Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan is 1 to 1 3/8 inches (2.5–3.5 cm).  Males and females of the Zabulon Skipper have distinctly different color patterns.  The male is a small to medium-sized skipper.  It is yellowish to yellowish-orange in color with dark brown along the upper and lower wing margins. A postbasal to submedian, slightly curved brown band crosses the underside of the hindwing. A distinctive brown patch is found along the median inner margin of the hindwing.  The underside of the hindwing in females is largely dark brown and black intermingled with orange patches, and a purplish-gray wash along the outer wing margins, and a white edge on the costal margin. The upperside of the forewing in females is purplish-to-blackish brown with pale yellowish-white, blocks of angular spots in the forewing forming a zigzag pattern

Egg:  Females lay their small, pale green eggs singly under the blades of certain species of grasses.

Caterpillar:  The caterpillars are brown to light green, occasionally with a pinkish hue. The head is brown with a white “collar”. There is a dark mid-dorsal stripe, and a pale cream-colored dorsolateral stripe along each side. The caterpillars feed on the blades of grass hosts. Caterpillars make shelters of leaves rolled together and tied with silken threads. .

Chrysalis: The chrysalis is whitish, with a pinkish hue toward the thorax

Males perch on sunlit branches and twigs along forest edges and roadsides where they defend their perch from rival males that pass by. Females usually perch in more shaded areas.  Both sexes have a rapid flight. Courtship usually occurs during the afternoon.

The Zabulon Skipper has been found in Alabama mostly in the upper one-half of the State. Elsewhere, this skipper  is distributed from Massachusetts westward to central Kansas, southward to east Texas and along the Gulf coastal states to central Florida. A disjunct population occurs from central Mexico to Panama, Central America.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Bibb, Calhoun, Chambers , Chilton, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lowndes, Macon, Marshall, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Shelby, Tuscaloosa

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
3 13 19 41 51 64 115 37 36 4 3 5 3 14 12 2 13 17 33 10 26 24 12 4 7 4

Habitat

The Zabulon Skipper prefers grassy openings near forest edges, stream corridors, roadsides, pastures, old fields, and edges of wetlands.  It sometimes wanders into suburban gardens and sips nectar from flowers.

Host and Nectar Plants

In Alabama, Japanese Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum) has been documented. This is a highly invasive, alien plant that grows in the shade, spreads rapidly, and is very difficult to eradicate.

Slender Spikegrass/Slender Wood Oats (Chasmanthium laxum) is suspected in Florida. In other areas, larvae have been reported to feed on the following grasses:  wild ryes (Elymus spp.), bentgrasses (Agrostis spp.), Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata.), bluegrasses  (Poa spp.), Purple Top (Tridens flava ), Small-fruited Panic Grass (Panicum microcarpon), and lovegrasses (Eragrostis spp.).

The Zabulon Skipper sips nectar from a wide variety of flowers.

Landscaping Ideas

Provide a variety of garden worthy, nectar-rich flowers to attract butterflies like the Zabbulon Skipper. These include: Butterfly Milkweed and other milkweeds; Purple Coneflower and other coneflowers; black eyed susans; phloxes; mountain mints; Common Buttonbush; Joe Pye weeds; gayfeathers/blazing stars; Mistflower; ironweeds; asters; and goldenrods.

If you have a lawn in your landscape, consider letting it be natural.  The diverse assemblage of native and nonnative flowering plants and grasses typically found in naturalized lawns provides nectar and host sources for many small butterflies including Zabulon Skippers.