Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1¾ - 2 inches (3.9 - 4.9 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Male forewing orange with wide dark border; long, thin black stigma. Female forewing mostly dark with transverse band of creamy spots. Both have reddish heads. Antennal club tips orange.  UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Bright, unmarked orange. White fringe. Palps and underparts white.

Egg: Dome-shaped. Initially blue/green; with maturation, color fades to creamy white and two irregularly shaped red rings appear. Laid singly on host blades.

Caterpillar: Blue/green mottled with pale yellow; two narrow dark lines on back. Head pale brown with brown stripe around edge; elongated black spot on "forehead" edged with creamy white. Collar pale green with thin black ring near body. First three pairs of legs (thoracic) pale green. Partially grown larvae overwinter.

Chrysalis: Long, slender, and dark brown.

Palmetto Skippers are big, bright, and eye catching. They are the only members of their genus (Euphyes) that do not use sedges as their larval host.  Instead, they have adapted to Saw Palmetto, a native perennial shrub or small tree in the Palm family (Arecaceae). Although Saw Palmetto occurs in appropriate habitats in the southern third of the state, Palmetto Skippers have only been documented in a few locations in Baldwin County.  Throughout their limited range, something seems to limit populations, but what is not known. It is not host plant scarcity. Saw Palmettos are common and even used as landscape plants, readily available in the nursery trade.

These skippers are avid nectarers and are most often encountered at flowers.  Blazing star/liatris, Spanish Needles/bidens, thistles, and Vanilla Leaf are draws. Males perch to search for females.  Females deposit eggs on Saw Palmetto, often near the blade's base. Caterpillars devise loose shelters by drawing in part of a blade and tying it with silk.  Final instars reinforce their tubular shelter and plug the top with a wad of silk.  

Palmetto Skipper is distributed from the southeast Georgia coast through upper and central Florida to coastal Alabama and Mississippi. This is a rare skipper, and for some unknown reason, it is getting rarer as time goes by. It was formerly found throughout Florida to the Everglades, but that range has shrunk considerably. In Alabama, it should be searched for wherever Saw Palmettos occur.

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: Baldwin

  • 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):

  • 5 - Baldwin - 9/17/2015
  • 4 - Baldwin - 9/18/2010
  • 4 - Baldwin - 9/23/2021
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 1 2 2 12 9 2

Habitat

Open pine savannahs, longleaf pinelands. scrub forests, and flatwoods with Saw Palmetto understory.  Sandhills, prairies, and dunes where Saw Palmetto grows.

Palmetto Skipper
Palmetto Skipper (Euphyes arpa)
County
© Sara Bright
Palmetto understory
Palmetto Skipper
Palmetto Skipper (Euphyes arpa)
Baldwin County
© Karen Chiasson 10/18/2019
Pineland with Saw Palmetto
Palmetto Skipper
Palmetto Skipper (Euphyes arpa)
County
© Sara Bright
Scrub forest with Saw Palmetto
Palmetto Skipper
Palmetto Skipper (Euphyes arpa)
County
© Sara Bright
Palmetto understory

Host and Nectar Plants

Throughout the range, Saw Palmetto is the only known host. It has been documented in Alabama. 

 

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

Palmetto Skipper
Palmetto Skipper (Euphyes arpa)
County
© Sara Bright
Saw Palmetto
Palmetto Skipper
Palmetto Skipper (Euphyes arpa)
County
© Sara Bright
Saw Palmetto
Palmetto Skipper
Palmetto Skipper (Euphyes arpa)
County
© Sara Bright
Saw Palmetto

Landscaping Ideas

Palmetto Skippers occasionally move from their native habitats to find nectar sources in nearby gardens. Provide a variety of garden worthy, nectar-rich flowers to attract them and other butterflies. These include phloxes; mountain mints; Common Buttonbush; Joe Pye weeds; gayfeathers/blazing stars; Mistflower; ironweeds; and asters.

Saw Palmetto can be used as a massing groundcover, privacy screen, or foundation planting. It is available to buy at many plant nurseries.