Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Skippers on Flowers

Compared to large and colorful butterflies like swallowtails and Monarchs, skippers are usually difficult to identify. Even so, they are easier than most of the moths that I find, but they are still tricky. Consider the skipper pictured above. It is small, brown, and has almost no distinctive markings. I think that makes it a Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris), but it is difficult to be sure with such a plain butterfly.

This one looks easier to identify, but that did not stop me from misidentifying it at first.When I first looked through my butterfly guide, I thought it was a Sachem because none of the others seemed like good matches. Thanks to some of my Flickr contacts, I found out that it is actually a Broad-winged Skipper (Poanes viator). What threw me was that my guide's images seemed to show a much brighter and more contrasting streak down the middle of the hindwing. Apparently the hindwing can look plainer, as this one does.

I liked this view of a Broad-winged Skipper feeding on phlox.

Luckily not all skippers are quite as difficult. The one above was a new species for me but fairly easy to find in the guide. This is a Peck's Skipper (Polites peckius). This one was tiny, even for a skipper. You can see how small it is if you compare its size relative to the flowers to the Broad-winged Skippers above.