San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[BRCC San Diego Natural History Museum: Entomology Department]
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Butterflies Up Close

How can you learn to identify butterflies, especially to distinguish among several kinds that look very much alike?

Specialists visit our collection to study in detail our many samples of butterflies. For example, environmental consultants like to study our Quino Checkerspot specimens and compare them with similar species. This can help them pass a test administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that verifies their ability to identify this endangered species.

Gabb's Checkerspot butterfly   Quino Checkerspot butterfly
Compare the tray of Gabb's Checkerspot (Chlosyne gabbii) on the left with the similar species of Quino Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino) on the right. These kinds are sometimes difficult to tell apart when seen in their natural habitat.

Top side and underside of Quino butterfly   Quino butterfly closeup
Look at the variation among these specimens of Quino Checkerspots. The photo on the left shows the topside and underside of a Quino Checkerspot. Specialists need to study a series of specimens of the same kind of butterfly to learn the variation in patterns and color that occur naturally.
Label data
Data labels attached to each specimen tell specialists where and when the individual butterfly was collected. This is critical for understanding variation within a species.

How well do you know your butterflies? Take a test!

Quino Checkerspot Study Set Information

We are pleased to be able to provide access to specimens from the SDNHM Entomology Collection for the purpose of studying for the Quino checkerspot permitting test.

The study collection is available by appointment only. Visits should be arranged at least one week in advance by calling Pamela Horsley, Collection Manager, at 619-255-0193. If it is necessary to cancel a visit, please give at least 24 hours notice. Individuals who make appointments, then fail to show without canceling will be denied access to the collection.

To help offset the costs associated with maintaining the study collection and providing space and access to the specimens, a fee of $50 is charged. One $50 fee covers all visits by an individual within a 12-month period for the purpose of using the butterfly study collection. The fee (cash or check payable to the SDNHM) is due at the beginning of the first visit.

As professionals with respect for non-renewable resources, all visitors are asked to abide by the following rules for handling and use of the collection:

  • Visitors are asked to sign the logbook upon arrival.
  • Please notify Entomology Department staff when leaving the lab.
  • Lids must remain on drawers at all times.
  • Removal of specimens from drawers is not allowed.
  • Photography must be pre-approved by the Entomology Department.
  • Photographs must be for personal use only and not for commercial reproduction.
  • No food or drink is permitted in the lab.
  • Please be respectful of others working in the lab and surrounding offices.

To book an appointment to use the Quino Checkerspot Study Set for the USFWS Quino test, please contact:

Pamela Horsley
Entomology Collection Manager
(619) 255-0193

Text by Paisley Cato; photos by Lollo Enstad and Melissa Leitch