Fiery Skipper

Common Name: Fiery Skipper.

Scientific Name: Hylephila Phyleus.

What to look for?  Small, bright, orange “moth-looking” butterfly! The Fiery Skipper has “fiery” orange and brown patterned wings. The male Fiery Skipper has black markings on the edges of its wings, giving the edges of their wing a toothed appearance. Female Fiery Skippers have more and larger sized brown patches on both the top and underside of the wings. And they have short, knobbed antennae.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Fiery Skipper will be found here from May to September. They may perch on plants and flowers in our gardens, on our lawns or on some of the wildflowers along the banks of our ponds.

How big are they? The Fiery Skipper averages just over one inch in length. And their wingspan is approximately one and one-fourth inches.

What are their flight patterns? Adult Fiery Skippers exhibit an erratic, darting or skipping flight pattern – hence, their name!

How else do they behave? Fiery Skippers perch with the wings held in the characteristic Hesperiine position - hindwings outspread, and forewings held up at 45 degrees. During a hot day, they will close their wings to regulate their body temperatures – similar to what a dragonfly may do to keep cool. They also tend to stay in a limited area, traveling less than fifty yards on any day.

What’s for dinner? Like all butterflies, Fiery Skippers have a different diet during their larval caterpillar phase than they do as winged adults. Adult Fiery Skippers feed on the nectar from flowers of a variety of plants including asters, thistles, knapweed, ironweed, and swamp milkweed. In its larval form, the caterpillar hosts on turf grasses such as Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass, and other grasses – essentially our lawns and golf courses!

Where do they take up residence? The Fiery Skipper is primarily found in the southern United States. However, each summer, this skipper may stray as far north as northern California, southern Minnesota, southern Ontario, and southern New England. Fiery Skippers are most often found in open areas, grassy fields, meadows, lawns, gardens, and alfalfa and clover fields.

When and where do they breed and nest? Remember the lifecycle of a butterfly: (1) eggs, (2) larval state as caterpillar, (3) pupa state in chrysalis or cocoon, and (4) butterfly. The lifespan of an adult butterfly is measured in weeks. Adult Fiery Skippers mate the day they emerge and females lay eggs three to four days after mating. Females deposit one hundred or more eggs. Eggs are laid individually, usually under the leaf blades or on the stems of their host plant. Caterpillars eat leaves and roll and tie them to make shelters which lie horizontally in the turfgrass. The caterpillar will molt five times during its larval stage before finally pupating and emerging as an adult Fiery Skipper.

Where do they migrate? They do not migrate, but some portion of the Fiery Skipper population move north nearly every year from their southern locations. Those who have strayed north will move south as temperatures drop up here.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Fiery Skipper:

  • In the Southern U.S., Fiery Skippers are usually encountered in colonies of a dozen or more; but when they stray north, they are most often seen singly.

  • As a caterpillar, the Fiery Skipper lives within a nest made by binding grass blades together with strands of silk.

  • When fully grown, the caterpillar varies in color from yellowish brown to drab green.

For more information on the Fiery Skipper and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Butterflies and Moths of North America, Iowa State University’s Bug Guide, University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web, Wisconsin Butterflies and University of Florida’s Featured Creatures.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!