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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Silver-spotted skipper

It's the height of summer in my garden, the Phlox is in full bloom and the butterflies are busy doing their pollinator/reproduction dance. It's a magical time even in a blazing hot, too bright to take photos garden.
Epargyreus clarus nectaring on Phlox 'Jeane'

Let's ignore the heat and instead, celebrate the Silver-spotted skipper.

North American gardeners are lucky, this pretty critter is found throughout most of the United States and into southern Canada. Rita Veneble, the author of Butterflies of Tennessee  (a must get book for anyone wanting to id butterfly in Tennessee), 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!

Adult Silver-spotted skippers, like most skippers are nectar generalists~meaning they will visit any good nectar source. In my garden that means they're all over Phlox 'Jeana'. She is a powerhouse nectar producer that I recommend you all locate and purchase. She blooms for a very long time and you can expect all your butterflies to visit her.

On the other hand, this skipper has larvae host preferences. They feed on leaves of the pea/Fabaceae family, so look for the cats on Baptisias, Partridge Peas, etc. 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 folded leaves, as they age they make a nest of silked together leaves. Chrysalids hibernate and emerge in the spring.
Music City butterfly

I am crazy about skippers and so glad they are happy in my garden. All skippers are important plant pollinators, they're also, part of the garden food chain, as consumers and food; and, because of their sensitivity to environmental toxins they're an important indicator species of ecosystem health. If you have an abundance of skippers and butterflies~you probably have a healthy garden habitat.
Which brings me to a sad place. There aren't nearly as many this year as there have been in other years. That really is concerning. Speculation is that with the recent rains~we have had a wet few months~ the city and neighbors are spraying for mosquitoes and killing off beneficial insects. This could be true, as I am seeing many signs around the neighborhood advertising mosquito spraying service.

I honestly don't know what to say. I get that people hate spraying their clothes with poisons, but, I hate that we are poisoning our gardens. It's a tough choice. I haven't an easy answer for any of us. My choice is to treat my clothes and sweat my buns off while gardening. Sometimes, I'll drag a fan outside to blow the little blood suckers away from me.

I won't tell you what to do in your own garden, but, I will remind you as gently as I can, that if you want skippers like the silver-spotted beauty, then, you must never ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides in the garden.

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. Beautiful photos!
    I photographed a silver-spotted skipper on my butterfly bush (Buddleia) yesterday. I have seen them visiting my purple coneflowers, too. Happy butterflies - no pesticides in my garden!
    Have a wonderful week!

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  2. It is such fun to find any butterfly in the garden. Butterflies skipping across the flowers in the garden is a big reason why I garden. FUN.

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  3. Thanks, Gail. Pollinators are one of my passions and there don't seem to be nearly as many here as in past years. There's been a lot of speculation as to why this is including a drought the last two years.

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  4. Usually my garden is humming with bees, but there does not seem to be as many this year, especially bumblebees. I suppose it's the weather as this summer has been as wet as last summer was dry. I keep hoping for some sunny days soon! I know our town does spray for mosquitoes, but thankfully I have not seen it advertised as a home service, perhaps because home pesticide use is regulated in Ontario. The good news is that every shrub and tree is absolutely laden with fruit this year from the rain. My red twig dogwood is ripe now and there is a constant stream of bird life nabbing the berries. Most of my trees and shrubs are relatively newly planted, so this is quite exciting for me!

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  5. So enjoyed seeing your skippers and the painted lady in your last post, Gail. I haven't seen as many butterflies this year either, though a Monarch dropped by one day and then an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Most towns in our area have given up spraying for mosquitoes and use something to treat the larvae in ponds and other wet spots. I do hate mosquitoes--though they love me--but I don't like that spray either.

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    1. Our neighbors have pools and probably spray...wish they didn't. The problem for Middle Tennessee is the day flying Asian mosquito that can breed in a teaspoon of water.

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  6. I like your positive attitude! I just planted Phlox this year and then we got some at the fling...hoping to get more butterflies : )

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    1. Laurin, you will love 'Jeana' amd you will have more butterflies.

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  7. I love the silver-spotted skippers, too, and was so glad to return home to both skippers and swallowtails (and bees) visiting the exuberant (aka overgrown) pocket meadow and the side border!

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    1. I looked at your post and thought your garden looked great! But, I was only looking at photos! It was so ;good to see you at Fling.

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  9. This is an unusually colorful skipper - most of the ones I see here are rather drab.

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    1. It is a pretty skipper. We have a lot of the Dusty Wing skippers that are just as that sounds a dusty brown. They love the grasses and sedges we plant in our gardens.

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  10. Like you say, I've noticed more mosquitoes this year than previous years, although really they only seem to be a problem around dusk. I've been spraying myself with repellents (alternating between DEET and Picaridin) and I think it helps, but I've still gotten a few bites this year.

    I also treated a pair of pants with Permethrin, but that was in hopes of killing/repelling ticks, since I picked up a couple of those in the garden earlier this year. (Fortunately, found both while they were still crawling on me and before they'd latched on, so I didn't get bit, knock on wood.)

    Loads of butterflies and bees in my garden this year - more than ever, I think - which makes me overjoyed. I don't know that I could spot a skipper caterpillar (imagine they are quite small?) but I did spot plenty of chewed baptisia leaves earlier in the year, and now some cats (sulfur butterflies, I think) have started showing up on the partridge peas (which are also bee magnets, of course) :)

    (But yeah, this heat and humidity last few days has been Brutal! Hoping we get a cool down to just 'normal hot' starting tomorrow!)

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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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