Meet the Fiery Skipper Butterfly: The sweetest yellow butterfly

A Fiery skipper butterfly lives in South and North America and is unique for its extremely short antennae, tiny yellow wings, and prominent black eyes.

Fiery Skipper Butterfly Species Summary

Scientific NameHylephila phyleus
Family NameHesperiidae
HabitatOpen areas such as gardens, roadsides, and lawns
RangeNorth America, South America, Central America
Host PlantsBermuda grass, bentgrass, and crabgrass
Butterfly DescriptionSmall big-eyed moth-like butterfly with orange and brown wings
Caterpillar DescriptionStarts with a green color before turning dark brown

What does a fiery skipper look like?

Fiery skipper butterfly
Fiery skipper butterfly

Fiery skipper butterflies have very short antennae and can grow up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length. The wingspan ranges from 1.18 to 1.57 inches (3 to 4 cm).

Male Fiery skippers have yellow or orange background colors, but females are dark brown. The hindwings and forewings have brown-orange patterns. Female Fiery skippers have large brown patches on the wings with a darker upperside and paler underside. Male wings have black marginal markings.

Why are they called Fiery Skipper Butterflies?

Fiery skippers are named for their rapid and bouncy flight. They may look like they’re skipping from one plant to another.

Caterpillar Description

Fiery skipper butterfly caterpillar
Fiery skipper butterfly caterpillar

First instar larvae are green but transform to darker brown. The first instar length is 0.08 to 0.15 inches (2 to 3.9 mm), and the head capsule width is 0.01 to 0.02 inches (0.4 to 0.5 mm). The caterpillar will get larger through instars but will start preparing for pupation during the third one. It will make a nest out of leaves and start to spin silk.

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Fiery Skipper Butterfly Lifespan

After 3 to 4 days of mating, the females will lay eggs. The eggs are laid one at a time on the underside of stems and grass blades. They can lay 50 to 150 eggs.

In the first few days, the eggs are white and iridescent. After some days, the eggs assume a blue hue. The larval stage lasts 16 days, and the pupa stage lasts 7 to 10 days.

The pupa (chrysalis) starts with a yellow-green color before changing to brown.

Egg Stage7 to 21 days
Caterpillar Stage16 days
Chrysalis Stage7 to 10 days
Butterfly Stage3 to 4 days

What is the fiery skipper’s habitat?

The Fiery skipper butterfly thrives in temperate climates, often in open areas such as:

  • Grassy fields
  • Lawns
  • Gardens
  • Meadows
  • Roadsides
  • Second-growth scrub

Where do fiery skippers lay eggs?

Fiery skippers’ host plants are grasses such as:

  • Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon)
  • Crabgrass (Digitaria)
  • St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)
  • Bentgrass (Agrostis)
  • Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum)
  • Dallisgrass (Paspalum dilatatum)
  • Broadleaf carpetgrass (Axponopus compressus)

What do fiery skippers eat?

Skipper larvae feed on grass blades from the various host plants listed above. Adults feed on various flowers, including:

  • Alfalfa
  • Big caltrop
  • Blechum pyramidatum
  • Blue mistflower
  • Chiggery grapes
  • Day jessamine
  • Hairy beggarticks
  • Ironweed
  • Knapweed
  • Little hogweed
  • Milkweed
  • Red clover
  • Siratro
  • Sneezeweed
  • Thistles
  • White asters

Behavior and flight cycles

Fiery skippers’ life cycle begins the moment it emerges from their cocoon. Males are territorial and will chase off other males. Females will look for suitable habitats, while males will perch in grassy areas waiting for them.

Pupae overwinter under a cocoon if the materials (silk and leaves) are available.

Fiery skippers are fast fliers, and like other skipper species, they can fold their hindwings and hold upright their forewings to form a triangle. They do this to absorb sun rays.

The Fiery skipper can appear year-round in a favorable climate. In cooler areas, they appear from May to August.

Usual Predators: wasps, plants, and dragonflies

Wasps, sundew plants, and dragonflies are a threat
Wasps, sundew plants, and dragonflies are a threat

Hylephila phyleus serve as prey to several predators in all its life stages.

Wasp species that threaten caterpillars:

  • Braconidae
  • Chalcidoidea
  • Encyrtidae
  • Eulophidae
  • Ichneumonidae
  • Pteromalidae
  • Scelionidae
  • Trichogrammatidae

Adult butterflies’ predators are:

  • Ambush bugs
  • Dragonflies
  • Robber flies
  • Spiders
  • Sundew plants
  • Tiger beetles

Are fiery skippers found in the US?

Fiery skippers are residents throughout North America (Southern United States, West Indies), Central America, and South America (Argentina). These species can also be found in Hawaii, where it’s considered a pest.

Do Fiery Skipper Butterflies Migrate?

They migrate to Northern California, Southern Ontario, Canada, Southern Minnesota, and Southern New England in the summer.

How to Attract Fiery Skipper Butterflies to your Garden?

To attract Fiery skipper butterflies to your garden, plant a wide variety of flowering plants such as alfalfa, milkweed, and white asters. These will help the butterflies find their preferred host plant and lay eggs in a safe environment.

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