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Pyrgus centaureae

What do they look like?

Grizzled skippers are brownish-black butterflies. They have white spots and stripes on the wings. Underneath the wings is checkered in white and greyish-brown spots. Grizzled skippers are part of the Hesperiidae family, which is a special kind of butterfly called skippers. Skippers have a knob or club at the end of their antennae that also has a hooked tip. In this species, the female is larger than the male. Their wingspan can be from 22 to 28 mm long. On the edge of their front wing, males have the edge folded back, which contains wing scales that produce chemicals called pheromones that attract females. ("Grizzled Skipper", 2010)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range wingspan
    22 to 28 mm
    0.87 to 1.10 in

Where do they live?

The species Pyrgus centaureae is a type of butterfly called the grizzled skipper. The grizzled skipper lives in the cold, northern areas of the United States and Canada. There are three subspecies. Subspecies Pygrus centaureae loki is found in the Rocky Mountains. Subspecies Pyrgus centaureae wyandot lives in the eastern United States, from Ohio and possibly Michigan to New York and south in the Appalachian mountains to North Carolina. Subspecies Pyrus centaurae freija is found across northern North America from Alaska to Labrador. This species is also found in Europe, including Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and also east into northern Asia. ("Grizzled Skipper", 2010; "Pyrgus centaureae freija", 2013)

What kind of habitat do they need?

The grizzled skipper lives in many different habitats. It can be found in tundra, bogs, meadows, valleys, forests, taiga, and sandy or grassy fields. Its habitats need many grasses and flowers for the caterpillars and adults to live on. ("Grizzled Skipper", 2010; "Pyrgus centaureae freija", 2013)

How do they grow?

The grizzled skipper has the life stages of egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. Eggs hatch after 10 days. Butterfly larvae are commonly called caterpillars. Caterpillars have several different stages called instars. As caterpillars, they will go into hiding for one or two winters and emerge again in the spring. They become pupae, and during this stage they go through metamorphosis. In late spring, they will emerge from the pupae as butterflies. Most adults will die by the end of June. ("Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help", 2013; "Pyrgus centaureae freija", 2013)

How do they reproduce?

Grizzled skippers mate during late spring, from May to June. Males will fly around looking for females or will sit on plants and wait for a female to fly past. Once the male has found a female, he flies towards her and opens the fold on his front wings. This releases the scent scales that produce chemicals called pheromones. The pheromones let the female know that the male wants to mate, and attract her to him. ("Attributes of Pyrgus centaureae", 2013; "Grizzled Skipper", 2010)

There is not much known about the reproductive habits of grizzled skippers. After males and females mate, females lay dozens to hundreds of eggs, one by one, on or near the leaves of plants. ("Attributes of Pyrgus centaureae", 2013; "Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help", 2013)

  • Breeding season
    Pyrgus centaureae breeds in late spring, usually during the months of May and June.

Females provide nutrients in the eggs that the offspring use to grow and develop before hatching. Females also lay their eggs on or near plants. The caterpillars will eat these plants when they hatch. After females lay the eggs, they leave and do not give any other care. ("Attributes of Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

How long do they live?

Adult grizzled skippers live for 4 to 6 weeks after emerging as butterflies. They can spend as long as two years as caterpillars though, so total lifespan from egg to adult is much longer than a few weeks. ("Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help", 2013)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 2 months

How do they behave?

The grizzled skipper flies quickly and darts around, staying close to the ground. Males guard their territory against other males. They sit on small stones or branches to watch for other males, and will fly up to meet them. They also look for females. Males are more likely to be sitting near the ground like this during cooler temperatures. When tempeartures are warmer, they will switch to flying around, searching for females or other males. These butterflies feed with their wings half open. ("Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

Home Range

Most adults stay in the same general area during their lives, though some have been seen flying up to 1.5 km away. ("Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help", 2013)

How do they communicate with each other?

Grizzled skippers communicate with each other mainly through sight and scent. Males also produce pheromones, which are chemicals that attract female mates. ("Grizzled Skipper", 2010)

What do they eat?

Grizzled skipper caterpillars feed on leaves, fruit, and flowers of plants such as wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Canadian cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis), varileaf cinquefoil (P. diversifolia), and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus). Adults feed using a long tube called a proboscis, which allows them to eat nectar from flowers of many plants, such as blueberry, wild strawberry, and Canadian cinquefoil. ("Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • flowers

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Grizzled skipper caterpillars can hide from predators during the day in grasses and plants. They are also camouflaged. Adult grizzled skippers are hard for predators to catch because they fly very quickly. Other than being a fast flyer, the grizzled skipper has no other special ways to protect against predators. Predators include insect predators, such as mantids, as well as birds. ("Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • cryptic

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

While feeding on nectar from many species of flower, grizzled skippers also pollinate these flowers. These butterflies are also prey to a variety of predators. ("Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Do they cause problems?

There are no known adverse effects of Pyrgus centaureae on humans.

Grizzled skippers do not cause any problems for humans.

How do they interact with us?

Grizzled skippers do not have any positive effects on humans.

Are they endangered?

Grizzler skippers are not an endangered animal, but there are some places where their numbers are decreasing. One place is Minnesota, where there are less and less of them. This is partly due to the destruction of their habitat, forest fires, and chemicals that people use. To prevent this butterfly species from becoming endangered or extinct, people need to be careful about the effects they have on the environment and the habitats of many animals. ("Pyrgus centaureae freija", 2013; "Pyrgus centaureae", 2012)


Taylor Bohman (author), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Robert Sorensen (editor), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


2013. "Appalachian Grizzled Skipper" (On-line). Conserve Wildlife. Foundation of New Jersey.. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2013. "Attributes of Pyrgus centaureae" (On-line). Butterflies and Moths of North America. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2013. "Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae" (On-line). Montana Field Guide. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2010. "Grizzled Skipper" (On-line). Butterflies of Canada. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

Peter Eeles. 2013. "Grizzled Skipper" (On-line). UK Butterflies. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2013. "Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help" (On-line). Butterfly Conservation. Accessed March 25, 2013 at

2013. "Pyrgus centaureae freija" (On-line). Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Accessed March 25, 2013 at

2007. "Pyrgus centaureae wyandot" (On-line). Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2012. "Pyrgus centaureae" (On-line). NatureServe Explorer. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Bohman, T. 2014. "Pyrgus centaureae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 25, 2024 at

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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