Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan: 1 - 1½ inches (2.5 - 3.5 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Male bright yellow orange with narrow black borders. Variable dark patch near forewing tip. Female all dark with glassy (hyaline) marks on outer forewing. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Male has broad yellow hindwing patch with rusty brown dots. Female mahogany brown with lavender frosting. White edging on upper hindwing edge.

Egg: Dome shaped. White.

Caterpillar: Pale brown to greenish with pinkish hue; covered with fine short hairs, giving a velvety appearance. Head dark. Collar white with thin black ring. First three pairs of legs (thoracic) light brown. Partially grown caterpillars overwinter.

Chrysalis: Dirty white, becoming pink toward thorax. May be covered with covered with white, powdery down. 

Zabulon Skippers are woodland butterflies, and although they may wander in search of nectar sources, they seldom stray far from forested areas. Males perch on sunlit branches five or six feet above the ground and aggressively defend their territories— “dogfights” are common. Females usually stay in more shaded areas where their darker coloration helps to camouflage them in the shadows.  They lay single eggs on host grass blades.  Caterpillars live in rolled leaf shelters and usually eat at night.  Partially grown larvae overwinter in a tightly silked tubular shelter.  They complete development the following spring.

This handsome species was once called Southern Golden Skipper, and although it is southern-based, by summer's end, it ranges throughout much of the eastern U.S.  In Alabama, it is widespread and probably occurs in every county.

 

 

 

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 High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

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, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 29 - Jackson - 5/15/2021
  • 28 - Lawrence - 7/5/2019
  • 28 - DeKalb - 5/14/2021
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 6 24 39 62 82 109 128 245 108 45 14 14 22 39 84 71 69 65 71 94 63 90 56 44 33 19 9 1

Habitat

Grassy openings near forest edges, stream corridors, roadsides, pastures, old fields, and edges of wetlands.  Sometimes wanders into suburban gardens..

Zabulon Skipper
Zabulon Skipper (Lon zabulon)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Streambank
Zabulon Skipper
Zabulon Skipper (Lon zabulon)
County
© Sara Bright
Damp area in woodland opening
Zabulon Skipper
Zabulon Skipper (Lon zabulon)
County
© Sara Bright
Woodland road
Zabulon Skipper
Zabulon Skipper (Lon zabulon)
County
© Sara Bright
Sunny woodland stream

Host and Nectar Plants

Reports from nearby states list 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.). Slender Spikegrass/Slender Wood Oats (Chasmanthium laxum) is suspected in Florida.

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

 

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Zabulon Skipper
Zabulon Skipper (Lon zabulon)
County
© Alvin Diamond
Japanese Stilt Grass

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.