White-striped Longtail Skipper - Chioides catillus
Live adult butterflies photographed at Corpus Christi, TX
Family: Hesperiidae (Skippers)
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White-striped Longtail Skipper

White-striped Longtails, like many of the larger subtropical skippers, wander far north of their permanent range. Many lay eggs on these jaunts, but the butterflies remain resident only where warm weather permits; they survive winters only in South Texas and southward. Similar species: Zilpa Longtail has white spot near tail, but lacks diagonal white band.

Life Cycle: Eggs are white, becoming yellowish with age. Newly hatched caterpillars are dull green, but mature to rose-colored with orange stripes on the sides. Chrysalis is dark brown with waxy white bloom. Host plants include many legumes, Mimosa, and beans.
Flight time: Several broods, year-round in south Texas.
Habitat: Woodland fringes, wooded hills, tropical forest clearings.
Range: South Texas and Arizona, south to Argentina; also West Indies.

White-striped Longtail Skipper
All adult true skippers have six well developed legs. Their eggs are tiny, usually less than .1mm. Most skipper caterpillars are green and tapered, and the neck appears constricted. The caterpillars weave silk and leaves into a daytime shelter for protection. Most pupate in loosely woven cocoons. The chrysalises are often coated with a powder or bloom. Chrysalis and caterpillars may overwinter.

Skipper butterflies can be divided into five subfamilies:
  • Pyrginae, or spread-wing skippers. These butterflies bask with their wings spread open flat, although there are a few that sit with the wings folded over their back. The cloudy wings sit with their wings partly open. Most spreadwings are patterned in gray, black and white. Caterpillars feed on many different types of plants, especially legumes.
  • Grass Skippers, subfamily Hesperiinae constitute the largest grouping, and perhaps the most challenging for those seeking to identify specimens. They are smaller than the spread-wing skippers, and many are patterned with yellow, orange and black. These erratic flyers sit with their forewings and hind wings at different angles.
  • Giant Skippers, subfamily Megathyminae includes the largest skippers. These are rare butterflies, even where there host plants, the Agaves and Yuccas are common. They are very fast and powerful flyers.
  • Skipperlings, subfamily Heteropterinae includes only a handful of small species living in the north and west. They lack the narrow extension (apiculus) of the antenna club. Many skipperlings sit with the wings open flat. They are often lumped into the grass skipper family. Note: Some skippers are called skipperlings but do not actually belong to this subfamily.
  • Firetips, subfamily Pyrrhopyginae. Only one species of this mainly subtropical group inhabits North America: the Atraxes skipper.
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Order Lepidoptera, which contains both butterflies and moths, includes at least 125,000 known species including 12,000 in North America. Butterflies are revered for their brightly colored wings and pleasing association with fair weather and flowers.
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