Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Don’t Skip the Skippers While Butterfly Watching

Courtesy Patrick Carney

Least Skipper Courtesy Patrick Carney

silver spot joeSilver Spotted Skipper

Wild Indigo Dusky Wing Credit: Marie Longo

Wild Indigo Dusky Wing
Credit: Marie Longo

Of course we have our much beloved Monarchs, the stalely Swallowtails, the gorgeous Gossamer-wings  and the beautiful Brush Foots, but there is another group of butterflies, more diverse and challenging than all the others,  but very often overlooked when most folks are out enjoying the butterflies of the Meadowlands. They are the Skippers.

Our Skippers may be the Rodney Dangerfield of the butterfly world: they often get no respect from the casual butterfly enthusiast. But much like the sparrows are to the experienced birder, our skippers can be as delightful and as interesting as any of the larger species of butterflies.

There are over 40 species of Skippers in the Garden State as compared to only 5 species of Swallowtails. Skippers are often overlooked because of their size (most are only a half-inch) and are very often mistaken for moths.

The skippers break down into 3 categories: Spread-wing Skippers, Skipperlings and Grass-Skippers. Except for the Skipperling, of which there is only one species in New Jersey, and that one has unfortunately most likely been extirpated (Arctic Skipper), many of the species from the Spread-wings and Grass Skippers can be found in the Meadowlands area. Here are just a few.

Silver Spotted Skipper –Tis perhaps our most common Skipper and can be found all over the Meadowlands including your home butterfly garden. I love pointing this guy out to kids and asking, “how do you think it got is name?” It’s the big solver spot of course.

Wild Indigo Duskywing – These dark tiny beautiful butterflies are about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches big. They got their name from the host plants they consume, Blue Wild Indigos.  But they have also adapted to using crown-vetch as their host plant, which grow wild all over DeKorte Park and other Meadowlands locations

Broad-winged Skipper-Our Skipper of the freshwater swamps, marshes and bogs is one of the most common in the Meadowlands as its host plant is the invasive Phragmites. DeKorte park is listed as one of the best locations for this great little Skipper

Least Skipper– This tiny little orange colored butterfly can be easily overlooked since it is only about a half-inch big. This tiny little guy can be found flying very “weakly” from flower to flower and through low wet grassy areas. Always a joy to observe around the gardens of the Meadowlands

These are just a few of this diverse and challenging group of Butterflies. Their abundance in the New Jersey Meadowlands is clear evidence of a healthy diverse ecosystem. Come join us on Saturday for the Seventh Annual Meadowlands Butterfly Day at DeKorte and see all the great Skippers for yourself!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *