Floridata Article

Long-Tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

Long-Tailed Skipper
Habitat: Open, disturbed sites such as old fields, fallow agricultural land, roadsides, and utility easements. Garden Abundance: Moderate to high. Wingspan: 1.5 to 2.2 in Larval Host Plants: Herbs and vines in the bean family, including weedy legumes such as beggar's tick (Desmodium spp.), hog peanut (Amphicarpa bracteata), kudzu (Pueraria lobata), and wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), and edibles such as garden peas (Pisum sativa) and various kinds of beans. Favorite Adult Nectar Sources: Lantana (Lantana camara), Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia), purpletop Verbena (Verbena bonariensis), and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundiflora)

The Long-Tailed Skipper is one of the most common and attractive skipper butterflies in the Southeast. It is easily distinguished from other members of the family (Hesperiidae) by its long hindwing tails and beautiful blue-green iridescence on the upper wing surfaces. An abundant butterfly of disturbed locations, this skipper reaches especially dense populations in the late summer and early fall. Adults have a low, rapid flight but frequently stop to nectar at colorful flowers or perch in sunlit locations. Males are territorial and actively patrol their home turf in search of receptive females or invading rivals. The Long-Tailed Skipper migrates southward through peninsular Florida each fall.

Females deposit their small yellow eggs singly on the underside of host plant leaves. The larva constructs a shelter by folding over a leaf flap and securing it with silk. (See Floridata's green bean profile for pictures of the larva and the larva tucked in his shelter.) The caterpillar, known as the bean leaf roller, hides inside his little tent, out of harm's way, during the day and ventures out to feed at night. Larger larvae may use more than one leaf to make their shelters. The mature caterpillar is greenish-yellow with a yellow stripe down each side, numerous small black spots, and a large reddish-brown head. The pupa is brown and covered with white wax, giving it a frosted appearance. Numerous generations are produced each year.

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