Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan is 1 ¾ to 2 ¼ inches (4.4-5.7 cm). This is one of the largest of our common closed-wing skippers. The underside of the wings is reddish brown with three or four translucent spots in the postmedial area of the hindwing.  The  forewing is elongated and pointed with three smaller translucent spots in the submarginal region.  The upperside of the wings is dark brown with large translucent spots on both wings.

Egg: The Brazilian Skipper females lay their pale green eggs singly on the upper portion of the leaves of the host plant (Canna spp.). 

Caterpillar: The newly hatched larvae each begins to roll a small portion of the leaf as a shelter.  Larger and older caterpillars roll up an entire leaf and tie it together with strands of silk. This creates a tubular retreat in which the caterpillar rests during the day. It leaves the security of its shelter at night to feed on the leaf portion along the top of their shelter. The Brazilian caterpillar is one of the most distinctive of skipper caterpillars.  The skin of its body is transparent so that its internal circulatory system is visible.  The head is orange with black spots. The caterpillar is usually greenish gray becoming darker green as it eats fresh undigested leaves. The caterpillar pupates within its leaf shelter.

Chrysalis: The slender chrysalis is green and covered with a powdery white substance. It has a long tongue case that projects beyond the tip of the abdomen.

Adults may perch momentarily on a leaf and then dart off with a fast, powerful flight.  Oftentimes, they will return periodically throughout the day to individual flowers along a pre-planned route.

The Brazilian Skipper is not common in Alabama, having been documented in only a few counties. It is expected to be eventually reported in most of the southern counties of the state. In the U. S., the Brazilian Skipper is resident only in south Florida and south Texas.

It is basically a subtropical to tropical species exending into Mexico, the West Indies, Central America and South America into Argentina.  However, under favorable conditions, it strays north and colonizes states such as California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, Nebraska, northern Illinois, Ohio, New York, and along the Atlantic and Gulf coastal states.

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: Baldwin, Bibb, Jefferson, Mobile, Shelby

  • 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
25 1 1 2 4 5 13 8 3 5 1 3 1

Habitat

The Brazilian Skipper apparently is a tropical import or a stray into the United States and is usually found in suburban gardens where Cannas grow as ornamental plants.

Host and Nectar Plants

In Alabama, we have documented that the the Brazilian Skipper larvae feed on the leaves of Garden Canna (Canna x generalis).

Elsewhere, it is know to mostly feed on leaves of  hybrids and varieties of tropical and subtropical plants of the genus Canna (e.g., C. flaccida  and C. indica). It is also known to feed on the leaves of Alligator Flag (Thalia geniculata). The caterpillar is considered a pest by those gardeners who cultivate cannas as ornamentals.

 

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

Landscaping Ideas

Plantings of Garden Canna may attract Brazilian Skippers. However, keep in mind that these plants reportedly can become invasive in warmer southern states.