common checkered-skipper

(Burnsius communis)

Conservation Status
common checkered-skipper
Photo by Dan W. Andree
  IUCN Red List

not listed

 
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNA - Not applicable

 
  Minnesota

not listed

 
           
           
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Common checkered-skipper is a large spread-wing skipper. It occurs throughout the contiguous United States, in western Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America. It has been called “the most common and widespread skipper in North America.” It is common in Minnesota, most common in late summer and fall.

Adults are active from early June to late September. They are found in dry open places, including prairies, old fields, pastures, parks, urban gardens, vacant lots, railroads, roadsides, and other disturbed areas. The feed on flower nectar, mostly but not exclusively on white flowers. Larvae feed on the leaves of plants in the mallow family, including common mallow, round-leaved mallow, and velvet-leaf.

The forewing is ½ to (13 to 15 mm) long, and the wingspan is 1 to 1½ (25 to 38 mm). The wings are held spread wide when at rest. This is the feature that gives the subfamily Pyrginae its common name. The upperside of the wing is grayish-brown, blackish-brown, or reddish-brown. The thorax and the upperside of each wing near the base is covered with long hairs. The hairs are brown or black with some white on the female, bluish-gray with some white on the male. This causes the male to appear bluish in flight. The male also has a fold near the leading edge (costal margin) of the forewing that encloses specialized scent cells. There is a median band of large white spots, a submarginal band of smaller white spots, and a marginal band of very small white spots. This checkered pattern is the feature that gives the genus its common name. The marginal band is incomplete, missing the spot at the leading outer corner (apex). The central area of the forewing (cell) has a large spot near the end and a very small spot or no spot at all at the end. The fringe is checkered dark brown and white. On the male, some but not all of the checks in the fringe may be black. The underside of both wings mirrors the upperside, but is much paler and has larger white spots, making it appear mostly white with light brown stripes and spots. On the leading margin of the hind wing near the base there is a black “telephone”-shaped mark.

The antennae are banded dark brown and white, and are distinctly hooked at the end.

The caterpillar is up to 1 long and waxy green to pinkish. It is covered with numerous minute white spots and short white hairs (setae). There is a grayish-green stripe in the middle (dorsal) and a cream-colored stripe on each side (subdorsal). The head and the collar on the first segment of the thorax (prothorax) are both dark brown. The collar has long white setae.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Wingspan: 1 to 1½ (25 to 38 mm)

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
 

Northern grizzled skipper (Pyrgus centaureae freija) has smaller white spots with gaps between the spots.

The caterpillar description above could be used with little or no change for a number of skipper species. The common checkered-skipper caterpillar is distinguished by somewhat longer hairs on the body and long hairs on the prothoracic collar. It is also the only skipper caterpillar in Minnesota to be found on mallow.

 
     
 
Habitat and Hosts
 
 

Dry open places, including prairies, old fields, pastures, parks, urban gardens, vacant lots, railroads, roadsides, and other disturbed areas.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

Two overlapping generations per year: Early June to late September

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

Adults are strong fliers. They hold their wings spread wide when at rest. They perch well off the ground on a tall plant.

The caterpillar creates a shelter to feed in by cutting two channels, folding over the resulting flap, and securing it with silk.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

The female lays single large eggs on the tops of leaves or on leaf buds. Mature caterpillars overwinter. Caterpillars may not survive Minnesota’s cold winters. Adults migrate north in the spring.

 
     
 

Larva Hosts

 
 

Plants in the mallow family (Malvaceae), including mallows, poppy mallows, and velvet-leaf.

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Flower nectar, mostly but not exclusively on white flowers

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

21, 24, 29, 30, 75, 82.

 
  9/25/2021      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common and widespread

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  
 

Suborder

Glossata  
 

Infraorder

Neolepidoptera  
  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  
 

Superfamily

Papilionoidea (butterflies)  
 

Family

Hesperiidae (skippers)  
 

Subfamily

Pyrginae (spread-wing skippers)  
 

Tribe

Pyrgini (Checkered-Skippers, White-Skippers, and Allies  
 

Genus

Burnsius (New World checkered-skippers)  
       
 

Skippers have traditionally been placed in their own superfamily Hesperioidea because of their morphological similarity. Recent phylogenetic analysis (Kawahara and Breinholt [2014]) suggests that they share the same common ancestor as other butterfly families, and thus belong in the superfamily, Papilionoidea.

This species was formerly classified as Pyrgus communis. A recent analysis of the DNA of 250 skippers (Li, Wenlin; Cong, Qian; Shen, Jinhui; Zhang, Jing; et al. [2019]) resulted in a reconstruction of the tree of the skipper family Hesperiidae. Nine new genera were defined. New World checkered-skippers were placed in the new genus Burnsius.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Pyrgus communis

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

common checkered-skipper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Cell

In Lepidoptera: the large central area of the wing surrounded by veins.

 

Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.

 

Seta

A stiff, hair-like process on the outer surface of an organism. In Lepidoptera: A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like outgrowth used to sense touch. In mosses: The stalk supporting a spore-bearing capsule and supplying it with nutrients. Plural: setae.

A Note on the Color

Curiously, technical descriptions, both in printed field guides and on the Web, give the color of the wing upperside as bluish-gray or black for the male and black or dark brown for the female. Yet the photos in these same field guides, and all 374 photos of adults on BugGuide.net, clearly show the wing upperside to be always some shade of brown – bluish-brown, grayish-brown, blackish-brown, or reddish-brown.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

Share your photo of this insect.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.
 
 

Dan W. Andree

 
 

Checkered Skipper...

This small butterfly was feeding on prairie flowers Sept. 5-6th 2021 Frenchman’s Bluff SNA Norman Co. Mn.

 
    common checkered-skipper   common checkered-skipper  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
 

 

 
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
 
     
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

Share your video of this insect.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.
 
 

 

 
     
     
       
       
 
Other Videos
 
  Common Checkered Skipper female (Pyrgus communis) on Longleaf Aster
Nature in Motion
 
   
 
About

Oct 26, 2016

All in slow motion except for the 2nd clip. The Aster is Symphyotrichum longifolia.

Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers) » Hesperiidae (Skippers) » Pyrginae (Spread-wing Skippers) » Pyrgus (Checkered-Skippers) » Pyrgus communis (Common Checkered Skipper)

At The Shore - The Dark Contenent by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

 
  Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis) Working
Nature's Wild Things
 
   
 
About

Mar 7, 2017

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)
Just Working
Video Only 100% Speed
Cabarrus County, North Carolina, United States
Photo Walk - 10-26-2016

 
  Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)
Rudyard Wallen
 
   
 
About

Sep 30, 2020

rotating and nectaring on Common Daisies (Bellis perennis)

 

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this insect.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Dan W. Andree
9/5 to 9/6/2021

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

his small butterfly was feeding on prairie flowers Sept. 5-6th 2021 Frenchman’s Bluff SNA Norman Co. Mn.

common checkered-skipper

 
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
 

 

 

 

 

Binoculars


Created: 6/25/2021

Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © 2021 MinnesotaSeasons.com. All rights reserved.