Overview

Comprehensive Description

Hesperiidae (Skippers)
Skippers are small- to medium-sized insects, resembling butterflies or moths (they are more closely related to the former). They have hairy bodies that are short, stout, and rather dull-colored, while their wings consist of some pattern of brown, grey, or yellowish orange and black. Skippers have a fast, darting flight, and favor open, sunny areas. The caterpillars of most species feed on grasses or sedges in prairies or wetlands. However, the caterpillars of Epargyreus clarus (Silver-Spotted Skipper), feed on members of the Bean family (including Locust trees), while those of Pholisora catyllus (Common Sootywing) feed on various weedy plants, including Pigweeds, Amaranths, and Lamb's Quarters. Both of these species are larger than the other skippers. There are many species in this family, and they are important visitors to many prairie wildflowers, particularly during the summer or fall.

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Distribution

Geographic Range

Species in this family are found all around the world. There are about 300 species in North America, and 47 of them occur in Michigan.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

These are short stout insects, with shorter wings than most butterflies. Their antennae end in thick hooks. Michigan species are mostly brown or tan, with black, orange, or yellow markings.

Skipper caterpillars are usually green or brown, sometimes yellowish, never brightly colored. They have a distinctive "collar", a narrow ring around the body right behind the head.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

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Ecology

Habitat

As usual for Lepidoptera, these species are usually found near their host plants. Most North American species feed on grasses, but some common species eat shrubs and trees, especially in the bean family.  They are most common in meadows and on the edges of woods, but can be found in in many habitats.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: taiga ; desert or dune ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Skipper caterpillars eat the leaves of grasses, reeds, shrubs or trees. Most species are limited to a single group of food plants.

Adults mostly drink nectar, and sometimes mud (for minerals).

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Associations

Predation

Caterpillars are camouflaged and often hide during the day. Many species make nests of leaves and silk for additional protection.

Adults are quick flyers, but have no special defense.

Known Predators:

  • Aves
  • Soricidae (eat pupae)
  • Sigmodontinae (eat pupae)
  • Anura (eat adults)
  • Araneae, especially crab spiders and orb-weavers (eat adults)
  • Formicidae (eat caterpillars)
  • Hymenoptera (eat caterpillars and adults)
  • mantids (eat adults)
  • Diptera (eat caterpillars)
  • Coccinellidae (eat eggs)
  • Chrysopidae (eat eggs)
  • Acari (eat eggs)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Like most butterflies, they communicate mainly through sight and scent. Males fly to females and each species has its own set of actions and scents used to attract mates.

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Adult Behavior

Adult behavior:

Their erratic, darting flight earns hesperids their common name "skippers".

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Life Cycle

Development

Like all Moths and Butterflies, this family has complete metamorphosis. See More Information on Butterflies and Moths for an explanation of this. In this family, it is usually the larval stage that survives the winter in cold climates.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Skippers only live for about a year or less.

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Reproduction

After mating, females lay dozens to hundreds of eggs, one by one, on or near their food plants.

Breeding season: Late Spring through Fall, depending on the species. Michigan species often seen flying in October.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships

View Hesperiidae Tree

The hypothesis of relationships is based on the combined morphological/molecular cladistic analysis of Warren et al. (2008). Eudaminae is removed from Pyrginae in order to preserve monophyly of the latter. Pyrrhopygini (formerly viewed as a subfamily) is nested within Pyrginae.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:30,653Public Records:16,871
Specimens with Sequences:28,760Public Species:899
Specimens with Barcodes:27,731Public BINs:712
Species:2,006         
Species With Barcodes:1,804         
          
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hesperiidae sp.1YB

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Hesperiidae

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Conservation

Conservation Status

No Skippers in Michigan are considered endangered, but some species in other parts of the country are in danger of extinction because their habitats are being changed or destroyed.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Skippers don't have strong negative or positive affects on humans. They are common butterflies even in urban areas, and people often like to see them.

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Wikipedia

Skipper (butterfly)

A skipper or skipper butterfly is a butterfly of the family Hesperiidae. They are named after their quick, darting flight habits. There are more than 3500 recognized species of skippers and they occur worldwide, but with the greatest diversity in the Neotropical regions of Central and South America.[1]

Description and systematics[edit]

Plate from Biologia Centrali-Americana showing Pyrginae (3 at right center — black and blue-brown) and Eudaminae (the others)

The Hesperiidae are placed in a monotypic superfamily Nicola Ross'. This is because they form a lineage apart from other Rhopalocera (butterflies), which mostly belong to the typical butterfly superfamily Papilionoidea. The third and rather small butterfly superfamily are the moth-butterflies (Hedyloidea) which are restricted to the Neotropics. Hesperioidea is very likely the sister group of Papilionoidea, and together with Hedyloidea they constitute a natural group (clade).

Collectively, these three groups of butterflies share many characteristics, especially in the egg, larval and pupal stage.[1] However, skippers have the antennae clubs hooked backward like a crochet hook, while the typical butterflies have club-like tips to their antennae, and moth-butterflies have feathered or pectinate (comb-shaped) antennae similar to "moths". Skippers also have generally stockier bodies and larger compound eyes than the other two groups, with stronger wing muscles in the plump thorax, in this resembling many "moths" more than the other two butterfly lineages do. But unlike, for example, the Arctiidae, their wings are usually small in proportion to their bodies. Some have larger wings, but only rarely as large in proportion to the body as in other butterflies. When at rest, skippers keep their wings usually angled upwards or spread out, and only rarely fold them up completely.[1]

The wings are usually well-rounded with more or less sharply-tipped forewings. There are some with prominent hindwing tails, and others have more angled wings; the skippers' basic wing shape varies not much by comparison to Papilionoidea however. Most have a fairly drab coloration of browns and greys; some are more boldly black-and-white. Yellow, red and blue hues are less often found, but some largely brown species are quite rich-colored too. Green colors and metallic iridescence are generally absent. Sexual dichromatism is present in some; males may have a blackish streak or patch of scent scales on their forewings.[1]

Many species of skippers look frustratingly alike. For example, some species in the genera Amblyscirtes, Erynnis (duskywings) and Hesperia (branded skippers) cannot currently be distinguished in the field even by experts. The only reliable method of telling them apart involves dissection and microscopic examination of the genitalia, which have characteristic structures that prevent mating except between conspecifics.[1]

Subfamilies[edit]

The Regent Skipper (Euschemon rafflesia) is the most distinct skipper butterfly, forming a subfamily of its own

There are about 3500 species of skippers. They are now classified in the following subfamilies:[2]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Ackery et al. (1999)
  2. ^ Brower & Warren (2008)

References[edit]

  • Ackery, P.R.; de Jong, R. & Vane-Wright, R.I. (1999): The Butterflies: Hedyloidea, Hesperioidea and Papilionoidae. In: Kristensen, N.P. (ed.): Handbook of Zoology. A Natural History of the phyla of the Animal Kingdom. Volume IV Arthropoda: Insecta, Part 35: Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies Vol.1: Evolution, Systematics, and Biogeography: 263-300. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York.
  • Brower, Andrew V.Z. & Warren, Andrew (2008): Tree of Life Web ProjectHesperiidae. Version of 2008-APR-07. Retrieved 2009-DEC-24.
  • Brower, Andrew V.Z. & Warren, Andrew (2006): The higher classification of the Hesperiidae (Lepidoptera: Hesperioidea) Full Article. Retrieved 2012-OCT-26.

Further reading[edit]

  • Glassberg, Jeffrey Butterflies through Binoculars, The West (2001)
  • Guppy, Crispin S. and Shepard, Jon H. Butterflies of British Columbia (2001)
  • James, David G. and Nunnallee, David Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies (2011)
  • Pelham, Jonathan Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada (2008)
  • Pyle, Robert Michael The Butterflies of Cascadia (2002)
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