
Paintbrush Checkerspot.
Note: This species is referred to with the genus name Chlosyne by some authors. It is comprised of at least three subspecies: leanira, alma, and fulvia. Some authors consider fulvia to be a separate species.
Caterpillar: The caterpillar ranges in color from orange to yellow, and is marked lengthwise with several lines of black along the back and sides. It has seven rows of spines.
Adult: This is a medium-sized butterfly, with a wingspan of 1 to 1 inches. Its appearance varies regionally. Along the coast and in the Sierra Nevadas, individuals are black on the upperside and marked with offwhite spots and checks arranged in rows. Several offwhite spots are scattered at the bases of each of the wings, and there may be several red spots or small patches at the tip of the forewing. Individuals from desert populations are orange on the upperside and marked with brown wing veins and possibly with brown patches near the wing bases. There are two rows of offwhite spots marking the outer half of each wing. The undersides of all individuals are similar. The underside of the forewing is clouded with orange and spotted with yellow. The underside of the hindwing is offwhite and marked with blackish brown wing veins. Near the outside edge is a curved band of black, spotted with white, looking much like a linked chain.

This species ranges from southern Oregon and southwestern Idaho south through California, Nevada, and Utah, and in patches of the southwest, Colorado, and western Nebraska and Kansas.

It occurs in a variety of open areas, including chaparral, prairies, desert hills, open woodlands, and canyons.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars eat the flowers and leaves of various species of paintbrush (Castilleja spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar.

There are one or two generations of caterpillars each summer. Young caterpillars live together in loose webs. Third stage caterpillars overwinter in a physiological state called diapause. Adults generally fly from March to June.

Males perch on hilltops to wait for receptive females and occasionally actively patrol for them. Clusters of yellow eggs are laid on the undersides of host plant leaves. The eggs turn orange before hatching.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank:

G4; population levels are secure, but may be of concern in the future.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.    Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.