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Dusky Roadside-Skipper
Amblyscirtes alternata
Description:
Small butterfly with a wingspan up to 1 inch. The upperside of the wings is black-brown with a purple sheen, a few faint spots, and white fringes checked with white and black. The forewing is pointed. The lower two-thirds of the underside of the hindwing is covered with bluish-gray scales. The clubs on the antennae are shorter than in other species of skippers. The caterpillar is small, with a pale head with brown stripes on the face and a narrow black thoracic shield; the greenish body is frosted in white.
Range:
Southeastern Virginia south to Florida, west to Texas.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Locally rare in West Florida late March-April and August-October; locally rare in North Florida March-May, August-October; locally rare in Central Florida March, August-October; locally rare in South Florida March, July-October; not present in the Keys.
Habitat(s):
Sandhills, flatwoods and prairies.
Reproduction:
Two broods per year in most of range; up to three broods in Florida, the Gulf states, and Texas. The whitish eggs are laid singly on the leaves of host plants.
Natural History:
Little is known about the life history of this species. The caterpillars live in a tubular leaf shelter; mature larvae clip their shelters and remain inside them as the shelters fall into the leaf litter.
Food:
Caterpillars eat the leaves of the native bearded skeleton grass (Gymnopogon ambiguus). Adults nectar on flowers.
Comments:
This butterfly is very rare or local throughout its range, and it is perhaps extirpated in South Florida. Its host plant, bearded skeleton grass, is critically imperiled in South Florida and disjunct in the pine rocklands of Miami-Dade County from Central Florida. For more information, visit Butterflies and Moths of North America.



 
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