Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: ¾ - 1 inch (2.2 - 2.5 cm). The Swarthy Skipper is a small skipper with the uppersides of both wings being dark brown, while the undersides of both wings are a lighter brown. It is Alabama’s only skipper with no distinct markings on either fore- or hindwings on both upper- and lower surfaces

Egg: Females lay their pearly white eggs on blades of grasses. 

Caterpillar: The caterpillar is pale green with a dark green mid-dorsal stripe. The reddish brown head has pale longitudinal stripes on the facial region. The caterpillars reside within a retreat that they construct by rolling a grass blade into a tube-like structure and by tying it together with strands of silk.

Chrysalis: The chrysalis is light green and has a sharp projection extending from the tip of the head.

This skipper has a very rapid, often erratic flight.  Males dart back and forth in a low flight, resting on the tips of grass blades.  Females may be observed as they dart about through the grasses.

The Swarthy Skipper ranges from some of the northernmost counties to the southernmost counties of Alabama. With future distributional studies, it undoubtedly will be found throughout Alabama.  

The Swarthy Skipper is distributed from southern New England southward to the southern tip of Florida, west along the Gulf Coast to eastern Texas, and north to Kansas. It strays northward into Minnesota and Michigan.


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: Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Calhoun, Chilton, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Escambia, Etowah, Franklin, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Macon, Marion, Marshall, Perry, Pickens, Shelby, Tuscaloosa, Washington

  • 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):

  • 13 - Bibb - 7/25/2015
  • 8 - Colbert - 7/5/2015
  • 8 - Tuscaloosa - 9/1/2022
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 3 6 13 12 1 2 2 2 8 15 12 8 15 3 15 4 24 35 4 21 10 5 1 1 1


The Swarthy Skipper prefers open fields in either dry or wet habitats, especially in areas where its host plants grow.  It may be found in vacant lots, roadsides, utility right-of-ways, and open-areas near the edge of woodlands.

Swarthy Skipper
Swarthy Skipper (Nastra lherminier)
© Sara Bright
Sunny openings along dirt road

Host and Nectar Plants

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is a documented host for Swarthy Skippers in Alabama. 

In nearby states, its caterpillars reportedly feed on the blades of Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis).

The Swarthy Skipper nectars from a variety of low-growing flowers.



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

Landscaping Ideas

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 Swarthy Skippers.