Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan:  1 - 1¼ inches (2.6 - 3.2 cm). This small yellow-orange skipper is best identified from the side view showing the underwings.  The hindwing has small brownish-black spots.  In males, they are set on a backgroud color of bright ornage; in females, the background is duller and browner. Males and females differ in color pattern when viewed from above.  Males are mostly orange with some black patches while females are largely brown with some orange patches. The antennae are very short in both males and females. Other species of orange-colored skippers in Alabama lack the small dark spots on the lower surface of the hindwing and have longer antennae.

Egg: Females lay their shiny pale green to turquoise eggs on grasses.

Caterpillar: Caterpillars are variable in coloration; usually brown with a darker middorsal stripe and two darker  mid-lateral stripes. Head dark brown. 

Chrysalis: Light beige to yellowish brown with a dark dorsal stripe and two dark lines of dorsolateral dashes behind the head.

Males perch in  grassy areas waiting for receptive females to pass by.  They are rapid fliers.  They may be commonly seen sipping nectar from flowers in suburban flower beds.

The caterpillars, which feed on the grass blades, live in horizontal shelters made of rolled grass blades tied together with silken threads and located at the base of the grass blades and near the ground. This enables them to avoid being eaten by herbivorous mammals or being killed by lawnmowers.

This is one of Alabama's most common skippers and will likely be eventually reported to occur in every county in our state. The Fiery Skipper is an inhabitant throughout the southern United States southward through the West Indies, Central America, and Argentina. During the summer months, it may migrate northward to the New England states, southern Ontario, southern Minnesota, and northern California. It is largely absent from the Rocky Mountain region.



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

  • 91 - Jefferson - 9/1/2012
  • 85 - Jefferson - 7/11/1999
  • 80 - Jefferson - 7/18/1999
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
44 9 8 8 2 14 12 18 11 13 22 19 30 35 41 56 41 47 92 80 128 181 236 396 441 396 675 274 239 230 421 403 391 406 631 404 193 186 218 176 122 27 18 36 25 17 60


The Fiery Skipper prefers sunny, open and grassy fields, lawns, suburban flower gardens, roadsides, and utility right-of-ways

Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
© Sara Bright
Sunny field with nectar

Host and Nectar Plants

In other states, the following grasses are used for food by the larvae: crabgrasses (Digiteria spp.), Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), bentgrasses (Agrostis spp.), and Sugar Cane (Sacchinarum officinarum). The caterpillars have been found in dry fields, low grassy areas, roadsides, and even in lawns.

In Alabama, there is photographic documentation that Fiery Skippers lay eggs on various grasses, but there is not enough detail in some of the pictures to determine the exact species. Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon) has been documented. Surprisingly, Purple Nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus), a non-native member of the Sedge family (Cyperaceae) has also been documented.

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

Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
© Sara Bright
Bermuda Grass
Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
© Sara Bright
Bermuda Grass

Landscaping Ideas

Provide a variety of garden worthy, nectar-rich flowers to attract butterflies like the Fiery Skipper. These include: Butterfly Milkweed and other milkweeds; Purple Coneflower and other coneflowers; black eyed susans; phloxes; mountain mints; Common Buttonbush; Joe Pye weeds; gayfeathers/blazing stars; Mistflower; ironweeds; asters; and goldenrods.

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 Fiery Skippers.