Wild South Florida — Tropical Checkered-Butterfly
 
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Tropical Checkered-Butterfly
tropical checkered-skipper
Tripical checkered-skipper butterfly, photographed at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in January 2015.
tropical checkered-skipper
 

Generally speaking, skippers don't have the most elaborate color patterns on their wings, and from what we've seen, they mostly perch with their wings folded up. The tropical checkered-skipper, Pyrgus oileus, is an exception on both counts.

It is, however, like other skippers in two respects — its small size and fast, darting-style of flight. The wingspan of the tropical checkered-skipper tops out at about an inch and a half.

It's an abundant butterfly, and Florida is the northern tip of its natural range. It's found throughout the Peninsula, as far south as the Florida Keys. It's also found in South Texas, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America to Argentina. It will stray further north, having been spotted in North Carolina and Missouri on rare occasions.

It prefers open, sunny habitats, including roadsides, fields, fallow agricultural lands and pastures. Adults feed on sida, Spanish needles and a composite of other flowers. Host plants include mallows and sidas. Tropical checkered-skippers are "in flight" year round in South Florida, spring and summer further north.

The upper side of the tropical checkered-skipper and brown to dark brown with pale to white markings throughout. The forewings of the males also have blue-gray hairs along the body.

 
 
tropical checkered-skipper
 

Males spend their time either perched or patrolling, on the look out for receptive females. Females will lay a single egg on the upper side of a host plant.

The caterpillars are green with lateral lines across the body; the head is black. They spend their time in sheltered web eating the leaves of the host. In South Florida, tropical checkered-skippers will produce four or five generations in a year.

Tropical checkered-skippers are similar in appearance to white checkered-skippers, Pyrgus albescens, and common checkered-skippers, P. communis. They are members of Hesperiidae, the formal name for the skipper family, and Pyrginae, the spread-wing subfamily.

 

 
     
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