Butterfly Guide: Silver Spotted Skipper Butterfly

The Silver spotted skipper butterfly lives in southern Canada and the continental United States and is unique for its white eyespot below each hindwing.

Silver Spotted Skipper Species Summary

Scientific NameEpargyreus clarus
Family NameHesperiidae
KingdomAnimalia
GenusEpargyreus
HabitatForest edges, swamps, bushy areas
RangeSouthern Canada and the Continental United States
Host PlantsBlack locust, honey locust, and false indigo
Butterfly DescriptionA short hairy body, small brown wings with white markings
Caterpillar DescriptionGreen or yellow with a chubby body

Butterfly Physical Description

Silver spotted skipper
Silver spotted skipper

This butterfly is one of the most recognized skippers in North America. The Silver spotted skipper is famous for white eyespots on the underside of each hindwing.

Overall, the upperside of its wings is brownish to black, with lobed hindwings. Forewings have transparent gold spots, and the wingspan is 1 3/4 to 2 5/8 inches (4.5 to 6.7 cm).

Why are they called a Silver Spotted Skipper Butterfly?

The Silver spotted skipper is named after the contrasting white mark on the underside of its hindwings.

Caterpillar Physical Description

Silver spotted skipper caterpillar
Silver spotted skipper caterpillar

The Silver spotted skipper caterpillar grows up to 2 inches (5 cm) in length. Its head is dark reddish brown with a big yellow eyepatch. The abdomen is yellow, with dark stripes and spots, while its prolegs are bright orange. The larval instars build shelters on the host plants and live in a leaf nest. Silver-spotted skipper larvae will forcibly eject frass to remove the chemical traces.

The pupa (chrysalis) is dark brown with black and white markings. The pupa from the final brood will hibernate through the winter, and adults will emerge next spring.

How long do silver spotted skippers live?

Egg Stage4 to 7 days
Caterpillar Stage21 to 35 days
Chrysalis Stage12 to 14 days
Butterfly Stage10 to 20 days

Where are skipper butterflies found?

Silver spotted skipper butterflies prefer forest edges and disturbed or open woods. They can also be found in foothill stream courses or prairie waterways.

This butterfly is most commonly found in southern Canada and the continental United States, although it can be found in Mexico on rare occasions.

What is the host plant for the skipper butterfly?

This butterfly species lays eggs in woody legumes such as black locust, honey locust, and false indigo. They may also select some herbaceous legumes, like glycyrrhiza species. Females will lay eggs on least snoutbean and coralbean, but the larvae won’t feed on these plants.

What does a silver-spotted skipper butterfly eat?

The Silver spotted skipper avoids yellow flowers but likes blue, red, pink, purple ones, and occasionally white and cream. The most common food plants it visits are:

  • Everlasting pea
  • Milkweed
  • Red clover
  • Blazing star
  • Thistles
  • Buttonbush

Are Silver Spotted Skipper Butterflies a Pest?

Besides eating nectar from various flowers, adults feed on crop plants — soybean and kidney bean. This is why they’re considered pests. Still, they can’t cause significant damage to the crops so nothing is done to remove these butterflies. The Silver spotted skipper will also sometimes feed on mud and animal feces.

Their preferred diet for crop plants includes:

  • Soybeans
  • Kidney Beans
  • False indigobush
  • American hogpeanut
  • American wisteria
  • Black locust

Behavior

Males will rarely fly around to seek females. Instead, they prefer to perch on tall weeds and branches. They’ll fly around the shade. These butterflies will perch upside down under leaves during cold days or nights. Adults will frequent areas where nectar plants grow and eat the nectar with their long tongues.

Females will lay eggs near the host trees, and the caterpillar will look for the best host. Young caterpillars live in a folded leaf shelter. The first instar larvae make shelters on the apical half of leaves. Larger larvae will connect several leaves with silk to form shelters.

During their development, they’ll make four types of shelters and leave them only to feed and make new larger hideouts.

Predators

Even though the larvae make solid shelters, some species of wasps can recognize their location. They’ll find the larvae and extract them from the nest. Besides being vulnerable to insects and parasitism, the larvae are susceptible to a Baculovirus infection.

Are Silver Spotted Skipper Caterpillars Poisonous?

The larvae will defend themselves when disturbed by regurgitating a green, bitter defensive chemical called frass.

Do Silver Spotted Skipper Butterflies Migrate?

Yes, the Silver spotted skipper butterfly does migrate from southern Canada to the Southern US in winter. However, the pupa from the last brood will hibernate.

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