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Skipper (butterfly)

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Title: Skipper (butterfly)  
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Subject: Castniidae, Papilionoidea, Lepidoptera, Comparison of butterflies and moths, List of butterflies of Oklahoma
Collection: Hesperiidae
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Skipper (butterfly)

Skipper butterflies
Pelopidas sp.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
(unranked): Rhopalocera
Superfamily: Hesperioidea
Family: Hesperiidae
Latreille, 1809
Type species
Hesperia comma
Linnaeus, 1758
7–8 subfamilies, about 550 genera

A skipper or skipper butterfly is a butterfly of the family Hesperiidae. They are named after their quick, darting flight habits. More than 3500 species of skippers are recognized, and they occur worldwide, but with the greatest diversity in the Neotropical regions of Central and South America.[1]


  • Description and systematics 1
  • Subfamilies 2
  • Footnotes 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Description and systematics

Plate from Biologia Centrali-Americana showing Pyrginae (3 at right center — black and blue-brown) and Eudaminae (the others)

Traditionally, the Hesperiidae are placed in a cladistic relationships.[2][3]

Collectively, these three groups of butterflies share many characteristics, especially in the egg, larval, and pupal stages.[1] However, skippers have the antennae clubs hooked backward like a crochet hook, while the typical butterflies have club-like tips to their antennae, and moth-butterflies have feathered or pectinate (comb-shaped) antennae similar to "moths". Skippers also have generally stockier bodies and larger compound eyes than the other two groups, with stronger wing muscles in the plump thorax, in this resembling many "moths" more than the other two butterfly lineages do. But unlike, for example, the Arctiidae, their wings are usually small in proportion to their bodies. Some have larger wings, but only rarely as large in proportion to the body as in other butterflies. When at rest, skippers keep their wings usually angled upwards or spread out, and only rarely fold them up completely.[1]

The wings are usually well-rounded with more or less sharply-tipped forewings. There are some with prominent hindwing tails, and others have more angled wings; the skippers' basic wing shape varies not much by comparison to Papilionoidea however. Most have a fairly drab coloration of browns and greys; some are more boldly black-and-white. Yellow, red and blue hues are less often found, but some largely brown species are quite rich-colored too. Green colors and metallic iridescence are generally absent. Sexual dichromatism is present in some; males may have a blackish streak or patch of scent scales on their forewings.[1]

Many species of skippers look frustratingly alike. For example, some species in the genera Amblyscirtes, Erynnis (duskywings) and Hesperia (branded skippers) cannot currently be distinguished in the field even by experts. The only reliable method of telling them apart involves dissection and microscopic examination of the genitalia, which have characteristic structures that prevent mating except between conspecifics.[1]


The regent skipper (Euschemon rafflesia) is the most distinct skipper butterfly, forming a subfamily of its own

There are about 3500 species of skippers. They are now classified in the following subfamilies:[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Ackery et al. (1999)
  2. ^ Heikkilä et al. (2012)
  3. ^ Kawahara & Breinholt (2014)
  4. ^ Brower & Warren (2008)


  • Ackery, P.R.; de Jong, R. & Vane-Wright, R.I. (1999): The Butterflies: Hedyloidea, Hesperioidea and Papilionoidae. In: Kristensen, N.P. (ed.): Handbook of Zoology. A Natural History of the phyla of the Animal Kingdom. Volume IV Arthropoda: Insecta, Part 35: Lepidoptera, Moths and Butterflies Vol.1: Evolution, Systematics, and Biogeography: 263-300. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York.
  • Brower, Andrew V.Z. & Warren, Andrew (2008): Tree of Life Web Project – Hesperiidae. Version of 2008-APR-07. Retrieved 2009-DEC-24.
  • Brower, Andrew V.Z. & Warren, Andrew (2006): The higher classification of the Hesperiidae (Lepidoptera: Hesperioidea) Full Article. Retrieved 2012-OCT-26.
  • Evans, W.H. (1951): A Catalogue of the Hesperiidae indicating the classification and nomenclature adopted in the British Museum (Natural History). Part I. Pyrrhophyginae. - London, British Museum. 92 pp. + p15. 1-9.
  • Evans, W.H. (1952): A Catalogue of the Hesperiidae indicating the classification and nomenclature adopted in the British Museum (Natural History). Part II. Pyrginae. Section I. - London, British Museum. 178 pp. + pls. 10-25.
  • Evans, W.H. (1953): A Catalogue of the Hesperiidae indicating the classification and nomenclature adopted in the British Museum (Natural History). Part III. Pyrginae. Section II. - London, British Museum. 246 pp. + pls. 26-53.
  • Evans, W.H. (1955): A Catalogue of the Hesperiidae indicating the classification and nomenclature adopted in the British Museum (Natural History). Part IV. Hesperiinae and Megathyminae. - London, British Museum. 499 pp. + pls. 54-88.
  • Heikkilä, M., Kaila, L., Mutanen, M., Peña, C., & Wahlberg, N. (2012). Cretaceous origin and repeated tertiary diversification of the redefined butterflies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279(1731), 1093-1099.
  • Kawahara, A. Y., & Breinholt, J. W. (2014). Phylogenomics provides strong evidence for relationships of butterflies and moths. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1788), 20140970.
  • Korolev, Vladimir A. (2014): Catalogus on the collection of Lepidoptera. Part I. Hesperiidae. - Moscow, 310 p. ISBN 978-5-00077-066-5 [2].

Further reading

  • Glassberg, Jeffrey Butterflies through Binoculars, The West (2001)
  • Guppy, Crispin S. and Shepard, Jon H. Butterflies of British Columbia (2001)
  • James, David G. and Nunnallee, David Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies (2011)
  • Pelham, Jonathan Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada (2008)
  • Pyle, Robert Michael The Butterflies of Cascadia (2002)

External links

  • Hesperiidae at
  • Hesperiidae of Europe
  • Nearctica North America (Index page)
  • Skippers of North America: Large format diagnostic photographs Cirrus Digital Imaging
  • Internet Archive Free download of Watson, E.Y. 1891 Hesperiidae Indicae: Being a reprint of descriptions of the Hesperiidae of India, Burma, and Ceylon
  • Butterflies and Moths of North America
  • Butterflies of America
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