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Epargyreus clarus

What do they look like?

Adult silver-spotted skippers have a wingspan of 43-50 millimeters. They are one of the largest species in their family, skippers. The upper sides of their wings are brown. They have goldish-yellow spots on their front wings. The edges of their wings are white. The undersides of their wings are brown with large white spots. They have brown bodies, six legs, and long tongues. Males and females look the same. (Bartlett, 2017; Hall, 2020; Wagner, 2005)

Caterpillars are up to 2 inches long. They look wrinkly and are green-yellow in color. Dark green stripes and spots cover their bodies. They have bright orange legs. They look very similar to the caterpillars of Zestos skippers. Pupae are dark brown and have black and white markings. Eggs are green with red tops. (Bartlett, 2017; Hall, 2020)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range wingspan
    43 to 50 cm
    16.93 to 19.69 in

Where do they live?

Silver-spotted skippers (Epargyreus clarus) are a species found across the United States and in southern Canada. In the western part of their range, they are found mostly in the mountains. (Hall, 2020; Wagner, 2005)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Silver-spotted skippers live in many mild, warm (temperate) habitats. They can be found in forests, swamps, gardens, brushy areas, roadsides, and open areas. This species can be found on flowers, mud, and sometimes animal feces. Larval silver-spotted skippers build and live in leaf shelters. The shelters of larger larvae can be built from a few leaves stitched together with silk. (Bartlett, 2017; Hall, 2020)

  • These animals are found in the following types of habitat
  • temperate

How do they grow?

Spotted-silver skippers grow from egg to larvae. Larvae go through complete metamorphosis to become adults. During this period of growth, the larvae molt and change shape. They come out as adults. The last group of caterpillars of the year spends the winter in their pupal stages. (Hall, 2020)

How do they reproduce?

Throughout their development, caterpillars make different kinds of leaf nest shelters. Caterpillars only leave their shelters to feed or to build bigger shelters. They build their chrysalises in their leaf nest. (Hall, 2020)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement

How long do they live?

In the most northern parts of their range, spotted-silver skippers create one generation of young per year. In the most southern parts of their range, they can make three or more generations during the long warm season. Spotted-silver skippers spend the winter in the pupal stage. (Bartlett, 2017; Hall, 2020)

How do they behave?

Spotted-silver skippers fly in a jerky, acrobatic way. Adults are active during the day, while caterpillars feed at night. They are active in the summer months. (Bartlett, 2017)

While they grow up, caterpillars make four different kinds of leaf nest shelters. The first shelter is made by cutting a small part of a leaf and attaching it with silk. As the caterpillars grow bigger, they use more and more pieces of leaves to build their nests. Caterpillars only leave their shelters to feed or to build bigger shelters. The largest shelters are made up of several leaves together. Silver-spotted skippers build chrysalises inside of their leaf nest. (Hall, 2020)

How do they communicate with each other?

Silver-spotted skippers have compound eyes. Like other butterflies and skippers, they are able to see ultraviolet (UV) light. Their antennae can sense odors, touch, and possibly sound. They can taste in their mouths and on the bottoms of their feet. Silver-spotted skippers are able to sense sound, but unlike moths, they do not have a special organ for this sense. (Wernert, 1998)

What do they eat?

Using their long tongues, adult spotted-silver skippers are able to drink nectar from a lot of different flowers. Caterpillars eat the leafy greens of plants. They may feed from false indigobush, hog-peanuts, butterfly peas, ground nuts, and American wisteria. They may also feed from some introduced plants, including kudzus, black locusts, Chinese wisteria, and the genus dixie ticktrefoil. Caterpillars eat crop plants like soybeans and members of the pea family, while adults drink the nectar. (Bartlett, 2017; Hall, 2020; Yahner, 1998)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • nectar

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Caterpillars of this species are preyed on by paper wasps and horse guard wasps. Paper wasps hunt down larva and steal them. Horse guard wasps may stock their nests with silver-spotted skipper caterpillars. To avoid bringing parasitic wasps to their nests, caterpillars expel their waste with power. This process is called ballistic defecation. When larvae feel threatened, they spit a greenish, bitter defensive chemical at the threat. (Hall, 2020; Wagner, 2005)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Adult silver-spotted skippers pollinate a variety of flowers. They are primary consumers. Paper wasps and horse guard wasps are parasitic wasps that use the larvae of this species as a host. (Hall, 2020; Wagner, 2005)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host

Do they cause problems?

Caterpillars eat the leaves of crop plants like soybeans and members of the pea family. (Hall, 2020)

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • crop pest

How do they interact with us?

Adult silver-spotted skippers pollinate the plants that they feed from, such as soybeans and members of the pea family. (Hall, 2020)

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • pollinates crops

Are they endangered?

Contributors

Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

References

Bartlett, T. 2017. "Species Epargyreus clarus - Silver-spotted Skipper - Hodges#3870" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed June 26, 2020 at https://bugguide.net/node/view/403.

Hall, D. 2020. "Silver-spotted skipper: Epargyreus clarus (Cramer) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae: Pyrginae)" (On-line). Featured Creatures Entomology & Nematology. Accessed June 26, 2020 at http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/bfly/silver-spotted_skipper.htm.

Wagner, D. 2005.

Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History
. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Accessed June 26, 2020 at http://www.jstor.com/stable/j.ctt7t2wx.10.

Wernert, S. 1998. Reader's Digest North American Wildlife. New York: Readers Digest.

Yahner, R. 1998. BUTTERFLY AND SKIPPER USE OF NECTAR SOURCES IN FORESTED AND AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPES OF PENNSYLVANIA. Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, 71(3): 104-108. Accessed June 26, 2020 at https://www.jstor.org/stable/44149230.

 
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Hauze, D. 2020. "Epargyreus clarus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 17, 2021 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Epargyreus_clarus/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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