Thursday, August 8, 2013

Native Species Profile - Silver-spotted Skipper

August is probably the best time of the year to observe butterflies in Mid-Michigan.  Of the dozens of species that can be found in Michigan, the vast majority can be found in the period from late-July to early September.  Of the species that can be found this time of year one of my favorites is the Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus).

Skippers are butterflies that do not look like butterflies.  In many ways they look more like a moth than a butterfly.  They have thick, hairy bodies and compact wings.  Their antennae do not bear the typical round or teardrop shaped clubs of other species of butterflies; instead they are distinctively hooked at the end.  They are named skippers for the low erratic "skipping" flight.

Most skippers are small to medium sized butterflies that are generally brown, orange, white in color.  A couple of examples are shown below.

Juvenal's Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis)

Possibly a Hobomok Skipper (Poanes hobomok)

Because so many of the skippers look similar, it can be difficult to distinguish between species.  This is not an issue with the Silver-spotted Skipper.  The Silver-spotted Skipper is rather easy to identify.  For a skipper it is large, with a wingspan of 1.75 to 2.4 inches.  When seen from above it is rather indistinct.  Like many other skippers it is primarily brown in color with orange accents.

It is the view from the side/below that is distinctive.  As its name suggests it has a large silver-white spot centered on the underside of its hind wings.

Silver-spotted Skipper - note the hooked antennae and long probing proboscis
The Silver-spotted Skipper can be found throughout most of the United States and southern Canada, but is more common in the eastern Enited States.  It can be found from June to October in Michigan.  It is typically found in open habitats such as forest edges, fields, meadows, roadsides, and open woodlands.  Adults feed readily on nectar, and seem to show a preference for blue, pink, red, and purple flowers.  Larva feed on legumes.

Basic Information

Silver-spotted Skipper 
Epargyreus clarus

Size:  1 ¾-2 ½” wingspan

Habitat:  forest edges, open woodlands, roadsides, brushy fields, suburban areas

Larval Host Plants:  pea family, Black Locust, Honey Locust, wisterias, bush clovers

Time Found:  June – October

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