Long-tailed Skipper

Top Photo: Long-tailed skipper rests between visits to flowers.

Long-tailed skipper is a southern species of butterfly which moves north following breeding each year. Sometimes, they make it all the way to the northeastern states in fall.

Long-tailed skipper sips nectar.

Butterfly enthusiasts would be all a-flutter should a long-tailed skipper show up on a fall-blooming flower in September in, say, Cape Cod, MA or even Cape May, NJ. I remember one occasion when a long-tailed skipper was spotted at a rural mailbox with plantings of sedum around its base (it happened to be at the entrance to a campground where many naturalists, birders, and the like were camping). The sedum was, of course, in bloom and the next day the little mailbox was surrounded by khaki-clad naturalists with binoculars and cameras dangling from their necks, waiting to get a glimpse of the butterfly. It was quite a scene. By the way, the butterfly had taken off and was long gone.

Long tail is actually extensions of the hindwings.

Here in the North Carolina Piedmont they are much more common and draw much less attention but are still worth a remark or two when seen.

The only other butterfly this skipper could be mistaken for locally, is silver-spotted skipper. They’re about the same size as long-tailed skipper and have similar forewing markings but lack the long “tail” and blue iridescence on the body and wing bases.

I’ve seen very worn long-tailed skippers which do not have the “tail” and where the blue iridescence is quite faded from wear. But the silver-spotted skipper has one marking that sets it apart, the large white spot on the hindwing.

Silver-spotted skipper and its “silver” spot.

You’re more likely to see a long-tailed skipper on the coastal plain than here on the piedmont. But keep an eye out. In our area, look for long-tailed skipper from August to October. A flower garden with plenty of nectar producing blossoms would be the best place to search.

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