Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 - 1¼ inches (2.5-3.5 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Male brown with "wrist bracelet"' and two spots near forewing edge. Black stigma surrounded by orange patch. Hindwing markings faintly mirror ventral surface. Female darker brown with a diagonal series of pale jagged forewing spots. Hindwing mirrors ventral pattern. White eye ring. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Hindwing brown with white veins and white V-shaped chevron. Forewing mirrors upper surface markings.

Egg: Dome shaped. Creamy white with no visible markings.

Caterpillar: Light gray brown with pale orange overtones; dark stripe on back. Head brown/black; some orange markings including two small orangish spots on lower face; sometimes has two pale vertical stripes on forehead. Collar white with thin black ring. First three pairs of legs (thoracic) dark. Probably overwinters as fully developed caterpillar.

Chrysalis: Dull green or light brown.  Possibly the overwintering stage.

Cobweb is one of the earliest emerging grass skipper in our area, its single flight lasting only a few weeks in March and April. It is small and easily overlooked, especially since it tends to stay low in grasses in powerline clearings and other grassy areas.

 Cobweb Skippers' life history is fascinating and complex. Habitats typically appear "dead" since areas with broomsedges and bluestems tend to look brown in March and April rather than green. Their predominantly brown wings make Cobwebs highly camouflaged. Males perch on bare patches of ground and nectar from early blooming wildflowers. Females fly around host grasses where they land near the base of the plants and crawl among the leaf litter to lay eggs. First instar larvae make a narrow, open tent along a leaf edge where they hide during daylight hours, feeding nocturnally. Later instars live in folded leaves at the base of host grass. As time progresses, they tunnel below ground level to devise a shelter that not only protects them from predators, but also from surface fires. They aestivate there during late summer. When fall arrives, final instar caterpillars prepare to hibernate for the winter in a thickly silked chamber, deep in the center of the plant. Pupation probably does not occur until early spring.

Distribution is spotty, and populations are scattered throughout portions of the eastern and central U.S. The Cobweb Skipper is rare in Alabama with few documented sightings. The narrow flight period may be part of the reason that there are so few records.

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: Cleburne, Jackson, Jefferson, Shelby

  • 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):

  • 2 - Jefferson - 4/6/2000
  • 1 - Shelby - 4/7/2008
  • 1 - Cleburne - 3/25/2012
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 4 1

Habitat

Dry, brushy fields; disturbed sites, often those that have been burned; power line cuts; pine and oak barrens; dry hillsides, and rocky outcrops.

In the Chocolocco Wildlife Management Area, Cobweb Skipper was found in an upland, long-leaf pine reforestation area that had been burned-over. It occurred there along with Dusted Skippers. Suspected host plants (Andropogon spp.) were abundant.

 

Cobweb Skipper
Cobweb Skipper (Hesperia metea)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Disturbed Area
Cobweb Skipper
Cobweb Skipper (Hesperia metea)
County
© Sara Bright
Pasture with grasses
Cobweb Skipper
Cobweb Skipper (Hesperia metea)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Woodland with bluestem grasses

Host and Nectar Plants

Reports from other states list bluestem grasses (Andropogon and Schizachirium spp.). These may be the sole hosts.

In Alabama, host plants have not yet been documented.

Landscaping Ideas

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