What's a moth that also looks like a butterfly? What's an insect that can feed on plants, grassy lawns, and is found in North and South America? Don't rack your brain much because we have the answer in the form of some cool facts about this very insect, popularly known as the Fiery skipper. Hylephila phyleus is its scientific name.
Look into your gardens on lush green lawns, and you'll always find these skippers around the flowers. They feed on various grasses like the Bermuda grass Cynodon dactylon, for instance. In fact, in North America, these animals are referred to as confusing and small creatures because of their correlation in physical appearance to both moths and butterflies.
These skippers eventually migrate to the Northern regions of the US in summer. During summer, the Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) has the tact to keep its body temperature cool by closing its wings around them, exciting, right?
If this was not enough, continue reading more facts about the Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) below and check out our articles on more exciting animals like the painted lady butterfly and viceroy butterfly.
Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) is a dark brown butterfly belonging to the family of Hesperiidae.
The Fiery skippers belong to the class of insects called Insecta, as they share their looks with the butterflies and moths alike.
The exact number of Fiery skippers across the world is unknown. There are about 102 specimens observed to date; however, they are found in abundance in North America and the Antilles, and Southern America.
You'll find the Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) in temperate and tropical parts of savanna and grasslands. The geographical range for the skippers is the Nearctic region of South America and the eastern Atlantic to subtropical parts of Argentina. In fact, they could also be found in North America except for the winters.
The habitat of the Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) is quite diverse; you can spot them in meadows, alfalfa, clover fields, and lawn. In short, any place with plenty of available grass.
Since the Fiery skippers are migratory species, they often fly together; hence they live together in a group.
Fiery skippers survive for about a year or less.
The Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) has a breeding season throughout the year. The males remain close to the ground near the blades of grass or twigs awaiting the female. The male Fiery skipper and the female Fiery skipper mate near the flowers. The females usually lay eggs under the leaves or other plants such as weedy grasses or Bermuda grass.
After laying the eggs, the eggs appear pearlescent and white but soon start developing blue hues. The skipper transforms to larvae and then to pupae, followed by chrysalis from the egg stage. Finally, an adult Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) emerges from the chrysalis stage, and it takes off to mate and reproduce to start this process again.
The distribution of Fiery skippers worldwide is relatively stable, and their population has no conservation concern at present or as termed as Least concern.
This species from the southern range of the States come across as hairy, chunky, and big-eyed moth-looking insects. The name Fiery is characteristic of their orange and brown patterned wings. The males have a distribution of black markings on their wings, while the females have a lighter shade. Their antennae are also peculiar, having a knobbed and short structure.
The Fiery skippers are species of insects resembling the butterflies which often surround the flowers for the nectar, so you could imagine how colorful and merry they would appear! These delightful creatures hover around plants, and you could also find a pair of skippers doing a dance around them. So you could definitely call these tiny Fiery skippers cute insects.
The Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) species from North America have an exciting way of communication. Chemicals and colors are used to interact, with colors used to attract the opposite gender and chemicals like pheromones used as a call for mating. In some places, the male Fiery skipper also talks to the female Fiery skipper with sound and actions - cool, isn't it?
Fiery skippers are about 1 in long (2.5 cm), and their wingspan ranges from 1-1.25 in. As a matter of fact, the females have more enormous wings for their flight. You could say they are as big as any regular butterfly you would find hovering around in your garden.
The wings present on the brown-orange Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) are a little short, making it hard for them to fly, so their speed is limited to 20 mph.
The exact weight of these Fiery skippers is unknown; however, resembling butterflies in most mannerisms, you could say their weight measures the amount of 0.002-0.0044 lb (1-2 g). They are very light.
The male and female members of the Fiery adult skipper have no particular name that you could call them, but there are several physical factors that you could distinguish them on. The most visible aspect is the color; the males are orange or yellow, whereas the females have orange or yellow spots on a dark brown background. The males also have a black stigma and spiky black margin on them, while the females have similar characteristics with bolder dark markings.
Baby species of the Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) are called larvae. These cute tiny larvae start notching leaves as soon as they hatched and end up consuming the entire leaf as they grow. The young caterpillars or larval stage of a skipper is about 1 in long. One of the most interesting characteristics they exhibit is spinning silk shelters in their last stage of development! So go all creative while naming this multi-faceted baby Fiery skipper anything you want!
The Fiery adult skipper feeds on a variety of grasses, including Bermuda grass, Cynodon dactylon, St. Augustine grass, and Stenotaphrum secundatum. Their other favorites also include nectar from their preferred flowers, such as red clover, alfalfa, and others.
There's nothing to worry about if you find a yellow-brown moth-looking Fiery skipper with black spots on its wings around you or in your garden for that matter because these creatures are harmless! They won't sting or bite you and aren't poisonous at all. Phew!
If you love your garden, then, by all means, a Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) in your garden will be an added benefit. Firstly, there will be no maintenance or dietary overheads because these species, both males and females, are self-sustainable. Second, they could play the role of pollinators in your garden, which would definitely contribute to your garden positively. So go ahead and get a Fiery skipper as your garden buddy and pet!
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
If you thought butterflies aren't slow, then you are in for a surprise! The Swallowtail Butterfly has a wing flap rate of about 300 beats per minute, and trust us; this rate is quite slow for an insect. They are found everywhere except for Antarctica so keep a lookout for them as well!
As a matter of fact, as larvae or caterpillars in their early stages, the Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) manages to make a nest by binging the grass blades together with strands of silk. When fully grown, the caterpillars start changing their color from yellowish-brown to green.
The young species of Fiery skipper follow the saying like mother, like kids. Just like the parent skipper's fiery yellow-orange wings, the eggs that the female Fiery skipper lays are of yellow color too!
Finding these little creatures in the south parts of the US would lead you to encounter their colonies in dozens, in contrast with the north of the US, where they are seen living in solitary.
Got your binoculars but still find it difficult to spot the Fiery skipper amongst the other butterflies? Then here's a pro tip, the Fiery skippers would be the ones with relatively large bodies and angular, tiny wings with small dark spots. Most importantly, their antennae would be visible enough to distinguish them from the other usual butterflies.
The rarest butterfly you could ever find would be the Palos Verdes Blue butterfly. Its magnificent blue color would be the most soothing sight for your eyes.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods from our leaf-footed bug facts and pseudoscorpion interesting facts pages.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable fiery skipper coloring pages.