Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan: 1 - 1½ inches (2.5 - 3.5 cm).  Males and females of the Zabulon Skipper have distinctly different color patterns.  The male is a small to medium-sized skipper.  It is yellowish to yellowish-orange in color with dark brown along the upper and lower wing margins. A postbasal to submedian, slightly curved brown band crosses the underside of the hindwing. A distinctive brown patch is found along the median inner margin of the hindwing. 

The underside of the hindwing in females is largely dark brown and black intermingled with orange patches, and a purplish-gray wash along the outer wing margins, and a white edge on the costal margin. The upperside of the forewing in females is purplish-to-blackish brown with pale yellowish-white, blocks of angular spots in the forewing forming a zigzag pattern

Egg:  Females lay their small, pale green eggs singly under the blades of certain species of grasses.

Caterpillar:  The caterpillars are brown to light green, occasionally with a pinkish hue. The head is brown with a white “collar”. There is a dark mid-dorsal stripe, and a pale cream-colored dorsolateral stripe along each side. Caterpillars make shelters of leaves that they roll together and tie with silken threads. 

Chrysalis: The chrysalis is whitish, with a pinkish hue toward the thorax

Males perch on sunlit branches and twigs along forest edges and roadsides. These perches are often 5-6 feet high and are vigorously defended from rival males that pass by. Females usually stay in more shaded areas. Their darker coloration helps to camouflage them in the shadows.  Both sexes have a rapid flight. Courtship usually occurs during the afternoon. Ovipositing has been observed in late morning.

This skipper  is distributed from Massachusetts westward to central Kansas, southward to east Texas and along the Gulf coastal states to central Florida. A disjunct population occurs from central Mexico to Panama, Central America.

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

Sightings in the following counties: Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Dale, Dallas, Dekalb, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, 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 1 14 28 52 81 104 120 241 108 44 14 13 18 33 77 70 67 59 64 87 58 81 47 40 32 17 5 1


The Zabulon Skipper prefers grassy openings near forest edges, stream corridors, roadsides, pastures, old fields, and edges of wetlands.  It sometimes wanders into suburban gardens and sips nectar from a variety flowers.

Host and Nectar Plants

Slender Spikegrass/Slender Wood Oats (Chasmanthium laxum) is suspected in Florida. In other areas, larvae have been reported to feed on the following grasses:  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.)

In Alabama, Japanese Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum) has been documented. This is a highly invasive, alien plant that 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)
© 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.