The Skipper Butterfly - Hesperiidae Family

Essex Skipper
Photo: Hakoar

The skipper butterfly is part of the Hesperiidae butterfly family and has their own identification group. Skippers wings appear smaller proportionately because of their much thicker body.

They are called skippers because that is how they fly. They skip from flower to flower in a quick, erratic manner rather than having a fluid, graceful flight pattern like other butterfly species.

Skippers are brown or gray in color. They can have white or orange markings. With exception, overall they are dull in color when compared to their more brightly colored butterfly cousins.

There are over 3000 species of skippers throughout the world. In North America there are approximately 275 species. Although found in many environments, they especially prefer the hot, dry climates as found in the southern states into Central America.  

The typical skipper butterfly shape has a thick body, large head and short triangular-shaped forewings.  Antennae are widely separated at the base and the tips appear very bulbous or are curved.

Like those little white butterflies from the Pieridae Family, many Hesperiidae can be pests for gardeners and farmers.  Often the host plants of choice are legumes and while feeding caterpillars prefer to conceal themselves in various ways.  This is not always the case, however.  Many skipper butterflies prefer grasses and sedges as larval hosts.

Caterpillar shapes have large heads, thin necks and the body tapers at both ends.  During the pupation stage the chrysalis are not attached to any support, which is quite different than other butterflies.  Skipper butterflies rest in a loosely woven, cocoon-like environment created by sewing leaves together during their caterpillar stage.

Depending on the species of Skipper butterfly, it can be either the larva or pupa that overwinters.  When laying eggs most female's lay one at a time and have one to two broods a year.

Species included in this family include Cloudywings, Duskywings, Checkered, Sooty-wings, Grass Skippers and Roadside Skippers.

Common Checkered
(Pyrgus communis)

This is a widespread species of butterflies where markings can vary depending on species.  Very common throughout the United States, it is also found in Southern Canada and much of Mexico.

These small butterflies 3/4" to 1-1/4" (1.9cm - 3.17cm) and can be inconspicuous.  Butterfly larva are small and tan with brown and white stripes running along the length of caterpillar.  Host plants include hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) and hibiscus (Hibiscus spp).

Photo: Steven Love

(Urbanus proteus)

This colorfully iridescent butterfly is beautiful to look at.  With hind wings similar to a Swallowtail butterfly, it is abundantly found in the southern states and throughout South America.

Photo: Dave allen photo

The Long-tailed is considered a pest to gardeners and farmers that grow legumes.  The caterpillar rolls itself within a leaf then feeds.  Farmers call this caterpillar the 'bean-leaf roller'.

Peck's Skipper Butterfly
(Polites peckius)

Growing up to 1 1/4" (3.17 cm), this butterfly is found in southern Canada and northern United States.  Males perch when seeking a female and after mating, she lays one egg at a time.

Butterfly larvae are maroon with light brown markings and a black head.  The head has white stripes and spots.

Photo: Paul Lemke

Fiery Skipper
(Hylephila phyleus)

Fiery butterflies are considered grass skippers simply because of their host plants which include Bermuda Grass, Crabgrass and St. Augustine Grass.

Males like this perch when seeking a female butterfly to mate with. 

Photo: Edwardwho

Yellow Patch Skipper
(Polites peckins)

Found throughout North America, this is a common visitor to our gardens.  Caterpillars are dark maroon with brown splotches.  Host plants are grasses and adults skip to a variety of different flowers, including butterfly bushes.

Photo: Paul Lemke

Fiery Skipper
(Hylephila phyleus)

These butterflies average 1-1/4 in length.  The female will have several broods from May through August.  In warmer climates year round.  She lays the butterfly egg singly under plant leaves. 

Photo: Teh Soon Huat

Arctic Skipper -
Carterocephalus palaemon

Found widespread throughout the world in the cold and temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia.

Caterpillars are a pale yellow to brown with pink stripes.  Host plants are grasses.

Photo: Henrikhl

Chocolate Demon Skipper
(Ancistroides nigrita)

Found in Singapore and Malaysia.  Commonly found in public areas like parks, and caterpillar can be found on host plant Zingiberaceae.  When puddling, not only found in damp soil but also bird droppings and other animal excretions.

Photo: Thawats

White Banded Awl
(Hasora taminatus)

Found in India, Thailand and Asia and other surrounding countries.  Host plants include Derris scandens and Pongamia.

Photo: Thawats

Yellow Banded Awl
(Hasora schoenherr)

There are 35 - 40 Awl species of butterflies.  Many Awl Butterflies grow 1-3/4 inches to over 2 inches (4.4 cm - 5+ cm).  They can be found in Southeast Asia, India, Thailand, Singapore and other surrounding countries.

Photo: Thawats

Orange-tail Awl
(Bibasis sena)

Found in the same areas as the above Awl butterflies, the Orange-tail flies close to the ground and are very fast.  Host plants are Combretum, or Bushwillows.

Photo: Thawats

Orange Awlet
(Burara harisa)

This picture is of the vibrant male butterfly.  Females will be more steel blue-green when wings are up.  The Orange Awlet is a morning to mid-afternoon flier.  The above Orange-tail is a dawn to dusk flier.

Photo: Thawats

Plotz Green Awl
(Hasora salanga)

Found in the same areas as other Awls (see Yellow-banded Awl) with the same host plant is Combretum, or Bushwillows.

Photo: Thawats

Indian Skipper Butterfly
(Hesperia sassacus)

This very small, common butterfly is found throughout the United States in colder, cooler climates from as far north as Wisconsin to the Smokey Mountains.  Larval food are various grasses like panic grass and crab grass.

Photo: Pimmimemom

It is common to for Skippers to be termed a Grass Skipper Butterfly.  Of the 3000 species 2000+ are grass skippers.  Species rely on grasses and sedges as larval host plants. 

Photo: Kitsen

Brown Kolbiger
(thymelicus sylvestris)

This is more familiarly known as the the Small Skipper Butterfly.  It is found in the U.K. and throughout Europe.  Before laying her eggs, the female will rub her abdomen against grass to make a slit near the top.  It is inside this slit she will lay her 4-5 eggs.

Photo: Orlando8

Silver-Spotted Skipper Butterfly
(Epargyreus clarus)

With a wingspan up to 2 inches, The Silver-spotted skipper is found in gardens and backyards throughout North and Central America.  This is one of the larger butterflies in the Hesperiidae family and are seen late summer to early fall.

Host plants include legumes for butterfly larva so if their are beans growing in your garden, it's highly likely bright green caterpillars having mottled dark spots are there, likely hiding from you.  This caterpillar also likes to conceal itself.

Photo: Stephen Bonk

Hoary Edge
(Achalarus lyciades)

Growing as large as 2" (5 cm), this butterfly gets its name from the color on their butterfly wings.  Hoary means gray to white which is the large color blotch on the edge of their hindwings. 

Preferred host plants  come from the Fabaceae, or pea family. 

Photo: Pimmimemon

(Pyrgus malvae)

Found across Europe, Asia and Mongolia, this butterfly is in decline along with the below Dingy. 

Larvae are green with a large black head and hosts are potentilla dna wild strawberry.

Photo: Cristian64

Dingy Skipper
(Erynnis tages)

Preferring cooler climates, this common butterfly found in northern Europe, Asia and China.  It is often mistaken for the pictured above Grizzled Butterfly.  The favored host plant in crown vetch from the pea family.

Photo: Whiskybottle

Chestnut Angel
(Odontoptilum augulatum)

Having a chestnut brown wing color, this butterfly is found in Singapore, Thailand and India.  Once the butterfly emerges it tends to feeds on nectar close to host plants or bird droppings.

Photo: Thawats

Large Checkered Skipper Butterfly
(Heteropterus morpheus)

When this butterflies wings are down color is mainly a dull brown with a few patches of white. 

When wings are up seen are the large whitish-cream colored spots that are surrounded by brown.

It is found in various areas throughout Europe, Sweden, Lithuania, Balkans and Turkey to central Asia.  Wingspan is up to 1 1/2" (3.8 cm).

Caterpillars are green with white stripes.  They have brown and cream colored striped head.

Photo: Jinfeng Zhang

Related Articles:

     The five other 'true-butterfly' families include -

     There are many other families of butterflies but they fall
     into sub-categories of the Skipper and above listed.

Back from Skipper Butterfly to Butterfly Information

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