Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis) on Coneflower (Echinacea)

The other day I wrote about the value of using echinacea in the garden. As it turns out that it's not only valuable to us as an ornamental or as a pollen plant for beneficial insects but it also can be a host plant for the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly (Chlosyne nycteis)! This weekend I discovered this mass of tiny black caterpillars each one barely half an inch in length. (That's an estimate only since I don't usually carry a ruler with me.)

'White Swan'

Checkerspot Butterfly Caterpillars
Before identifying these caterpillars my first thought was to get rid of them somehow but instead I went to the good old search engine and looked up some information using the terms "black caterpillars on coneflowers" and I found all kinds of information pointing to the larval stage of the Checkerspot butterfly (and more here). If you check out those links you can see what the butterfly looks like as an adult. After determining that this little caterpillar infestation looked like it would have a positive outcome I left it alone. I think it's always important to research an insect problem before you treat it. You never know but one of those ugly and strange looking creatures could potentially turn out to be a beneficial insect or maybe a beautiful insect in your garden!