Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan:  1 - 1¼ inches (2.6 - 3.2 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Male orange with dark stigma. Outer edges have dark, jagged border.  Female browner with orange markings. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Male orange with tiny black dots; female variably orange, darker orange, brown orange, olive orange with small black dots at end of pattern elements. Very short antennae.

ID Tip: Look for small orange skippers with tiny black spots like a sprinkling of pepper.

Egg: Partial sphere. Whitish.

Caterpillar: Brown or tannish brown with tiny brown dots. Head very dark; two tan lines on upper face. Dark heart line. Collar has white and black rings. First three pairs of legs (thoracic) dark. Partially grown caterpillars overwinter.

Chrysalis: Dark with dark dorsal stripe and two dark lines of dashes behind head.

Fiery Skippers are the most reported skippers in Alabama.  They fly in every county and have been documented in every month of the year. In addition to their sunny, open native habitats, they are at home in suburbia, frequenting flower gardens and lawns. Several turf grasses serve as their caterpillar hosts.  Fiery Skippers are the poster children for an adaptable, generalist lifestyle. 

Males perch in grassy areas where they wait for receptive females and actively chase intruders. Females are more reclusive, resting in grassy areas.  Both sexes are rapid fliers and avid nectarers.  

Caterpillars live in horizontal shelters located at or slightly below ground level. These nests are fashioned by silking thatch and ground detritus together to form a tunnel-like structure.  Because they are so low, lawn mower blades cut above them. Caterpillars spend little time away from their shelters, venturing out at night to harvest fresh grass blades that they bring back to the nest to eat in safer quarters. Pupation also occurs within the shelter.

Fiery Skippers have not adapted to survive prolonged freezes at any stage of their life cycle, so they winter in the South and recolonize much of North America during summer months. They are common and familiar residents throughout 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, 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, 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):

  • 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 10 8 8 2 14 12 19 13 16 25 19 30 35 41 56 43 47 113 87 130 185 261 443 528 487 785 317 261 250 452 458 433 452 720 444 210 192 262 194 126 29 22 36 26 18 61

Habitat

Almost any sunny, open, grassy area.  Fields, pastures, lawns, flower gardens, roadsides, utility right-of-ways, abandoned lots, savannas, sandhills, etc. 

Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Utility right-of-way
Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
County
© Sara Bright
Sunny field with nectar sources
Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
County
© Sara Bright
Sunny field
Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
County
© Sara Bright
Suburban garden
Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
County
© Sara Bright
Open field
Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
County
© Sara Bright
Roadside with sunny spots

Host and Nectar Plants

Nearby states report the use of crabgrasses (Digiteria spp.), Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), and bentgrasses (Agrostis spp.). 

In Alabama, the following hosts have been documented:

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

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