Wild South Florida — Long-Tailed Skipper
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Long-Tailed Skipper
long-tailed skipper
A long-tailed skipper sipping nectar from pentas in Delray Beach near Military Trail.
long-tailed skipper  

Two things stand out about the long-tailed skipper, Urbanus proteus: the long tail, of course, and the blue-green streak down this butterfly's back. They make the long-tailed easy to identify. Long-tails actually are common butterflies in South Florida, common, in fact, throughout the state. They're found throughout the Southeast United States and up the Atlantic Coast as far north as Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania.

long-tailed skipper

long-tailed skipper

They'll stray as far west as southern Arizona and California. They're also found south through the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America to Argentina.

Long-tail skippers are migratory, retreating each fall to Florida's peninsula and South Texas, then back north in the spring. At least three generations are born during the year in areas where it winters over.

Their habitat includes disturbed sites, such as old fields and roadsides, the edges of woodlands and gardens. They are middling in size, with a wingspan between an inch-and-a-half and two-and-a-half inches.

Females will lay a single egg or a cluster of as many as 20 eggs on the long-tail's favorite host plants — members of the pea family. Males are territorial and actively patrol for females and to keep rivals out. Males also will perch on a leaf three to six feet above the ground looking for females. Long-tails are members of Hersperidae, the skipper family.

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