Hesperiidae: Skippers

Members of the Hesperiidae family are commonly known as skippers. They have world-wide distribution.

Appearance

Most are small- to medium-sized butterflies with stout bodies, large eyes and triangular wings that are orange, brown, black, white, or gray. Their antennae are clubbed:usually hooked at the tip and widely separated at the base. All three pairs of legs are well-developed and functional for walking.

Skippers are strong fliers. Their flight is often darting and rapid with blurred wing movement.

Host plant

Larvae generally pupate in cocoons formed of leaves and silk. While most adults nectar on flowers. Some adults also take nutrients from bird droppings.

Spread-wing skippers (Pyrginae)

Persium duskywing butterfly
Persius duskywing (Erynnis persius) on a flower.

Duskywings and checkered skippers are the only members of the Pyrginae that inhabit temperate climates. Most of the other members are sub-tropical.

Appearance

Adults of many species land with their wings open, hence their name. Their colors tend to be gray, brown, or black, and are often mottled or checkered with white or pale patches of scales.

Host plants

Adults nectar from flowers. Adult males also imbibe moisture from sand or mud. Larvae use broad-winged plants such as oaks, mallows, lupines and willows.

Grass Skippers (Hesperiinae)

Juba skipper (Hesperia juba)
Juba skipper (Hesperia juba)

This is a large group with many common species. They are also known as folded-wing skippers.

Appearance

Many temperate species are primarily orange. The front and hind wings, at rest, are generally held at different angles. Grass skippers’ heads are about as wide, or wider than, their thorax. They also usually have abruptly angled antennae.

These butterflies are rapid fliers, and oten seem to be bouncing on the air.

Host plant

Larvae feed on monocotyledons, grasses, and allied plants.