Epargyreus clarus (silver spotted skipper)

Adult silver spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) nectaring on the spherical flower of a buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Rachel Floyd, August 6th, 2020

With a wide wingspan and bold markings, the adult silver spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus) is one of the easiest common butterflies to identify. The wings are primarily a dark chocolate brown. The forewing has a row of transparent gold spots, and the underside of the hindwing has a distinct metallic silver-white band.

Silver spotted skipper larvae feed on leaves of herbs, vines, shrubs, and trees in the pea family including false indigo-bush (Amorpha fruticosa), American hogpeanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata), butterfly pea (Clitoria mariana), and groundnut (Apios americana).  Silver-spotted skipper larvae fold and cut the leaves of their host plant sticking them together with silk to make a shelter. Predatory wasps have learned to recognize (or possibly “smell”) these structures and can easily break in to snatch a nutritious snack! In an apparent attempt to throw the wasps off their scent, silver spotted skippers use an “anal comb” to throw their frass as far away from themselves as they are able.

Adult Epargyreus clarus are strangely said to prefer all colors over yellow, and seek out blue, pink, purple, or white flowers in the shady edge habitat of forest and field. The one pictured nectaring on the spherical flower of a buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) on the verdant edge of a wetland restoration.