Sporting appropriate autumn colors, the bordered patch (Chlosyne lacinia) is one of our most common butterflies during much of the year. It is on the small side, and the colors can vary quite a bit. Some individuals have a lot of orange and light yellow, while others are predominantly dark brown.
The caterpillars of the bordered patch come in three color forms: mostly orange, black with orange markings, and all black. They have branched spines and look rather nasty, but are harmless to humans. The larvae feed on plants in the sunflower family, and some favorites in the Austin area appear to be ragweed, cowpen daisy, zexmenia, and common sunflower. Eggs are laid in a large pile on a leaf. When they hatch, the young caterpillars stay together and feed in a mass, dispersing when they get older. At times, they can be very numerous. As adults, the butterflies will feed at a large variety of flowers, but having their host plants around is a definite draw.
Although the caterpillars might decimate a few daisies and sunflowers in a garden, the resulting multitude of colorful butterflies is certainly worth the sacrifice.