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by Valerie

January, 2013

Desert Checkered-skipper

desert checkered-skipper

Even though skippers (Hesperiidae) are usually classified as butterflies, they are different enough from other butterfly families that many casual observers mistake them for moths, and with characters like chunky shape, relatively small wings, hairy body and darting flight, it is an understandable mistake. Compared to other skippers, most of which are brown, the desert checkered-skipper (Pyrgus philetas) is quite showy, with its bold white and gray pattern. There are also a couple other checkered-skippers in our area and they differ only very slightly in wing patterns. These common insects can be found at any time of the year, their hairy bodies being especially good at absorbing the sun's warmth on cold days. The larvae feed on mallows, but the tiny caterpillars are very hard to find.

Skippers come in two main types, determined by how they hold their wings when resting. One group is called the "grass skippers" because many of the larvae use grasses as a host. These rest with their wings held at four different angles. The checkered-skippers, though, belong to the "spread-wing skippers," which, as might be inferred from the name, rest with their wings open most of the time. When they are especially cold or the weather is damp, they will hold their wings folded up over their backs, looking quite a bit different.

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