Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1¾ - 2¼ inches (4.4 - 6.0 cm). UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) has a dark brown ground color. A distinctive band of golden orange nearly crosses the central portion of the wing. A light checkered fringe occurs on hind and forewings.  UNDER SURFACE (ventral): Forewing has a similar golden-orange band.  Hindwing has a large silver-white patch.  Both have frosted lavender margins. There are two short, stubby tails. Forewings are pointed.  

Egg: A single, pale egg is deposited on or near host plant. Many field guides describe Silver-spotted Skipper eggs as green, but they often appear to be white. Reddish and even red-ringed eggs have also been observed. (See photos below.)

Caterpillar: Yellow-green body with dark, transverse stripes. Red-brown head that bears a pair of orange eyespots low on the front. Collar brown. Front three pairs of legs (thorax) are brown. Legs on mid-body (prolegs) are orange. Final instar turns brownish orange prior to pupation

Chrysalis: Brown with variable light and dark markings. The overwintering stage.

Silver-spotted Skippers are familiar garden visitors where they often have the distinction of being the largest skipper in the plot. They are also frequently encountered in open, sunny habitats that provide nectar sources and legumes, particularly in mid-summer, when populations peak. Their large size and bold, silvery-white hindwing spots make them easily identifiable.  Silver-spotted Skippers are very rapid fliers. At close range, their fast wingbeats often produce an audible vibrational sound.

Females place eggs on or near their host plants.  Black Locust is a favorite choice, but many other legumes are also used. A newly hatched caterpillar cuts a rectangular flap in the edge of the host plant leaf. It folds the leaf flap over to form a retreat and extrudes silken threads to secure the flap in place. The caterpillar then hides under the flap, coming out mainly at night to feed. Later instars typically vacate their leaf-flaps to construct a new shelter by pulling several leaves together. In addition to their host plant's leaves, they may also incorporate leaves from nearby plants. Hiding in these shelters is a first line of defense, but later instars also sport large, orange eyespots that may serve to startle predators. Final instar caterpillars pupate within their shelters or crawl down into the leaf litter where the last generation of the year overwinters.

This species is widespread, ranging from southern Canada and throughout most of the U.S. Expectations are that it will eventually be documented in every county in Alabama.

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, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox, Winston

  • 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):

  • 76 - Limestone - 9/6/2022
  • 35 - Morgan - 8/26/2022
  • 31 - Cleburne - 8/2/2021
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
11 1 7 11 23 122 110 111 110 137 103 117 128 111 53 37 42 70 146 249 319 492 310 225 164 244 174 111 54 52 15 10 4 5 1 1 1

Habitat

Utilizes a wide variety of habitats including open fields, forest edges, disturbed and abandoned suburban lots, utility right-of-ways, dirt and gravel roads, and suburban flower gardens.

Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
Suburban garden
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
American Wisteria in garden
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
Open field at forest edge
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
Sunny field
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
Dirt road
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
Utility right-of-way

Host and Nectar Plants

 

In addition to the hosts listed below, reports from nearby states list Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), tick trefoils (Desmodium spp.), lespedezas (Lespedeza spp.), and Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra).

The following hosts have been documented in Alabama: 

 

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

Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
American Wisteria
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
Jefferson County
© Sara Bright
American Wisteria
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Jeff Garner
Black Locust
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
Tall Indigo Bush/False Indigo
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
Suburban garden
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
Tall Indigo Bush/False Indigo
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
American Hog Peanut
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Fred Nation/AL Plant Atlas
Chinese Wisteria
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© AL Plant Atlas
Kudzu
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© AL Plant Atlas
Kudzu

Landscaping Ideas

American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) is a beautiful choice for an arbor, deck, or fence and provides food for Silver-spotted and Long-tailed Skipper caterpilars. Note: Chinese Wisteria and Kudzu are highly invasive, non-native plants that should never be intentionally added to the landscape.

Provide a variety of garden worthy, nectar-rich flowers to attract Silver-spotted Skippers and other butterflies. Like many skippers, Silver-spotteds usually nectar from pink, blue, purple, or white flowers.  Good choices include Purple Coneflower and other coneflowers, phloxes, mountain mints, Common Buttonbush, Joe Pye weeds, gayfeathers/blazing stars, Mistflower, ironweeds, and asters.

 

Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
County
© Sara Bright
American Wisteria climbs on deck railing.