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Copyright by: Paul M. Strauss, 2021. In habitat at Highlands Hammock State Park.
Small butterfly with a wingspan up to 1-3/4 inches. The upperside of the wings and the underside of the forewing are dark brown; the underside of the hindwing has a dark central band and purplish-gray frosting along the outer margin. The forewing has a gray patch and three small white spots; that of the female has an additional egg-shaped white spot. The caterpillar is bluish-green, frosted with white, and has faint dark lines on the back and sides. The head is white with black stripes on the sides, three black stripes on the back, and a short brown line on top.
Southern and eastern United States, Mexico, Central America and South America.
Both adults and caterpillars are common and present all year in most of Florida; abundant during late summer and fall. Large numbers of adults migrate into North Florida in the fall.
Pinelands, hammock edges and open, disturbed sites.
Three or more broods per year. The whitish eggs are laid singly on the leaves of host plants.
Adults perch and court early in the morning before most skippers become active; often crawl into morningglory flowers to reach nectar. The young larva cuts and folds the tip of a leaf to make a shelter; the caterpillar makes a tube-shaped shelter that may hang down from the tip of the leaf.
Caterpillars feed on many species of grasses (Poaceae). Native larval host plants include cultivated species such as eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides), maidencane (Panicum hemitomum), southern wild-rice (Zizaniopsis miliacea), sugarcane plumegrass (Saccharum giganteum) and water paspalum (Paspalum repens). Other native host grasses are beaked panicum (Panicum anceps), Brazilian satintail (Imperata brasiliensis), coastal foxtail (Setaria macrosperma), coast cockspur (Echinochloa walteri), Egyptian paspalidium (Paspalidium geminatum), fall panic grass (Panicum dichotomiflorum var. dichotomiflorum), Florida paspalum (Paspalum floridanum), redtop panicum (Panicum rigidulum), rough barnyardgrass (Echinochloa muricata), savannah panicum (Phanopyrum gymnocarpum), spike chasmanthium (Chasmanthium laxum), sweet tanglehead (Heteropogon melanocarpus), tall redtop (Tridens flavus var. flavus) and thin paspalum (Paspalum setaceum). Caterpillars also will feed on many nonnative grasses, including lawn grasses such as St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum); landscape plants such as common bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris); crops such as corn (Zea mays), grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum); weeds such as barnyardgrass (Echinochloa crus-galli) and Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense); and nonnative invasive grasses such as cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), fountaingrass (Pennisetum setaceum), guineagrass (Panicum maximum), napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) and paragrass (Urochloa mutica). Native nectar plants include the cultivated shrub common buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) and the wildflowers blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) and pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata). Weedy native nectar plants include Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata).