Dateline: March 13, 2015*
I spotted a skipper butterfly flitting from leaf to leaf on the ticktrefoil (Desmodium spp.). This woody somewhat vine-y genus of plants has many different species. I’m still not confident in my identification to species, and I tend to think that this one is D. incanum which is introduced rather than the native although there is some debate by experts that it may well be native and IRC in South Florida treats it as such.
Since I saw the butterfly on this particular plant, at least I could be sure of the butterfly identification.
Meet the Long-tailed Skipper butterfly (Urbanus proteus). The photos of the adults are from prior encounters. I wasn’t quick enough to snap a photo of my early spring arrival. I did however get a photograph of the eggs shown in the top photo.
Larval Host Plants: Numerous members of the Pea family (Fabaceae) including Beaked Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum), American Wisteria (Wisteria americana), Kudzu (Pueraria Montana), and ticktrefoils (Desmodium spp.)” Source: Florida Museum of Natural History
These dicot skippers (Subfamily Eudaminae) are larger than some of the more typical grass skippers seen. They are prolific at my place. The caterpillars are commonly called “bean leafrollers” and are looked down upon because they may be a pest of commercial bean growing operations. They have plenty of Desmodium in my yard so I won’t worry about snap beans or peas…I would just relocate the cats to an ornamental plant and save my “cash crops”.
They are nocturnal feeders so you can find the caterpillars hidden away in “tents” made of rolled up leaves…thus the common name for the wiggly stage.
They are quite beautiful butterflies. The turquoise blue iridescent coloring of the back and body is elegant and looks like rich fur.
They are interesting to watch as they nectar at a variety of flowers. If you are in their range, it is worth looking out for the Long-tailed Skipper in your beautiful wildlife garden.
*This is an update of a tale originally published by Loret T. Setters on March 13, 2015 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.