Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan is 1 to 1 3/8 inches (25-35 mm). The underside of the hindwing in the male is dusky yellow with a band of faint, pale spots along the submargin. A distinctive brown patch is seen along the hindwing trailing edge. The underside of the hindwing in the female is brown and the submarginal row of pale, squarish spots are more distinctive than those of the male.  The pale spots form a> “-shape.  The upperside of the forewing in the male is dull orange with brown along the wing margins.  The distinctive stigma (specialized scent scales of male skippers that produce pheromones used in courtship and mating) forms a large blackish-brown oval near the center of the wing; the female is dark brown with dull orange in the center of the wing, and lacks the stigma. The female outer forewing has several large glassy white windows and a black patch at the base of the largest window spot.

Egg: Females lay the small, white, hemispherical egg singly on a blade of the host plant (a grass).  

Caterpillar: The caterpillar is dark green and the body is covered with numerous, tiny dark tubercles, each of which is equipped with a short dark hair. The head is black. The caterpillars feed on the grass blades. The caterpillars construct a shelter of rolled leaves tied together with silken threads and anchor it near the base of the host grass. The caterpillars remain in their shelter except to venture out to cut sections of grass blades and return them to the shelter to feed..

Chrysalis: The brown chrysalis has white patches on the thorax region and is covered with a white, powdery bloom.

The Sachem may be seen perching on low vegetation or on the ground.  It is more readily observed as it visits flowers for nectar.  When disturbed, it darts off in a rapid and erratic flight. The Sachem is one of few skippers that emigrates during the summer to regions far from where it lives and breeds as a resident.

The Sachem is a resident across the southern United States and southward to Brazil, South America.  It is a regular emigrant and temporary colonist to northern states such as New York, Iowa, Colorado and Oregon.

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, Bibb, Cleburne, Colbert, Dallas, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Perry, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, 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 4 24 1 1 14 8 20 3 6 13 26 32 17 3 22 14 2 5 1 1

Habitat

The Sachem is found in a wide-variety of open, sunny habitats including fields, pastures, roadsides, power- and gas-line right-of-ways, and railroad corridors.  It is common in suburban gardens and lawns.

Host and Nectar Plants

In Alabama,the host plant has not yet been documented.

In nearby states, the Sachem's host plants include Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon), crabgrasses (Digitaria spp.), and St. Augustine Grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum).

Sachems obtain nectar from a wide-variety of flowers including milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), clovers (Trifolium spp.), thistles (Cirsium spp.), ironweeds (Vernonia spp.), Joe Pye Weeds (Eutrochium spp.), asters (Symphyotrichum spp.), tick trefoils (Desmodium spp.), and Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis).

Landscaping Ideas

The Sachem is one of the commonest skippers seen nectaring in suburban and urban gardens in Alabama. Provide a variety of garden worthy, nectar-rich flowers to attract butterflies like Sachems. 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 Sachems.