Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1¾ - 2¼ inches (4.4 - 5.7 cm). This is one of the largest of our 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:  Brazilian Skipper females lay their pale green eggs singly on the upper portion of the leaves of the host plant (Canna spp.). 

Caterpillar: The head is orange with black spots. The caterpillar is usually greenish gray becoming darker green as it eats fresh undigested leaves. This caterpillar is is distinct. Its skin is so transparent that its circulatory system is visible. 

Young larvae cut two slits into the edge of a leaf, fold over that portion to form a flap, and secure it with silk to form a shelter.  Larger, more mature caterpillars roll an entire leaf and tie it together with strands of silk. This creates a tubular retreat in which the caterpillar rests/hides during much of the day. The caterpillar leaves the security of its shelter at night to feed on the leaf portion along the top of its shelter.

Chrysalis: The caterpillar pupates within its leaf shelter. 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.

Most people who encounter Brazilian Skippers find their caterpillars eating garden canna leaves and may never see the adult butterfly.  This is partly due to the fact that these large skippers are somewhat crepuscular--flying at twilight.  They are powerful aerialists whose wings make a rasping noise as they dart among stands of cannas and nectar sources.  Adults may perch momentarily on a leaf and then dart off with a fast, powerful flight.  They often return throughout the day to individual flowers along a pre-planned route. This is called traplining. Brazilian Skippers have exceptionally long tongues (proboscices) that allow them to nectar at morning glories and other long-tubed flowers.

The Brazilian Skipper is expected to occur at least in the southern half of the state. Its northern range is yet to be determined. In the U. S., the Brazilian Skipper is a year-round resident of south Florida and south Texas.  It is basically a subtropical to tropical species extending into Mexico, the West Indies, Central America and South America.  However, under favorable conditions, it strays north and colonizes California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, Nebraska, northern Illinois, Ohio, New York, as well as 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 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: Baldwin, Bibb, Butler, Covington, Cullman, Dallas, Jefferson, Mobile, Montgomery, Shelby, Sumter

  • 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):

  • 25 - Baldwin - 5/1/2014
  • 9 - Baldwin - 5/9/2018
  • 6 - Jefferson - 8/22/1999
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
27 10 2 1 2 3 1 2 4 5 23 15 7 8 4 6 1


The Brazilian Skipper is often found in suburban gardens where Garden Cannas are planted as ornamentals. It also occurs in wetland areas where its native hosts grow.

Host and Nectar Plants

In Alabama, we have documented that Brazilian Skipper larvae feed on Bandana of the Everglades/Golden Canna (Canna flaccida), a native canna species as well as Alligatorflag (Thalia geniculata) and Powdery Alligatorflag (T. dealbata), which are native members of the Arrowroot family.  They have also been frequently documented on Garden Canna (Canna x generalis), a horticultural introduction.

Elsewhere, Indian Shot (Canna indica) has also been documented as a host. . 


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

Landscaping Ideas

Consider including Garden Cannas in your garden to attract Brazilian Skippers. The native hosts mentioned above make attractive additions to ornamental ponds.