Friday, August 31, 2012

Long-tailed Skipper alert!

A long-tailed skipper, Urbanus proteus, rests in a garden in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. I took this photo on November 8, 2006, and there were plenty of the iridescent-backed tail streamers. One expects to see this tropical butterfly in South Texas and Florida - the northernmost limits of its massive range, which extends south to Argentina.

 Photo: Pat Deering

One does not expect to stumble into long-tailed skippers in Ohio, but it happens occasionally. These butterflies are powerful flyers, and like some southern birds they'll stage periodic northward movements far beyond their normal haunts. Pat Deering was inspecting the field behind her Licking County, Ohio house last Sunday, August 26, when she was floored by the presence of a long-tailed skipper nectaring on tall ironweed.

Photo: Pat Deering

Fortunately Pat had her camera handy and was able to make these excellent images, thus documenting another record of this southern immigrant. We don't see many records of long-tailed skipper in Ohio, and they may not even turn up annually. I did write about another record back in 2008, HERE. Even back then, I was beating the drum about Lepidoptera (butterflies and skippers) and Odonata (dragonflies) as hyper-responders to subtle increases in temperatures. I think we'll continue to see an increase in records of powerfully flying southern insects such as these skippers, and others.

Photo: John Pogacnik

Pat wasn't the only one to have a long-tailed skipper this year - John Pogacnik found the one above in his Lake County yard on August 23, and remarkably, another before that, on August 11. I have heard of at least two other long-tailed skippers this year, which I imagine is the largest influx ever reported in a season in Ohio.

I'm sure there are other long-tailed skippers out there. They're likely to turn up on ornamental flowering plants in gardens, so keep a close watch on the butterflies in your yard. If you find a long-tailed skipper, please let me know.

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1 comment:

Sharkbytes said...

I've never seen one of those. Very interesting.