Silver Spotted Skipper: Essential Facts and Tips

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The Silver Spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) is a fascinating butterfly species that can be easily recognized by its unique features. Belonging to the family of Lepidoptera, these skippers have a wingspan of about 1¾ – 2½ inches, making them relatively large compared to other skippers. With their chocolate brown wings and noticeably rounded lobe or tail, these butterflies are truly eye-catching.

As you observe the Silver Spotted Skipper, you’ll notice the transparent yellowish-gold spots in a row on their wings. The underside of the hind wing contains a large, silvery-white patch, which is characteristic of this species. This distinct marking makes Epargyreus clarus easy to identify among other butterflies and skippers.

In their natural habitat, these magnificent creatures can be found in various places, including open woodlands, gardens, and along low, medium, and high elevation habitats. They are widespread and adaptable, laying their eggs on several types of plants to ensure the survival of their caterpillars. Keep an eye out for the Silver Spotted Skipper, and admire its remarkable beauty.

Physical Description

Color and Markings

The silver-spotted skipper is a fascinating butterfly with a unique appearance. This skipper has a combination of orange, red, and brown coloration on its wings. One of its most noticeable features is the presence of a large white spot on the underside of each hind wing, giving it its name – “silver-spotted skipper”. Additionally, you might observe black and white markings on the dark brown forewings, making it quite visually appealing.

Size

Silver-spotted skippers are one of the largest and most widespread skipper species. Although they are considered a large skipper, their size is still relatively small compared to other butterflies. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that their size can vary between individuals.

Wingspan

When it comes to their wingspan, silver-spotted skippers are quite remarkable. Their wings are not only colorful but also serve as a means of identification for this particular species. The wingspan of a silver-spotted skipper ranges from 1.75 to 2.5 inches, which is fairly substantial for a skipper. With such a wingspan, these beautiful creatures can easily catch your eye as they flutter through the air, exploring their surroundings.

In summary, the silver-spotted skipper is an attractive butterfly with a unique appearance. Its distinctive white spot on the hindwings, combined with the colorful wings and black and white markings, make it a noteworthy species among skippers. Keep an eye out for these remarkable creatures during your next outdoor adventure!

Habitats and Distribution

United States and Canada

The silver-spotted skipper can be found throughout the United States and southern Canada. Its distribution spans from Florida to North America, covering multiple regions and habitats. In the US, you can spot these skippers from the Southeast to the Northeast, and even in parts of the Midwest. For example, they are known to inhabit areas like Florida, where the climate can be warm and humid.

Northern Mexico

In addition to the US and Canada, the silver-spotted skipper also extends its range to Northern Mexico. Here, its distribution is limited due to the specific habitat requirements and the availability of suitable host plants. However, these skippers can still be found in certain regions where the conditions are favorable.

Forests and Fields

Silver-spotted skippers can thrive in a variety of habitats, including forests, forest edges, fields, brushy areas, and swamps. These environments provide an ideal setting for their life cycle and feeding habits. To give you an idea about their preferred surroundings:

  • Forests: They often inhabit areas with trees and tall vegetation, providing ample spots for resting and nesting.
  • Fields: Open fields with blooming flowers are suitable for these skippers, as they serve as a source of nectar.

Here are some characteristics of their habitats:

  • Availability of host plants for the caterpillars to feed on
  • Presence of nectar-rich flowers for adult skippers to feed
  • Suitable shelter for the skippers in the form of trees, bushes, or tall grasses

By understanding their preferred habitats and distribution, you can keep an eye out for the silver-spotted skipper in your area and appreciate their unique presence in the rich tapestry of North American biodiversity.

Life Cycle

Eggs and Larvae

The life cycle of the silver-spotted skipper begins with the female laying eggs. Each egg is typically laid on a plant belonging to the Fabaceae family. As the larvae hatch, they often feed on leaves for nourishment.

Among the plants they prefer are:

  • Amorpha fruticosa
  • Leguminous plants

Caterpillar

Once they become caterpillars, these soon-to-be skippers form a leaf shelter. They use silkworm-like threads to pull the leaves together. Inside the shelter, they molt and grow through different instars.

Some notable caterpillar features include:

  • Brown heads
  • Vegetation covered with frass
  • Growing in leaf shelters

Transition to Butterfly

As caterpillars reach maturity, they enter the pupal stage. They develop inside a small, well-hidden shelter. Later, the adult silver-spotted skipper emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

To recap, the life cycle stages are:

  • Eggs and larvae
  • Caterpillars in leaf shelters
  • Pupal stage within a cocoon
  • Emergence as adult silver-spotted skippers

Diet and Predators

Diet

The silver-spotted skipper primarily feeds on nectar from various flowers. They prefer yellow, blue, and pink flowers such as honey locust1. Some examples of suitable nectar plants for their diet include:

  • Yellow: Goldenrod, Sunflower
  • Blue: Salvia, Asters
  • Pink: Phlox, Milkweed

It is important that you provide these nectar sources in your garden or habitat if you want to attract and support silver-spotted skippers.

Predators

Silver-spotted skippers face a variety of predators in their natural environment. Some common predators include:

  • Birds: Mockingbirds, Blue Jays
  • Wasps: Paper Wasps, Yellow Jackets

These predators are attracted to the skipper due to its size and colorful appearance. To protect themselves, silver-spotted skippers rely on their agility and camouflage while resting on leaves or animal feces1.

Overall, the silver-spotted skipper has a diet mainly consisting of nectar from various flowering plants, and faces predators like birds and wasps. By understanding their diet and predators, you can better support and appreciate these fascinating butterflies in your local environment.

Behaviour

The silver-spotted skipper is a large and recognizable skipper, known for its swift flight. It’s found across various habitats such as woodland edges, fields, and gardens. You’ll often see it feeding on flowers, demonstrating an agile and quick flying ability.

This skipper employs a unique defensive chemical to protect itself from predators. This helps to contribute to its success as a species. As you observe the silver-spotted skipper, take note of its behavior and unique features, some of which are:

  • Chocolate brown wings
  • Large white spot on the underside of each hind wing
  • Transparent yellowish-gold spots in a row on wings
  • Short, noticeable rounded lobe or tail on hind wing

While watching a silver-spotted skipper, you’ll notice its curious and investigative nature. They examine their environments and often return to the same locations, making it easier for you to spot them.

Remember that, as a featured creature, the silver-spotted skipper holds an important role in our ecosystem. So next time you’re out in nature, keep an eye out for this fascinating skipper and admire its swift, skilled flight.

Role in Ecosystem

As a Pest

The silver-spotted skipper is a member of the Hesperiidae family, which includes skippers, moths, and butterflies. While these creatures are typically harmless, they can occasionally cause problems in gardens and agricultural settings. You might find them feeding on a variety of host plants, such as soybean, kidney bean, groundnut, and American hogpeanut.

However, it’s important to note that silver-spotted skippers are not usually considered major pests. They may cause some damage to your plants, but the extent of the damage is typically minimal. If you’re a gardener or farmer, you should be aware of their presence, but they’re unlikely to severely impact your crops.

As a Host

Silver-spotted skippers rely on specific host plants during their various life stages. Some of their preferred host plants include American wisteria, false indigo, false indigobush, kudzu, and black locust. These plants serve as vital resources for silver-spotted skipper caterpillars who feed on the leaves.

As a result, these host plants play a crucial role in the silver-spotted skippers’ ecosystem. By providing food and shelter, they help support the skipper population, which in turn can be beneficial for other organisms that rely on skippers as a food source.

In summary, the silver-spotted skipper plays a role in the ecosystem as both a pest and a host. They can cause minimal damage to some plants, but on the other hand, they’re an essential part of the food chain by supporting various host plants and the organisms that depend on them.

Footnotes

  1. Silver-spotted Skipper – Epargyreus clarus (Cramer) 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Silver Spotted Skipper Caterpillar

 

Green caterpillar
Hello,
I am normally pretty good with bugs but graduated college before I had a chance to take the immatures course. There are about a dozen of these caterpillars that are bright green with brownish heads and small, bright orange eye spots encasing themselves on my false-indigo plant. I am assuming they are moths because they appear to be ready to spin cocoons, and not likely sphinx moths because there is no anal horn. Can you tell me what these might be and if they are possibly pests?
Thanks!
Columbia, MO
Amy

Silver Spotted Skipper Caterpillar
Silver Spotted Skipper Caterpillar

Hi Amy,
We are very thrilled to receive your great photo of a Silver Spotted Skipper Caterpillar, Epargyreus clarus.  You can get more information about the species on BugGuide.  Skippers are classified as butterflies, but many books, especially older books, consider them to be transitional between butterflies and moths in that they have characteristics of both.

Letter 2 – Mexican Silverspot

 

Subject: butterfly
Location: El Naranjal, Colima, Mexico
October 19, 2015 6:53 pm
Hi Bug Man. Can you help me identify this beauty? Have I discovered a rare and endangered creature? It has a sliver underside.
Signature: Diane

Mexican Silverspot
Mexican Silverspot

Dear Diane,
While you haven’t discovered a rare and endangered creature, you did discover your almost namesake as the Mexican Silverspot has the scientific name Dione moneta poeyii.  We first found a matching image by scrolling to the very bottom of The Dauphins site, and we verified that identification on the Butterflies of America site.  The Butterflies and Moths of North America states:  ” Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery” and the range is indicated as “Brazil north through Central America and Mexico. Strays to southern New Mexico and Texas.”

Letter 3 – Silver Spotted Fern Moth

 

Subject: Silver-Spotted fern moth
Location: Mancelona, MI
July 6, 2014 6:12 pm
Hello, all!
The Silver-Spotted Fern Moth (Callopistria cordata) is instantly recognizable by the reflective silver spots on the wings (they appear white here, of course). It’s orangeish to reddish brown, with a wingspan of 25-28 mm, according to Bugguide. As the name suggests, the larvae feed on ferns. Our area is absolutely stuffed with bracken ferns, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing more of these soon–this specimen, I spotted on July 5.
Signature: Helen

Silver Spotted Fern Moth
Silver Spotted Fern Moth

Hi Helen,
We have finally gotten around to posting your Silver Spotted Fern Moth image from the other day.  This really is a pretty Owlet Moth and we are linking to the BugGuide page.

Letter 4 – Silver Spotted Skipper

 

moth
I found this fellow by a stream in my neighborhood in Illinois. Could you let me know what he is? Joe

Hi Joe,
Your Silver Spotted Skipper, Epargyreus clarus, is a butterfly, not a moth.

Letter 5 – Silver Spotted Skipper

 

Subject: Can you identify?
Location: kansas city
July 17, 2016 8:49 pm
I’m submitting two pictures.
can you identify the orange bug
feeding on the milkweed? The other picture I’m thinking is either a month or a butterfly?
Thank you for your time 🙂
Signature: Julie

Silver Spotted Skipper
Silver Spotted Skipper

Dear Julie,
When we receive a single request with multiple species, we generally split them apart for classification purposes.  We will only be posting your image of a Silver Spotted Skipper,
Epargyreus clarus, which according to BugGuide:  “is one of the most conspicuous skippers, partly because of its size and partly because of its distinct silvery markings, which show while the insect rests. The caterpillars hide all day in silken nests among foliage, emerging to feed at night. There is one generation a year in the North; two or more in the South.”  Though classified as a butterfly, most naturalists recognize that Skippers also possess many characteristics of moths.  Your other image is of an Ailanthus Webworm Moth.

Letter 6 – Silver Spotted Skipper

 

Subject:  Moth-like Butterfly?
Geographic location of the bug:  Grafton, Wisconsin
Date: 08/01/2019
Time: 11:02 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi there,
I saw this butterfly on my walk today, haven’t seen one of these before so I’m curious to know what kind of butterfly it is. It almost looked like a moth at first. Thanks for the help!
How you want your letter signed:  Amber

Silver Spotted Skipper

Dear Amber,
This butterfly is a Silver Spotted Skipper, which we verified by comparing your image to this BugGuide image.  The silver spots are actually on the undersides of the hind wings as pictured in this BugGuide image.  Skippers are often discussed as having traits of both butterflies and moths.

Letter 7 – Silver Spotted Skipper

 

Subject:  Brown moth? Butterfly?
Geographic location of the bug:  Atchison
Date: 07/24/2019
Time: 02:26 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  On anise hyssop & butterfly bush.  Have seen since early spring
How you want your letter signed:  Rose

Silver Spotted Skipper

Dear Rose,
This is a Silver Spotted Skipper, and we are posting your image because it illustrates the namesake silver markings.  We posted an open winged view of a Silver Spotted Skipper yesterday.  Though Skippers are often thought of as having characteristics of both moths and butterflies, they are classified as butterflies.

Letter 8 – Silver Spotted Skipper Caterpillar

 

Strange Caterpillar
Found this in the yard – Northern Alabama. Light green body, dark purple head and weird orange eyes!! Cool looking, alien! What is it? Thanks!
Mike

Hi Mike,
This very distinctive caterpillar belongs to a butterfly called the Silver Spotted Skipper, Epargyreus clarus.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Silver Spotted Skippers

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