Skipper or skipper butterfly is a member of the Lepidoptera group which include moths and butterflies. Because skipper butterflies are physically distinct from other butterflies (Rhopalocera), they were classified in the monotypic superfamily Esperioidea previously. However, these species are now classified as part of the butterfly family – Papilionoidea. That is why skippers are called skipper butterflies. Let’s dive into more skipper butterfly facts.
1. Skipper butterflies can be everywhere in the world
Except for Antarctica, there are over 4,000 species of skipper butterfly all over the world. They can be found in grasslands, field borders, and woodland glades throughout Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. Each area will have distinct skipper butterflies.
For example, you can find the small skipper and other members of the Eudaminae subfamily, such as the Essex skipper in North America or Europe. In Australia, the regent skipper can be found. The African giant skipper (Pyrrhochalcia iphis) only lives in Africa. The chequered skipper lives in Japan, the UK, Europe, and North America. Grass skippers are distributed all across the world except in New Zealand.
2. Skipper butterfly identification
When you first look at a skipper butterfly, you will notice that it looks like a cross between a moth and a butterfly. Like butterflies, many members of this species, are extremely colorful, especially those with orange color or have ornate markings. They are diurnal, they fly and visit flowers during the day.
Skipper butterflies, like moths, are bulky, with a sturdy body, huge head, hooked antennae, and short wings. Their wings are typically well-rounded, with sharply pointed forewings. Some have large hindwing tails, while others have more angled wings.
The main colors of skippers are browns and greys, although some can come with black and white colors. You can barely see a red, yellow, or blue skipper butterfly, these colors are less common. There are no skipper butterflies with metallic iridescence or green color.
Many species of skippers look almost exactly the same. Take Amblyscirtes, Erynnis (duskywings), and Hesperia (branded skippers) as an example. You cannot tell the difference between them. It’s even hard for specialists to distinguish in the field.
3. Types of skipped butterflies
Because of the many subfamily categories, it is hard to estimate the population data for this species. There are about 3500 species of skipper butterflies in the world, divided into eight subfamilies:
- Coeliadinae, Euschemoninae (regent skippers)
- Heteropterinae, Hesperiinae (grass skipper butterflies)
- Pyrginae (firetips and spread-winged skippers)
- Trapezitinae (Australian skippers)
- Eudaminae (dicot skippers)
- Megathyminae (giant skipper butterflies):
Among those subfamilies, the Hesperiinae is the biggest skipper subfamily on the planet so far, with more than 2000 species (Clouded skipper, Brazilian skipper, Dun skipper, Long Dash skipper, Crossline skipper, Pepper and Salt skipper, Arctic skipper). The Pyrginae subfamily is on second place with more than 1000 species (Long-tail skipper, Mangrove skipper butterfly, Dingy skipper, Grizzled skipper).
Heteropterinae subfamily contains 150 species, the Coeliadinae subfamily is about 75 species. There are 60 species in the Trapezitinae subfamily. Last but not least, the Megathyminae subfamily contains 18 species of skippers (California Giant-Skipper butterfly, Yucca Giant-Skipper).
Here are some common skipper butterflies:
– Checkered skipper butterfly (Carterocephalus palaemon): The wingspan of this butterfly ranges from 29 – to 31 millimeters. The upper sides of the wings sides are dark brown with golden spots and orange scales at the end of the wings. This gives them the English name – Chequered skipper butterfly. The underside of the wings has a similar design, but different colors. The hindwings are russet with cream spots edged in black, while the forewings are orange with dark dots.
– Silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus): is named from the silver band on the rear of its hindwings. It has about a 2-inch wingspan and a golden line along each forewing. The most distinguishing feature of this skipper is a large silver-white spot on the underside of each hindwing.
The adult skippers feed on flowers. This butterfly hardly comes to yellow flowers, they come to the red, blue, pink, and white instead.
– Small skipper butterfly (Thymelicus sylvestris): The wings, the antennae tip, and the upper body of this skipper are burnt orange. It has a silvery white body and a 27-millimeter wingspan. The undersides of the antennae tips are bright orange. The male has a distinguishing black stripe made up of smell scales.
The Western Pygmy blue (Brephidium exilis) is the world’s smallest butterfly, with a wingspan of 0.6 inches (1.5 centimeters).
– Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) is known as the European Skipper butterfly in the United States because it can be found throughout most of Europe. About appearance, it looks like the cousin Small skipper. The tips of the antennae are the easiest method to determine the difference between these two species. Small skippers are orange whereas the Essex comes in black color.
– Fiery skipper butterfly (Hylephila phyleus) is orange with little dark markings. Males, on the other hand, will be brighter orange and have fewer dots than females. The antennae of a fiery skipper are quite short, and the wingspan is about 1 – 1.5 inches. The skipper is common in California.
– Dakota skipper butterfly (Hesperia dacotae) is one of the vulnerable species which can only be found in North America in hilly greens. In terms of appearance, the stigma in the forewing of the male has a black felt inside it, while the forewing of the female has a translucent white mark under the cell.
– Altona Skipper butterfly is a unique butterfly that only lives in Altona. It only breeds, eats, lives, and dies on one plant, Gahnia filum – the chaffy saw-sedge.
4. Skipper Butterfly – Jigsaw Animal Puzzle
5. Skipper butterfly and butterfly and moth
Looks similar, but a skipper is not an actual butterfly. It is kind of a cross between a butterfly and a moth. These creatures have many features in common. So what’s the difference between a butterfly, a skipper, and a moth?
– Antennae: Butterflies has antennae which are filaments topped with a club. Moth antennae are the same but no club tip. For skipper butterflies, they have the antennae tips hooked.
– Body: The body of a skipper butterfly is similar to a moth’s. They have larger compound eyes and bulkier bodies, as well as stronger wing muscles in the thick thorax.
– When at rest: The moths spread their wings flat or hold them tilted over their large thorax and abdomen. The butterflies retain their wings in an expanded upward spread or straight position above the body. Skippers often maintain their short wings in a nearly vertical position over their body, similar to a butterfly. Its front and back wings may be held at various angles.
– During metamorphosis: The chrysalis of butterflies (including skipper butterflies) is frequently attached to a plant or other item and is not wrapped in a cocoon. On the other hand, moth pupae are frequently wrapped in a silk cocoon, and placed in leaf litter, and the cocoons contain fragments of leaves, twigs, and other plant material.
– Active: Butterflies and skippers are active during the day. Some species are most active during the hours of dusk and morning. Moths are typically nocturnal, however, some species are active during the day.
– The larvae (caterpillars): Although there are exceptions, butterfly larvae (caterpillars) are rarely regarded as destructive pests. Several types of moth larvae are harmful to crops and other plants.
– Colors: The moth normally wears plain colors and patterns and works at night. The butterfly wears bright colors and designs and is out in the open. The skipper has the colors of both a moth and a butterfly.
6. What do skipper butterflies eat?
– Larvae: Spread-winged skipper larvae eat forbs (broad-leaved flowers and other herb plants) or the leaves of woody plants. On the other hand, grass skipper larvae eat sedges and grass.
Some skipper butterflies can consume a large range of species, but others are pickier. The arogos skipper butterfly is an example. The caterpillar of this species can only feed on grasses, but not every grass. They can only eat big bluestem and few native grasses, which explains why they can only be found in native grassland habitats. The larvae of Dion skipper can eat solely sedges.
– Adults use their extra-long proboscises (like a tongue) to collect nectar from flowers. They also take moisture and nutrients from bird droppings, mud puddles, or river banks.
7. Have many predators
Skippers have many predators, such as amphibians, mammals, birds, and reptiles. If a skipper butterfly falls into a lake, it may be devoured by a fish. Praying mantises, crab spiders, bugs, and other enemies can always hide in the centers of the flowers and wait for a coming skipper to attack it.
8. Skipper butterfly is one of the fastest insects
There’s a reason why they call the species skippers: they are fast. Despite being small, they can fly and dart quickly so that they can keep up with a horse in a race. They can even reach speeds of up to 37 miles per hour. In addition, they naturally have the fastest reflexes.
When frightened, they will react twice as fast as we do. And that’s just the least number. Quick responses and flight speeds enable skippers to protect themselves from predators. These abilities are also beneficial for reproduction when chasing competitors away and looking for potential mates.
The thick thorax of a skipper holds substantial muscles for moving the wings, which explains its expertise in swift flying. However, the rounder and shorter wings of skipper butterflies are more suitable for short, quick, darting flights than for long distances.
Some quickest flying insects in the world are below:
For each type of skipper butterflies, the male skippers will have their own ways to woo the females. In their attempts to attract possible mates, male grass skippers frequently fly around females quickly and spread pheromones on their wings. Males in some species roam a location to look for females. Some usually rush out to examine and fray possible rivals away. The others mark territory and wait for a potential mate to fly nearby.
When successfully attracting a female, they will start to breed. Male and female abdomens typically lock together as the male fertilizes the eggs. Within two to three days after mating, the female will lay eggs, normally about 100 to 300 eggs. Those eggs are placed on flowers, leaves, stalks and leaf axils.
10. Skipper butterfly life cycle
Some skippers have many offspring, whereas others only have one generation per year. Skippers, like other butterflies, emerge from eggs as larvae (caterpillars). Caterpillars develop and molt several times. When the caterpillar reaches adulthood, it pupates and appears as a flying adult. Female skippers usually lay their eggs alone on or near appropriate host plants.
Eggs: Female skippers lay eggs which are globe and pale green eggs on the upper side of the host plant’s leaves.
Caterpillar: Skipper caterpillars have an unusually large head in comparison to their body width. The head is frequently darker in color than the rest parts of the body.
Each type of skipper will have different color, size, and pattern. The Brazilian skipper larvae have an orange head with black markings and a greenish-grey body. The Least Skipper caterpillar has a brown head and a greenish body.
Pupa: They are slim and green, black, or white. Pupation takes place in thin silk cocoons or silk and leaves.
Most skipper butterflies have well-rounded wings with sharp tips on the top. The wings could be brown, black and white, or gray when opened. On the wings, there will be some spots and patches in yellow, red, and blue color, particularly on those with brown bodies.
When the wings are closed, they are mostly brown or orange, with some golden or cream markings. Males with black scaly spots or stripes on their forewings are common. Their wingspan ranges from 2cm to 5cm on average. An adult skipper has a lifespan of around a year or less.