Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan is 1 1/2  to 2 inches (3.8-4.1 cm). A relatively large, easily-recognized skipper because of the presence of two long (one-half inch) tails extending from the hindwings. The upperside of both fore- and hindwings is largely brown which contrasts with the iridescent blue-green of the body and wing bases.  Several glassy white, somewhat squarish to hour-glass-shaped spots occur in the outer one-half of the forewing. The underside is brown with distinctive white spots in the forewing and dark bands and brownish blotches in the hindwing. The hindwing margins are bordered in white. The tails are dark brown to black.

Egg:  Females lay pale yellow eggs either singly or in groups of 20 eggs on the underside of host leaves (usually legumes). 

Caterpillars: Young caterpillars cut host leaves and fold them over into a tube-like structure. They extrude silken strands to hold the tube together. The larvae then use the tube as a retreat.  As they grow larger, they may tie several leaves together to form a larger tube retreat. The caterpillar is yellow-green with a thin black middorsal line that runs from just behind the head to the tail end.  A broader subdorsal, yellow longitudinal stripe runs the length of the body. The russet to crimson colored head has a pair of red false eyespots

Chrysalis: The chrysalis is largely brown with shadings of blue and yellow, and with a powdery white surface.

This skipper is migratory and flies southward each fall to overwinter in warmer climates. The Long-tailed Skipper can well-tolerate freezing winters and may overwinter as reproductively arrested adults in tropical and subtropical areas. This skipper is distributed from Argentina northward through Central America, the West Indies, and Mexico to southeastern Texas and along the Gulf coastal states to Florida.  It colonizes as far northward as Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and across the central states to Missouri and Oklahoma.  It also occurs in Baja California and southern California. In Alabama, adults appear during early June and fly through October. It is likely that this widespread species will eventually be documented in every county in Alabama.

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, Chambers , Choctaw, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington, Wilcox

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 1 25 1 1 4 5 19 4 10 12 15 20 51 41 42 48 46 58 167 12 10 9 1 2 2

Habitat

The Long-tailed Skipper prefers open, disturbed fields, roadsides, utility right-of-ways, forest edges and suburban gardens.

Host and Nectar Plants

Spurred Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum), American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens), and tick trefoils (Desmodium spp.) have been verified as host plants in Alabama.

Sources from other states report that larvae feed on leaves from legumes (Family Fabaceae) such as Hogpeanut (Amphicarpa bracteata), beans (Phaseolus spp), Butterfly Pea (Clitoria mariana), wisterias (Wisteria spp.), and tick trefoils (Desmodium spp.).

Long Tailed Skippers nectar from a variety of plants.

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

Landscaping Ideas

Make sure that your landscape provides plenty of late summer and fall-blooming flowers for butterflies like Long-tailed Skippers.  These include: Joe Pye weeds; gayfeathers/blazing stars; Mistflower; ironweeds; asters; goldenrods.