Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Baptisia and the Skipper

Silver Spotted Skipper nectaring on Baptisia sphaerocarpa.

Rita Veneble calls this skipper a Music City butterfly because it has guitars on the wings! I have to agree with her description~Just check out those bright white patches on the hindwings!
Legumes are its host plant, in fact you might find cats on any number of members of the Fabaceae family.  Females lay pumpkin shaped green eggs near host plant leaf tops and the hatched cats have to find their way to the host plant! Young caterpillars live inside of folded leaves, as they age they make a nest of silked together leaves. Chrysalids hibernate and emerge in the spring.
Adults perch upside down on the underside of leaves at night and on hot days
Silver Spotted Skippers aren't the only butterflies in my garden~But, they and other skippers might just be my favorites. Who could be immune to the charms of these big eyed critters that visit our gardens all summer and into the fall. Certainly not me! Skipper is the perfect name for these fast, agile, erratic fliers that seem to skip from flower to flower.

They look more like moths than butterflies, but, they are indeed butterflies. Skippers are small to medium, usually orange, brown, black, white, or gray. Some are brighter or iridescent colored. They all have those large eyes (even their caterpillar has a large head), short antennae (often with hooked clubs), stout bodies, and three pairs of walking legs. Adults of most species have a long proboscis and feed on floral nectar.

Skippers are members of the Superfamily Hesperioidea. We have about 275 in North America, where I live in Middle Tennessee, we have approximately 50 different skippers. I am thrilled to be able to identify three of them!

I'm not too concerned about not being able to identify them. I do know, that I want them in my garden. They are important plant pollinators (although, pollination is incidental); they are part of the garden food chain, as consumers and food; and, because of their sensitivity to environmental toxins they are an important indicator species of ecosystem health. If you have an abundance of skippers and butterflies~you probably have a healthy garden habitat.

Now, I am going to the garden to inspect the legumes for folded leaves and check for cats!

xoxogail

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

14 comments:

  1. Very pretty and very cool to have them in your garden. The Baptisia is pretty, too.

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    Replies
    1. Carol, Do you have the Baptisia? I can save seed for you!

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  2. I love the little skippers, and I didn't know that about baptisias. Good thing I have so many in my garden. Thank you.~~Dee

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    Replies
    1. I love them, too, Dee and have about 16 Baptisias in the garden.

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  3. Good information about skippers. I've seen quite a few of these in my garden, so this is reassuring. Thanks.

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  4. So interesting! I knew next to nothing about skippers other than to recognize a few of them in my garden. Glad to know that means I have a healthy environment here. So envious of your beautiful baptisia; mine fell victim to the voles/critters that ate my tulips. I am hoping it recovers next year.

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  5. Wonderful to be able to see all the exacting detail on the wings

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  6. Gosh, I have this baptisia. It is a sweet plant. I haven't seen many butterflies this spring. It has been so cool and wet. UGH... I know I will be sorry for saying that in a few weeks. ;)

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  7. Too early for skippers here, but I think if I had seen one I would have mistaken it for a moth.

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  8. Superb photos...I love the contrast of the butterfly with the lovely yellow of the Baptisia flowers. Happy Spring!

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  9. I love any kind of moth or butterfly and appreciate how many skippers make my garden their home. I need to keep an eye out for their eggs. :o)

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  10. Next time I see that skipper in my garden, I'll be looking for that guitar!

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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