Florida Butterflies~Skippers

23 Jan

A Time to Live

Melody Hendrix


Skippers are a family, Hesperiidae, of the Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies).  “Are Skippers butterflies or a moths?”


 They fly during the day like butterflies, but have some characteristics that seem to set them apart from other butterflies. Scientists have generally compromised by declaring skippers to be a third category, somewhere between butterflies and moths.


Being diurnal, they are generally called butterflies. Their host plants are those in the legume family, so a vegetable gardener may occasionally find these caterpillars on their green beans or peas. You will find them on Beggar ticks (Bidens). A very common and important wildflowers. Also known as Spanish needles and tickseed.


 Long-tailed skipper caterpillars are “leaf-rollers” – they take shelter inside leaves by using silk to draw the leaf around them. Caterpillars make a nest out of a leaf or leaves and spend their time in the nest when they are not eating.


When they lay eggs,

they sometimes make stacks of their eggs when laying on their host plants!


Worldwide in distribution, skippers are richest in the tropics. More than 3,500 species are described, with approximately 275 in North America, many of which are found only in Arizona and Texas. Most skippers are small to medium, usually orange, brown, black, white, or gray. A few have iridescent colors.


 Skippers have large eyes, short antennae (often with hooked clubs), stout bodies, and three pairs of walking legs. Their flight is often rapid, making wing movement appear blurred. Adults of most species have long probicscises and feed on floral nectar, but some also take up nutrients from bird droppings. Males have scent scales found in modified forewing patches.

Butterflies, moths, skippers; really… what is the difference?

The answer would primarily be the antennae. Butterfly antennae are thin with knobs on the tips most of the time while skippers have hooked ends instead of knobs.


The order Lepidoptera consists of approximately 265,000 species of butterflies and moths worldwide and only about 7.5% of them are butterflies. Moths are much more abundant than butterflies, but, why is it that we notice more butterflies? This is easy to answer. Many moths are nocturnal, they are active at night. We notice butterflies more often because they are usually more colorful and active during the day as they visit our flowers and gardens on a regular basis. But, there are actually more day flying moths than there are butterflies.

The colors displayed on butterfly wings can be any color imaginable. But when you think of a moth, you think browns, tans, and dull colors.There are many moths that have beautiful bright colors and butterflies that are dull brown for camouflaging.

Next week we’ll look at some strange and lovely moths you may have seen in your garden.


I am retired and enjoying life. My hobbies are my 5 grandchildren, son and daughter, and my loving husband. I am a photographer and extreme nature lover. I love spending time in my garden or in the wilderness connected to God my Creator.

One Response to “Florida Butterflies~Skippers”

  1. divoran09 January 23, 2018 at 11:20 am #

    Exquisite and entertaining.


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