Posts Tagged: Hylephila phyleus
Have you ever looked closely at a fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) and seen its proboscis, aka tongue or feeding tube?
If you stay still and don't shadow it while it's nectaring, you'll see the proboscis darting in an out of a blossom.
The late afternoon sun lit up its long black proboscis while it was nectaring lantana and African daisies in our yard last weekend.
It's the little things you don't see a lot, but the little things you remember.
Proboscis or tongue of a fiery skipper dipped in nectar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Colorful fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
In the big, beautiful butterfly world, the Fiery Skipper stands out as the most common urban butterfly in California.
It may not be as showy as the Monarch, the Gulf Fritilliary and the Painted Lady, but the Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) holds its own.
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, describes it as "California's most urban butterfly, almost limited to places where people mow lawns. Its range extends to Argentina and Chile and it belongs to a large genus which is otherwise entirely Andean."
"Here in California, the oldest Bay Area record is only from 1937," he writes on his butterfly website. "At any rate, it is multiple-brooded, and appears to experience heavy winter-kill in most places; scarce early in the season, it spreads out from local places where it survived, gradually reoccupying most of its range by midsummer and achieving maximum abundance in September and October."
It breeds mostly on Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), Shapiro says.
We've seen the adults nectaring on sedum, lantana, zinnias and Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) at the half-acre bee friendly garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis. It's like their favorite restaurant where they can order nectar (take-out, please!) from sedum, zinnias, catmint and those glorious Mexican sunflowers.
Since the Fiery Skippers don't take kindly to cold winters, let's enjoy them while we can.
Close-up of Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The male Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) often head-butts the female's genitalia during courtship, says noted butterfly expert Art Shapiro of UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The skipper wasn't skipping.
In fact, it wasn't doing much of anything.
The fiery skipper butterfly (Hylephila phyleus), tangled in a spider web, struggled furiously to free itself.
Not going to happen. The sticky substance stuck to her like super glue.
It's a scene you don't often see. This time, however, before the resident spider on the catmint could grab its prey, I released the skipper.
Sorry, spider. Gotta protect the pollinators.
Fiery skipper struggles to free itself in a spider web. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Head of fiery skipper shows the tangled sticky strands of a spider web. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Released fiery skipper ready to flutter away. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Skippers and sedum. Sedum and skippers.
A perfect match. The flower, sedum (family Crassulaceae), and the fiery skipper butterfly (Hylephila phyleus, family Hesperlidae) make a stunning autumn photo.
When late afternoon sun strikes its fighter-jet wings, it glows brilliantly. Move closer and you'll see the skipper sipping nectaring. Move a little more closer and...it's gone.
It does keeps its distance.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, provides comprehensive information on fiery skippers and other butterflies on his website, Art's Butterfly World.
He calls the fiery skipper "California's most urban butterfly, almost limited to places where people mow lawns. Its range extends to Argentina and Chile and it belongs to a large genus which is otherwise entirely Andean. Its North American range may be quite recent. Here in California, the oldest Bay Area record is only from 1937."
Only 1937? A newcomer, but what a beauty.
Look for the fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) in your garden. It's likely sharing your catmint, lavender and sage with honey bees and other pollinators.
It's the only one holding a "fighter-jet" position.
Says UC Davis butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro: "The folded-wing skippers have a characteristic posture when they land: the forewings are held at a 45-degree angle to the rest of the body while the hindwing is held open and flat. This gives them a 'fighter-jet' like appearance."
These skippers are largely orange and tawny, he says, "and many have whitish chevrons on the ventral hindwing, although some genera are dark brown."
Skippers are a worldwide family of about 3500 species that appear to be "sister" to the rest of the "true butterflies," Shapiro says. The clubs on the tips of the antennae are usually hooked. In California, skippers fall into two or three subfamilies: the spread-wing skippers (Pyrginae), the folded-wing skippers (Hesperiinae), and the Heteropterinae.
His excellent Web site offers more information on fiery skippers and other butterflies.