Alabama Butterfly Atlas

COMMON-CHECKERED AND WHITE-CHECKERED SKIPPER ARE CONSIDERED TOGETHER IN THIS ACCOUNT.  AT PRESENT, THESE TWO SPECIES CAN ONLY BE RELIABLY DISTINGUISHED BY DISSECTION.  BECAUSE THEY CANNOT BE DISTINGUISED IN THE FIELD, WE HAVE COMBINED THEIR DATA.

Butterfly: Wingspan:  ¾ to 1 ¼ inches (1.9-3.2 cm). This species, along with the closely-related Tropical Checkered Skipper, are the only two species of skippers in Alabama to have a black-and-white checkered pattern on the upper surface of the wings. The subtle differences between these two species have been discussed elsewhere (see Tropical Checkered-Skipper)Females are darker above than males.  Males differ by having more extensive coverage of long, bluish-white hairs over the body and basal portions of both upper wing surfaces. The underside of the forewing is similar to that of the upperside except that it is paler. The underside of the hindwing is dull white and crossed by three or four wavy, tan-colored bands (sometimes olive and tan)  that are finely-edged in black or brown. The fringing around the wings is checkered with alternating blocks of brownish-black and white.

Egg: The pale green egg is deposited singly on host leaves (mallows). 

Caterpillar: The young caterpillars live in a retreat made by folding over a leaf and tying it together silken strands. As the caterpillars grow larger, they may enlarge their retreat by tying together several leaves with silk. The caterpillar is pale yellowish-green with a darker green dorsal stripe that runs the length of the body, and 2 white stripes along each side. The body is covered with fine white hairs and tiny tubercles. The head is black and densely covered with white hairs.  The collar behind the head is reddish and sparsely covered with longer white hairs.

Chrysalis: The overwintering chrysalis has a light brown head grading into light green behind with black dots and dashes forming bands on the dorsum. The wing cases are greenish.

At present, Common and White Checkered-Skippers cannot be distinguished in the field; they can only be reliably identified by dissection.  Therefore in this account, they are treated together and their data is combined. White Checkered-Skipper was considered to be a southern race of Common Checkered-Skipper until it was given full species status in 2000.  Both species probably fly together in southern Alabama; however, they are indistinguishable in the field.

Males patrol for females in a well-defined territory for the majority of the day.They fly erratically and close to the ground. Occasionally, they perch on low vegetation or on the ground. When they nectar, puddle or rest, they usually hold their wings fully spread.

The Common Checkered-Skipper is to be expected to occur in every county in Alabama. Elsewhere, it is distributed from southern Canada southward throughout most of the United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America to Argentina.

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: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, Chambers , Chilton, Choctaw, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington, Wilcox, Winston

  • 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
1 4 3 22 27 41 88 69 10 26 16 9 49 60 25 5 5 6 9 42 56 11 28 5 18 29 28 52 65 78 135 85 97 48 45 42 31 7 5 5

Habitat

These skippers may be found in a wide variety of Alabama habitats including roadsides, disturbed sites, pastures, old fields, fallow agricultural lands, and wherever mallows (its host plant) grow.

Host and Nectar Plants

Prickly Fanpetals (Sida spinosa) has been verified as a host plant in Alabama..

Nearby states have reported that several species of mallow (Family Malvaceae) serve as host plants. These include various mallows (Malva spp.), false mallows (Malvastrum spp.), Carolina Bristle Mallow (Modiola caroliniana), Hollyhock (Alcea rosea), sidas (Sida spp), and Velvet Leaf (Abutilon theophrasti).

The Common/White Checkered-Skipper sips nectar from a variety of small flowers.       

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

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 Common/White Checkered-Skipper.