Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan: 1 to 1½ inches (2.5 - 3.5 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Dark with white checkered pattern on both wings. Female darker than male. Long, bluish-white hairs over body and basal portion; more extensive in male.  Row of tiny spots along outer wing edges is complete to tip. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Forewing like upper surface except paler. Hindwing dull white and highly patterned but lacks distinct bands. Dark smudgy mark on upper edge of hindwing. Checkered fringe.

ID TIp: On upper surface, the row of tiny white forewing-edge spots is complete all the way to the tip. 

Egg: Whitish sphere with many ridges. Deposited singly on host leaves. 

Caterpillar: Pale yellowish green. A darker green stripe runs the length of the upper body with two white stripes along each side. Body covered with fine white hairs and tiny tubercles. Head is black and densely covered with white hairs.  Collar reddish brown with thin black ring at base and three short white lines. First two pairs of legs (thoracic) are darker.

Chrysalis:.Greenish or bright reddish brown.  Abdomen yellowish green with darker dorsal mid-dosal line. Brown spots behind head.

Tropical Checkered-Skippers often fly with their close relatives, Common and White Checkered Skippers. From a distance, differentiating them can be difficult, but close looks show their discernable differences. (see above). Behavior is identical.

These diminutive skippers nectar from small flowers, often choosing white-flowered composites. When they nectar, puddle, or perch, they usually hold their wings open. At night, they roost on tall weeds with wings tightly closed. This posture may give them a head start on sunlight absorption the following morning.

Males patrol for females in a well-defined territory for most of the day. They fly erratically and close to the ground. Occasionally, they also perch on low vegetation or on the ground. Females lay eggs singly on the leaves of introduced and native members of the Mallow family, most often in the genus called fanpetals (Sida spp.). Young caterpillars live in a shelter made by folding a leaf and tying it together with silken strands. As the caterpillars grow larger, they enlarge their retreat by joining several leaves together with silk. Fully grown caterpillars overwinter. 

Every year, Tropical Checkered Skippers expand their range north of the areas where they are winter residents, but unlike Common/White Checkered Skippers, they seldom move past the southern portion of the United 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 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: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Chambers, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, Escambia, Geneva, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Sumter, Washington

  • 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):

  • 35 - Perry - 8/29/2020
  • 25 - Clarke - 8/6/2020
  • 23 - Monroe - 10/22/2020
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
2 4 2 3 9 9 7 5 1 3 1 1 4 13 1 5 20 66 82 30 49 80 40 24 69 27 27 70 51 53 88 43 44 46 42 43 62 14 3 3

Habitat

Wet and dry, open sunny/partially sunny areas, especially disturbed sites; roadsides, pastures, old fields, fallow agricultural lands, and wherever mallows grow.

Tropical Checkered-Skipper
Tropical Checkered-Skipper (Burnsius oileus)
County
© Sara Bright
Roadside
Tropical Checkered-Skipper
Tropical Checkered-Skipper (Burnsius oileus)
County
© Sara Bright
Meadow
Tropical Checkered-Skipper
Tropical Checkered-Skipper (Burnsius oileus)
County
© Sara Bright
Pasture

Host and Nectar Plants

Host plants belong to the mallow family (Malvaceae). Reports from nearby states include Hollyhock (Althaea rosea), false mallows (Malvastrum spp.), and Velvet Leaf (Abutilon theophrasti).

Host plants currently documented for Alabama are listed below. Other sidas are probably used as well.

 

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

Tropical Checkered-Skipper
Tropical Checkered-Skipper (Burnsius oileus)
County
© Sara Bright
Fanpetals
Tropical Checkered-Skipper
Tropical Checkered-Skipper (Burnsius oileus)
County
© Sara Bright
Fanpetals
Tropical Checkered-Skipper
Tropical Checkered-Skipper (Burnsius oileus)
County
© Sara Bright
Fanpetals
Tropical Checkered-Skipper
Tropical Checkered-Skipper (Burnsius oileus)
County
© Schmidy
Cuban Jute

Landscaping Ideas

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 Tropical Checkered-Skippers.  Fanpetals, a group of host plants confirmed in Alabama, is commonly found in many of these yards.