The Skipper butterflies, like this Common Checkered Skipper (Burnsius communis), have not attracted nearly as much scientific study as other butterflies. This is so even though about a third of all butterflies are Skippers. There are about 4,000 Skipper species worldwide, and until very recently the classification into different species and subfamilies was vague and fluid. This Skipper, as a case in point, was known as Pyrgus communis until 2019, when a genomic analysis of more than 250 Skipper species resulted in an extensive reclassification. And only laboratory dissection with a microscope, focusing on the male’s genitalia, can separate this Skipper from the visually indistinguishable but distinct species of White Checkered Skippers (Burnsius albescens). Be that as it may, the Common Checkered Skipper is found throughout North America, including Canada and Mexico. It relies mainly on plants in the Mallow family for its progeny. Females lay eggs singly under Mallow leaves. The caterpillars, once they emerge, spin a silk that curls the leaves around them, making a snug shelter. There they spend the winter, emerging as Skipper butterflies the following spring. We have several varieties of Mallow plants in the park (see the Plant List), so this butterfly probably has a reliable home here. Like other butterflies, when it flutters from flower to flower seeking nectar, it performs the useful service of pollination.
Tomorrow: Miserable Mining Bee