Pyrgus communis
Common Checkered-Skipper

Family Description:
Alternate Common Name: Checkered Skipper.
Note: This species represents a complex of several subspecies.

Caterpillar: The caterpillar varies in color from yellowish to light brown, and is dotted with white. It is marked lengthwise with brown and white lines along the sides. The head is black and covered with reddish brown hairs.
Adult: This is a small to medium-sized skipper, with a wingspan of to 1 inches. It varies in its appearance, between the sexes and between individuals in general. Males: The upperside of the male is grayish brown and marked with bands of whitish checks. There are two rows of dots near the edge of the wings, with the dots in the innermost row being the largest. The body and wing bases may appear covered with grayish or bluish hair. Males possess scent scales, used in attracting females, in a small, folded over section of the leading edge of the forewing (called a costal fold). Males of this species complex also have tibial tufts, specialized hairs on the fourth segment of the hind leg, which are used to waft pheromones (sex attractant chemicals) to a female during mating; however, males of the subspecies common to our area often lack these tufts. Females: Females tend to be darker than males on the upperside, and are marked with scattered white checks on the forewing and fewer checks, possibly appearing cloudy, on the hindwing. Underneath, both sexes are grayish white and marked with uneven bands of brown or greenish gray. Both above and below, the wings are fringed with black-and-white checks.

This widespread species ranges throughout the entire U.S., extending north as far south central Canada and south into South America. It can be found in most of Idaho.

It occurs in a variety of open habitats, such as fields, prairies, woodland openings, and disturbed areas.

Caterpillars feed on the leaves of several species of wild and cultivated mallows (Malva spp., Sphaeralcea spp., Althaea spp., and other species).

Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar, often from white flowers belonging to the sunflower family (Asteraceae), and also obtain moisture and salts from mud.

There are many generations of caterpillars each spring and summer in most of its range, and year-round in the south. Caterpillars construct shelters from folded leaves tied with silk. Older caterpillars overwinter in a physiological state called diapause. Where winters are particularly harsh, they cannot survive. Adults re-colonize these areas each year. Adults generally fly from February to November. The butterflies when at rest are found with their forewings partially open and their hindwings fully open. Male butterflies are aggressive and defend territories.

Males both perch and actively patrol, typically in the afternoon, for receptive females. Females lay pale greenish white or greenish blue eggs singly on leaf buds and the topsides of mature leaves. The eggs turn cream-colored before hatching.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank: G5
populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.   Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.