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Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species

Local animals in this group:

Hesperiidae

What do they look like?

These are short stout insects, with shorter wings than most butterflies. Their antennae end in thick hooks. Michigan species are mostly brown or tan, with black, orange, or yellow markings.

Skipper caterpillars are usually green or brown, sometimes yellowish, never brightly colored. They have a distinctive "collar", a narrow ring around the body right behind the head.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger

Where do they live?

Species in this family are found all around the world. There are about 300 species in North America, and 47 of them occur in Michigan.

What kind of habitat do they need?

As usual for Lepidoptera, these species are usually found near their host plants. Most North American species feed on grasses, but some common species eat shrubs and trees, especially in the bean family. They are most common in meadows and on the edges of woods, but can be found in in many habitats.

How do they grow?

Like all Moths and Butterflies, this family has complete metamorphosis. See More Information on Butterflies and Moths for an explanation of this. In this family, it is usually the larval stage that survives the winter in cold climates.

How long do they live?

Skippers only live for about a year or less.

How do they behave?

Adult skippers are only active during the day, but Skipper caterpillars may feed mainly when it is dark or partly light. Skippers tend not to travel too far, few if any species migrate, the most often stay in the same area their whole lives.

How do they communicate with each other?

Like most butterflies, they communicate mainly through sight and scent. Males fly to females and each species has its own set of actions and scents used to attract mates.

What do they eat?

Skipper caterpillars eat the leaves of grasses, reeds, shrubs or trees. Most species are limited to a single group of food plants.

Adults mostly drink nectar, and sometimes mud (for minerals).

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Caterpillars are camouflaged and often hide during the day. Many species make nests of leaves and silk for additional protection.

Adults are quick flyers, but have no special defense.

How do they interact with us?

Skippers don't have strong negative or positive affects on humans. They are common butterflies even in urban areas, and people often like to see them.

Are they endangered?

No Skippers in Michigan are considered endangered, but some species in other parts of the country are in danger of extinction because their habitats are being changed or destroyed.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated
 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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. "Hesperiidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 19, 2019 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Hesperiidae/

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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