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Copyright by: Paul M. Strauss, 2021. In habitat at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park.
Small butterfly with a wingspan up to 1-11/16 inches. The upperside of the wings is grayish-black, with frosting on the wing margins and a few white spots. There is a tiny stigma on the forewing of the male. The underside of the wings is gray with many white spots (much fewer in northern part of range). The dark eye is bordered by a white eye stripe above and white palps below, giving it a masked appearance. The medium-siZed caterpillar has a dark brown head and a greenish body with a pink tinge that is covered with long, thin hairs.
Florida west to New Mexico, north to Canada, east to New Hampshire.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Locally rare in West Florida and North Florida March-May and August-October; locally rare in Central Florida March-April and July-October; locally rare in South Florida February-April and August-October; not present in the Keys. Caterpillars are present all year.
Prairies, sandhills, pine savannahs, and flatwoods.
Two broods per year; one in northern part of range. The pinkish-brown eggs are laid singly on the leaves of the host plant. The caterpillar lives in a tube-shaped leaf shelter. Caterpillars pupate in a sealed nest at the base of the host plant.
This butterfly is very rare; it lives primarily in isolated colonies in North Florida and Central Florida. Males perch on or near the ground during the day, waiting for females.
Caterpillars feed on the leaves of host plants. Larval host plants include the native little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). Adults nectar on flowers, including those of the native blackberry (Rubus sp.), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), lopsided Indian grass (Sorghastrum secundum), phlox (Phlox sp.) and Virginia strawberrybush (Fragaria virginiana) and the nonnative Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), red clover (Trifolium pratense) and vervain (Verbena sp.)