Pollinator of the Month: Skippers (Ochlodes)

Ochlodes, commonly known as skippers, is a genus in the butterfly family of skippers (Hesperiidae). They are named after their distinct flight pattern which consists of quick darting motions that bar resemblance to a skipping motion. There are 300 species of skippers native to Canada, and are distributed through every province and territory. Currently, there are 27 recognized species native to Alberta. One of the most common native species is the Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides). The European skipper (Thymelicus lineola) is classified as invasive to Alberta.

Skippers are found in a variety of habitats which include grasslands, prairies, open woodland, meadows, and anywhere else open grasses and flowers are present. Skippers feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers, facilitating pollination and reproduction of plants.

Adult skippers have stubby moth-like bodies, hook tipped antennae, and wings the same length as the body. Skipper wings are commonly orange, red, or brown in colour, and vary in patterning. The forewings are triangular shaped, and the hindwings are rounded. Some species have their wings spread, where others keep their hindwings in a more erect position so that they sit higher and more pronounced than the hindwings. Their eyes are large for their body size. The wingspan is typically 2.5-3.5 cm.

Male skippers will spend their time by patrolling an area for females, or they will simply perch and wait for a female to be nearby. After mating, the female skipper will lay her stringy eggs on a host plant that are commonly either broad leaf trees or bushes, or grasses. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae (caterpillars) will then feast on the leaves of the host plant. Young caterpillars can fall prey to lacewings, ants, and wasps. Most larvae will spin themselves into the leaves with silk to better protect themselves from the elements and predators while they gather enough energy to pupate. The caterpillars enter a state of inactivity (called diapause) in the winter, and regain activity in the spring and continue to feed and moult until they pupate. The adults emerge from their cocoons in the summer and begin to feed on nectar from a variety of flowers and will mate to produce a new generation.

brown and orange skipper butterfly on yellow flower brown and orange skipper butterfly on purple flower

Publicado el 25 de septiembre de 2023 14:17 por jdo77 jdo77


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