Currently viewing the category: "Skippers"

Subject: Butterfly ID
Location: Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve , California (34.1725, -118.4692 )
July 29, 2013 9:02 pm
I photographed this one at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve (Van Nuys, California) on March 5, 2013. I’d like to know what it is. Thanks!
Signature: Talila

Mournful Duskywing

Mournful Duskywing

Dear Talila,
We were away from the office between July 30 and August 16 and we did not respond to any identification requests during that time.  We are now trying to respond to a small fraction of the identification requests we received in that time and posting the most interesting submissions.  We quickly recognized your butterfly as a Duskywing Skipper, but we were not certain of the species.  Imagine our surprise when we found your request answered as a male Mournful Duskywing,
Erynnis tristis, on BugGuide.  Unlike BugGuide, since our editorial staff does all the actual posting on our site, we like larger images that we can crop ourselves.  Insects are not isolated from their environments.  Insects are part of the complex web of life that exists in the myriad distinct ecosystems that comprise the microhabitats that can exist in a single acre. This includes plants and other creatures that form food chains and symbiotic relationships.

Many thanks for your answer!
BTW, it wasn’t me who asked about this butterfly at BugGuide. My friend, Yael Orgad, who was hiking with my on that day had asked about it there and had I remembered she did I would have simply asked her …
I’ll be happy to send you the original, uncropped image if you are interested in posting this.
So which one is it, the skipper or the mournful Duskywings?

Hi Talila,
The Mournful Duskywing, your butterfly, is one of the Skippers, a family of Butterflies.

Subject: Mystery skipper?
Location: Coryell County, Texas
July 1, 2013 11:14 pm
Hello, I briefly saw this butterfly today in our garden, and was only able to capture two fairly clear photos. I think it’s a skipper, but can’t find the species. The closest I found online were a Fawn-spotted Skipper (Cymaernes odilia) seen on, or a Clouded Skipper (Lerema accius) seen on  Gorgeous weather, a cool front in July, wow! Eighty degrees! The butterfly visited a native hibiscus that has smallish leaves and flowers. I love the pollen on the butterfly’s legs, great pollinator! (By the way, the big, gorgeous swallowtails keep mocking me, and fly off over the rooftops and into the taller trees when I aim my camera their way, sigh. Who knew they could fly so high? I didn’t!)
Signature: Ellen



Hi Ellen,
We rarely try to identify Skippers to the species level because there are so many different species that look alike.  Both of your suggestions seem possible, and we would prefer to leave that identification to the experts.  We have encountered the same problem with Western Tiger Swallowtails which love to fly around the garden, but never seem to alight.

Subject: Butterfly
Location: Morgantown, WV
April 30, 2013 6:17 pm
Hello Bugman!
I found this pretty thing in the road, probably stunned by a car strike. So I picked it up and set it in the sunshine after a taking a couple of pictures. I’ve seen this kind of butterfly before but haven’t been able to successfully identify it. I am thinking it might be a kind of skipper, but I’m only guessing. I would love to know what this is. They are pretty early here in WV, though I have seen quite a few cabbage whites and tiger swallowtails this week. Thank you again for your fantastic website!
Signature: Bugwatcher Guitry

Duskywing, we believe

Duskywing, we believe

Dear Bugwatcher Guitry,
You are correct that this is a Skipper.  It looks to us like one of the Duskywings in the genus
Erynnis, however, it doesn’t seem to perfectly match any of the species pictured on BugGuide.  BugGuide does note:  “The genus Erynnis (Duskywings) is probably the most difficult group of North American butterflies to identify in the field. However, the identity of a particular individual can often be narrowed to a few possibilities by noting the habitat and examining the range maps for each species (see INTERNET REFERENCES section below). A further critical comparison of an individual’s key field marks to those in reliably identified images is often enough to arrive at a certain or near-certain ID; examination of the genitalia may be required in some cases but is usually not necessary when the preceding steps have been taken with due care.”  The closest match, in our opinion, is Horace’s Duskywing (see photo on BugGuide), which is a wide ranging species reported in West Virginia.  According to BugGuide its habitat is:  “Open woodlands and edges, clearings, fencerows, wooded swamps, power-line right-of-ways, open fields, roadsides.”

Subject: Whirlabout or Sachem Grass Skipper
Location: Silver Springs, Florida
April 15, 2013 4:49 pm
Hi Bugman,
My 4-year-old and I are having loads of fun here in Ocala Florida with butterflies, but are having trouble identifying some of them. For this particular butterfly, I am not sure if it is a whirlabout grass skipper or a sachem grass skipper. Although after searching through the Bugguide I am leaning towards whirlabout because of the checkers on the underside of the wings and the black lines on the upper side of the wings. I don’t remember the way in which it flew but I would think I would notice if it whirled and think it a little odd. I found the skipper in Silver Springs State Park, Silver Springs, Florida down by the Silver River where the foliage is cabbage palm, grass, and oak (mainly cabbage palm and grass). It was probably midday, early April. I don’t actually see many grass skippers down there, mostly Satyr’s, Sulphur’s, and Buckeye’s. I hope this helps! Thank you for your time and all your hard work!
Signature: Kelly and Reuben



Dear Kelly and Reuben,
This is a very difficult response for us to write on so many levels.  First, we need to come clean and state we have a very difficult time identifying Skippers.  There are so many species that look so similar.  Both the Whirlabout Skipper,
Polites vibex, which is pictured on BugGuide and the Sachems’s Grass Skipper, Atalopedes campestris, which is also pictured on BugGuide are in the same subfamily Herperiinae, as are numerous other Skippers which also look quite similar.  We rarely attempt to identify Skippers to the species level.  That is a job for experts and we are generalists here at What’s That Bug?
The really troubling part of our response deals with the location of the sighting, which is noted as Silver Springs State Park.  All plants and wildlife in State and National Parks are protected and cannot be hunted, trapped or collected.  They are there to be preserved.  We think it is wonderful that you and your four year old have found an activity that you can do together and which introduces your youngster to the wonders of nature, but this is also the time to enforce the importance of preservation.  As our population rises, open space is becoming more and more difficult to secure, especially in high density areas.  Even the most insignificant of creatures might fill a very important niche in the complex web of life in a specific ecosystem.  This is more than just our opinion as the creatures, plants and habitat of in our state and national parks are protected by law and hunting, trapping and collecting are illegal and breaking the law could result in a fine and citation, though we suspect that most rangers would warn you and not actually ticket you.
We have already breached the subject of Starting an Insect Collection not necessarily being Unnecessary Carnage when that collection contains the type of information that would be of scientific value.  Please understand that we remain conflicted on this subject, but we are quite firm on our stance of preservation within the park system.  Even scientists and museums must secure permission through a complex permit process prior to collecting from parks.
Please note that we have taken the liberty of removing your surname from this posting.  Please continue to nurture a love of nature in your youngster even if you consider our response to be harsh.



Dear Bugman,
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I have taken to heart your concerns and have found a public area in Florida that is actually open to bug collectors by the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History so that we are no longer encouraging the breaking of laws, rules and mores. I honestly never knew that that’s what we had been doing and we had always been frank with the park rangers when we went in to the park about what we intended to do. They hadn’t said anything either. But now I know. Thank you for being honest with us! You have done a service to our nation’s parks.

Thanks so much for writing back to us Kelly.  We really had been agonizing over posting your identification request because we did not want to alienate you in any way and we most certainly did not want to dampen the enthusiasm you and Reuben have for the wonders of nature.  We suspect the rangers did not see a family outing as any great threat to the survival of any endangered creatures.  We are happy to learn that you are able to continue your collecting at a sanctioned location.


Subject: Thirsty Butterflies
Location: Coryell County, central Texas
December 5, 2012 10:24 pm
I hand watered our shrubs and flowers today due to the continuing dry and warm weather. Well, thirsty butterflies flew to the yard, and drank and drank. I spotted several of these individuals. Are they skippers, perhaps Common Checkered-skippers? I looked in Bug Guide. I think the last individual may be ovipositing? Nature is confused by the unseasonable warmth, perhaps. Either that or the butterflies are thinking, ”Make hay while the sun shines.” A cold front is due to arrive on Sunday, alas, with temps maybe dropping into the teens. 🙁 (I left the last photo uncropped so that you could zoom as you wished.)Love your website and the information, thank you!
Signature: Ellen

Checkered Skipper

Hi Ellen,
Sorry about the delay in posting your second submission.  After posting the Red Admiral, we forgot about these Skippers which do appear to be Checkered Skippers.   The final photo does appear to have caught an individual in the act of oviposition, but there is no plant visible in the photo.  Butterflies generally oviposit directly onto the food plant for the caterpillar which for the Checkered Skipper includes plants in the mallow family, according to Bugguide.  There are many weeds in the mallow family that grow in gardens and yards.

Checkered Skipper

Update from Ellen
Subject: Checkered Skipper with Plants
Location: Coryell County, central Texas
December 13, 2012 1:29 am
Hello, enclosed is another photo of the checkered skipper with plants. I’m not sure what the host plant is, possibly the plant with the lavender stem. We have many wildflowers in this dry creekbed behind our house. Thank you again for all of your interesting help and information.
Signature: Ellen

Checkered Skipper

Hi Ellen,
Thanks for the update.  The leaves in the photo look like they might be from the mallow family.

The Baccharis that is blooming in Elyria Canyon Park is attracting a myriad of insects in search of nectar.
Location:  Elyria Canyon Park, Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
September 30, 2012

Baccharis near Red Barn in Elyria Canyon Park

The hedge of native Baccharis near the Red Barn in Elyria Canyon Park is about ten feet tall and it is currently in bloom.  There is a noticeable buzzing one hears upon approach, and that is caused by thousands of Honey Bees eagerly gathering nectar.  It seems Baccharis is a magnet for pollinating insects of all types, and without a doubt, the Honey Bees are the most numerous, but other insects can be spotted taking advantage of the bounty.

Honey Bees on Baccharis

Clare and Daniel made a trip on Saturday and though there was work to be done, Daniel used Clare’s camera to get a few photos.  The largest butterfly spotted on the Baccharis was a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, butDaniel was unable to get a photo with a spread wing view.

Painted Lady on Baccharis

Though the photo is quite out of focus, Daniel also managed to get a photo of this Checkered Skipper in the genus Pyrgus that did not want to hold still long enough to be photographed.

Checkered Skipper on Baccharis

A tiny creamy yellow butterfly was observed flying close to the ground, but it never landed, so no conclusive identification could be made.  Daniel returned today with a better camera and decided to document the visitors to the Baccharis.  A 50mm lens with a macro feature allowed for closeup photographs, however, since there was no zoom, the photographer often startled the insect subjects into flying away.  Luckily the tiny yellow butterfly made a return appearance and posed for two quick photos.  These photos substantiated a sighting local lepidopterist Julian Donahue made on August 23 of a Dainty Sulphur, Nathalis iole, though it is doubtful the individual Julian spotted over a month ago at his home is the same individual photographed in Elyria Canyon Park, which would indicate there may be a local population with noticeable numbers present in Mount Washington this summer.

Dainty Sulphur on Baccharis

There were at least three species of Gossamer Winged Butterflies present today, and the largest were the Gray Hairstreaks, Strymon melinus.  These little beauties have the habit of rubbing their hind wings together, perhaps to attract the attention of any predator into mistaking the tail and wing spots for the head of the butterfly and deflecting an attack from the vital organs to the expendable wings.

Gray Hairstreak and Honey Bee on Baccharis

Smaller than the Gray Hairstreak is another Gossamer Wing, the Marine Blue, Leptotes marina.  They were present in sufficient numbers to flutter about in small groups.

Marine Blue on Baccharis

The smallest of the Gossamer Winged Butterflies were another species of Blue, possibly the Achmon Blue, Plebejus acmon, though we are still awaiting Julian’s input on that identification.

Confirmation from Julian Donahue
NEW to the Mt. Washington Butterfly List! Good job, Daniel.
Although this is a tough group of butterflies to identify, it appears to be an Acmon Blue (Icaricia acmon). Larvae feed on Deerweed (Lotus scoparius, now Acmispon glaber) and Astragalus (none of this in Elyria that I know of); also on California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum.
Photo going up on MWHA Facebook page in the next few minutes.

Possibly Achmon Blue on Baccharis

The final butterfly species we were lucky enough to photograph today was an unidentified Grass Skipper in the family Hesperiinae, and they were also present in significant numbers.

Grass Skipper on Baccharis

Other visitors to the Baccharis that were spotted but not photographed include a Cabbage White, a Figeater, several Cactus Flies, a large Syrphid Fly and other flies.