Butterflies of New Mexico: The Skippers I: Dicot Skippers (Hesperiidae: Eudaminae)

by Steven J. Cary and Michael E. Toliver

Skippers (Hesperiidae). About a third of our butterfly fauna, more than 100 species, belongs to this family, which is subdivided into six subfamilies in the US: Eudaminae, Tagiadinae, Pyrrhopyginae, Pyrginae, Heteropterinae, and Hesperiinae. Of those six subfamilies, five are known from New Mexico and the sixth (Tagiadinae, represented by Celaenorrhinus fritzgaertneri) has been taken on the Arizona side of Cottonwood Canyon, Peloncillo Mountains. Therefore, it is likely that eventually all six will be known from our state. The tribe Megathymini has been considered a seventh subfamily, but recent genetic work (Li, et al, 2019) shows it belongs in the Hesperiinae. Skippers earned their name because of their rapid, skipping flight, which is powered by a heavily-muscled thorax. All skippers have antennal clubs that are distinctively bent, curved or hooked. Larvae silk leaves together for nests; larvae overwinter. Most subfamilies have distinct larval food preferences. Updated November 30, 2022

Dicot (aka Neotropical) Skippers (Hesperiidae: Eudaminae). The Eudaminae are a subfamily of skippers found largely in the Neotropics, but some have distributions that reach into temperate North America, including New Mexico. As a group, the Dicot Skippers have distinctly different behaviors, hostplants and appearances than other skippers. They resemble some Spread-wing Skippers (Pyrginae), but tend to be larger, rest with their wings over their backs in more typical “butterfly” fashion, and often have the hindwing angle produced, sometimes into a long “tail.” As the name implies, their larval foodplants are dicotyledonous plants (i.e., not grasses). Most larvae eat legumes (Fabaceae). This group was traditionally placed as a tribe (Eudamini) within the subfamily Pyrginae, but recent molecular DNA evidence prompted its elevation to subfamily status and resulted in considerable taxonomic re-arrangement among member genera and species. The new arrangement per Pelham (2019) will be different from arrangements in older guidebooks. New Mexico has at least 16 species from this subfamily.


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Cecropterus dorantes (Stoll 1790)                  Dorantes Longtail (updated July 31, 2022)

Description. This is one of a handful of long-tailed, subtropical skippers that wander into New Mexico from the south, but only occasionally. Wing fringes are checked. Forewing light spots are gold. The underside is banded brown and violet with irregular postmedian bands. Dorantes resembles the Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) but lacks the iridescent blue-green scaling of that species and the arrangement of spots on the DFW are different. Range and Habitat. Cecropterus dorantes occurs south to subtropical South America. The few New Mexico records are for Upper Sonoran Zone canyons in our southwest quadrant between 4400 and 6000′ elevation (counties: Hi,Ot,Si). Life History. In nearby southeast Arizona, Bailowitz and Brock (2022) reported seeing Dorantes Longtail larvae on Desmodium neomexicanum, Desmodium batocaulon and Clitoria mariana (all Fabaceae). Raymond VanBuskirk photographed an ovipositing female in the southern Peloncillo Mountains on August 9, 2020, documenting seasonal reproduction here, as well. Flight. New Mexico records span August 1 to October 21, indicating an association with the summer thunderstorm season. Look for adults perching and nectaring at flowers in riparian settings. Comments. Li, et. al, (2019) moved this species from the genus Urbanus based on DNA and morphological considerations.

Dorantes Longtail (Cecropterus dorantes) Resaca de la Palma State Park, Cameron Co., TX; November 2, 2017 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Dorantes Longtail (Cecropterus dorantes) Frontera Audubon Sanctuary, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 20, 2003 (photo by Steve Cary).
Dorantes Longtail (Cecropterus dorantes) Bisbee, Cochise Co., AZ; September 21, 2000 (photo by Dale and Marian Zimmerman)
Dorantes Longtail (Cecropterus dorantes) Black Bill Canyon, Animas Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM; October 1, 1990 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of Dorantes Skipper (Cecropterus dorantes) in New Mexico.

Comparison of white-fringed Eudamine skippers. A) White-fringed Cloudywing (Cecropterus albociliatus); B) Desert Cloudywing (Cecropterus casica); C) Drusius Cloudywing (Cecropterus drusius); D) Gold-costa Skipper (Cogia caicus); E) Acacia Skipper (Cogia hippalus); F) Arizona Skipper (Codatractus arizonensis). Photos courtesy of Jim Brock and Andy Warren (https://www.butterfliesofamerica.com/index.html).

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Cecropterus casica (Herrich-Schäffer 1869) Desert Cloudywing (updated July 21, 2022)

Description. The upperside pattern of white spots on a brown ground resembles other cloudywings, but the large white marginal patch on the VHW is reminiscent of Codatractus arizonensis. In combination, they are unique. There are a number of white-fringed brown skippers which are or may be found in southern New Mexico, and they can be confusing to separate, especially when looking at photos. Often, one can’t get a good look at both ventral and dorsal surfaces, and that inability precludes accurate identification. A comparison plate is provided to aid in determination in these difficult cases. Range and habitat. This skipper ranges from Guerrero, Mexico, north to southern Arizona, south Texas and southwest New Mexico (counties: Gr,Hi,Lu). It is found in Upper Sonoran Zone canyons, from 4500 to 6000′ elevation, but never in numbers. Life history. Various legumes (Fabaceae) serve as larval hosts. Bailowitz and Brock (2022) documented Desmodium cinerascens, D. batocaulon and Clitoria mariana as larval hosts in southeast Arizona. Flight. Although scarce in New Mexico, this skipper may breed here on occasion. Our few records are for the summer rainy season, July 4 to late September, but an additional spring generation occurs in southeast Arizona. Adults stop for nectar (e.g., honeysuckle) and mud as they patrol up and down riparian corridors. Comments. Li, et al., (2019) moved this species from the genus Achalarus. In their paper, Li, et al., noted the remarkable convergence of appearance in otherwise relatively unrelated species. The Desert Cloudywing is a member of such a group. 

Desert Cloudywing female (Cecropterus casica) Modesta Canyon, Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, Jeff Davis Co., TX; March 28, 1997 (photo by Steve Cary).
Desert Cloudywing (Cecropterus casica) Box Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Coronado National Forest, Pima Co., AZ; August 2, 2018; (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Desert Cloudywing (Cecropterus casica) Modesta Canyon, Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, Jeff Davis Co., TX; April 15, 1994 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of Desert Cloudywing (Cecropterus casica) in New Mexico.

Comparison of brown-fringed Cloudywings. A) Nevada Cloudywing (Cecropterus nevada); B) Dobra Cloudywing (C. dobra); C) Northern Cloudywing (C. pylades)  D)  Texas Northern Cloudywing (C. pylades albosufusa); E) Southern Cloudywing (C. bathyllus – reported [unlikely] from near Jemez Springs and more reliably from SE Colorado). Key features to look for include 1) size (nevada and dobra are smaller) 2) Male costal fold (only pylades has this) 3) alignment of spots on DFW (bathyllus has them aligned, the other species have them scattered) 4) checkered fringes and 5) striations on VHW. Photos courtesy of Jim Brock and Andy Warren (https://www.butterfliesofamerica.com/index.html).

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Cecropterus nevada (Scudder 1872) Nevada Cloudywing (updated July 24, 2022)

Description. Nevada Cloudywing is the first of a three-species complex whose members are difficult to differentiate, especially from the upperside alone. Compared to Northern Cloudywing, Nevada and Dobra are smaller, the pale tan/tawny ventral hindwing has densely-packed dark striations, and males lack a costal fold. Until we learn more about morphological differences, separating Nevada from Dobra is best accomplished with location data. Range and Habitat. Cecropterus nevada occupies western Cordillera from Idaho south to California and New Mexico. Here it inhabits Canadian Zone and Hudsonian Zone grasslands usually 7500 to 10,500′, but sometimes higher (counties: Be,Ci,Co,LA,Mo,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,Ta). Life History. Larvae eat legumes (Fabaceae). Scott (1992) reported oviposition on Trifolium rusbyi and Vicia americana at Hopewell Lake, 9800′ (RA). Flight. Adults fly from April 21 to August 16, mainly in June and July. Males defend hilltop perches; both sexes come to nectar and water. Comments. This species complex recently underwent a DNA-driven taxonomic overhaul in which regional populations previously classified as subspecies were proposed as full species. Populations in northern New Mexico mountains, previously treated as Cecropterus mexicana nevada, would belong to C. nevada. Those in southern New Mexico mountains, formerly Cecropterus mexicana dobra, would belong to C. dobra. More studies are likely to follow.

Nevada Cloudywing (Cecropterus nevada) east of Black Lake, Colfax Co., NM: May 31, 2018 (photo by Steve Cary).
Nevada Cloudywing (Cecropterus nevada) east of Black Lake, Colfax Co., NM: May 30, 2017 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of Nevada Cloudywing (Cecropterus nevada) in New Mexico. Black circles = verified occurrences; white circle = needs verification and locality.

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Cecropterus dobra (Evans 1952) Dobra Cloudywing (updated July 31, 2022)

Description. Dobra Cloudywing is a look-alike sister species of Nevada Cloudywing. Compared to Northern Cloudywing, Nevada and Dobra are smaller, the pale tan/tawny ventral hindwing has dark striations, and males lack a costal fold. Separating Nevada from Dobra is challenging, too, but Dobra generally is larger with more prominent dorsal forewing white spots and paler hindwing fringes. Range and Habitat. Apparently endemic to southern Arizona and southern New Mexico mountains, Cecropterus dobra inhabits Canadian Zone grasslands usually above 8,000′ elevation (counties: Ca,Gr,Li,Ot). Life History. Larvae eat legumes (Fabaceae). Bailowitz and Brock (2022) reported oviposition on Lathyrus arizonicus in northern Arizona. Use of other legumes is possible. Flight. Adults fly from April 21 to July 5, mainly in June. Both sexes go to nectar and water. Comments. Until we learn more about morphological differences between Nevada Cloudywing and Dobra Cloudywing, geographical location will be a good start in separating one from the other. Even then, it may take some work to get a grip on the northern boundary of Dobra and the southern boundary of Nevada.

Dobra Cloudywing (Cecropterus dobra) Gum Springs, Capitan Mountains, Lincoln National Forest, Lincoln Co., NM; June 3, 1995 (photo by Steve Cary).
spider-killed Dobra Cloudywing (Cecropterus dobra) near Cloudcroft, Sacramento Mountains, Lincoln National Forest, Otero Co., NM; July 5, 1997 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of Dobra Cloudywing (Cecropterus dobra) in New Mexico.

Cecropterus bathyllus (J. E. Smith, 1797) Southern Cloudywing (added July 31, 2022)

Description. The Southern Cloudywing is as large as the Northern Cloudywing. It tends to be darker brown than the other similar species, and the white spots on the FW are larger. Those spots are aligned in a diagonal line, which distinguishes this critter from the Northern Cloudywing. The DHW fringes are whitish and unmarked. The VHW resembles the Northern Cloudywing. Males lack a costal fold. Range and habitat. This species is unreliably recorded from NM (10 mi. N. of Jemez Springs, 16-vii-1950, Sv, specimen in AMNH). However, the species has been recorded from SE CO, so it may eventually be reliably recorded from our state. It is primarily an eastern US species, particularly in the SE US. Life history. Larvae feed on various species of Fabaceae, including Trifolium, Lespedeza, Desmodium, and Astragalus. Flight. Our single report is from July, which is a typical time to find the species in most of its US range. In more northern areas, it has a single mid-summer brood, but in southern areas it may have as many as three broods per year (June – October). Comments. Observers in the eastern part of NM should be on the lookout for this species, especially along river courses.

Southern Cloudywing (Cecropterus bathyllus), Osage Forest of Peace, Osage Co, OK, 29-vi-2014 (photo by Mike Toliver).
Southern Cloudywing (Cecropterus bathyllus), Osage Forest of Peace, Osage Co, OK, 29-vi-2014 (photo by Mike Toliver).

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Cecropterus pylades (Scudder 1870)    Northern Cloudywing (updated August 4, 2022)

Description. Northern Cloudywing is a medium-sized, gray-brown skipper. The white spotting above consists of relatively small spots, with the subapical group arranged in an arc-like pattern. The spots are not aligned, unlike the Southern Cloudywing. The ventral hindwing pattern differs from that of Cecropterus dobra and nevada, with no fine striations and the irregular darker bands more prominent. Males have a costal fold, which distinguishes them for males of other similar species found in NM. Range and Habitat. Flexible larval host requirements allow this skipper to breed successfully from Upper Sonoran Zone canyons (3500′) up to Canadian Zone meadows (9200′). It occurs from Oaxaca, Mexico, across most of the US and including most of New Mexico (all counties but Cu,DB,Gu,Le,Qu,Ro,Va). Life History. Larvae eat legumes (Fabaceae). Lathyrus leucanthus is used in Colorado (Scott 1992). Cologania angustifolia is used and Desmodium batocaulon is suspected in southeast Arizona (Bailowitz and Brock 2022). Flight. Northern Cloudywing is univoltine in north-central New Mexico mountains, peaking in June. It is at least bivoltine in southern New Mexico, where records span April 11 to September 15, peaking in May and August. Adults fly in topographically low areas and perch with wings partly open, whether feeding at flowers or wet sand. Comments. Individuals with whitish scaling in the ventral hindwing marginal area are somewhat regular in southern New Mexico. These may be assigned to subspecies Cecropterus pylades albosuffusa H. A. Freeman 1943, particularly those from Eddy and Otero counties. Pelham (2022) notes the fluidity of the classification of this species, with the possibility that new forms or cryptic species are present. He separates the northern NM populations as part of the southern Rocky Mountains segregate, and the southwestern NM populations aligned with a southwestern segregate also found in SE AZ. Only time and further research will tell. For now, we include all NM populations under pylades.

Northern Cloudywing in copula (Cecropterus pylades) Organ Mountains, Dona Ana Co., NM; June 6, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).
Northern Cloudywing (Cecropterus pylades) Peloncillo Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM; August 6, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).
Northern Cloudywing (Cecropterus pylades) Fillmore Canyon, Organ Mountains, Dona Ana Co., NM; May 8, 2022 (photo by Marta Reece).
Occurrences of Northern Cloudywing (Cecropterus pylades) in New Mexico.

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Cecropterus drusius (W. H. Edwards [1884])  Drusius Cloudywing (updated August 5, 2022)

Description. The white fringe on the hindwing is the main feature by which to distinguish Drusius from our other cloudywings. In addition, the forewing is more pointed and the dorsal forewing white spots are reduced. The ventral surface resembles the Northern Cloudywing, except for the white fringe. Drusius is about the size of Northern, and thus is bigger than Dobra (the other Cloudywing that shares its range). Range and habitat. This skipper is resident from Guerrero, Mexico, north into southern Arizona and west Texas; it appears to stray rarely to southwest New Mexico (counties: Hi). Look for it in Upper Sonoran Zone canyons, open oak woodlands and grasslands. Life history. In southeast Arizona, Bailowitz and Brock (1991) reported larvae feeding on Cologania angustifolia (Fabaceae). Other legumes are also likely hosts. Little is known about this insect’s life cycle or occurrence in New Mexico. Flight. Our single record, dated August 24, suggests an occasional, weak influx coinciding with the summer rains.

Drusius Cloudywing (Cecropterus drusius) Madera Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, AZ; July 28, 2019 (photo by Bill Beck).
Drusius Cloudywing (Cecropterus drusius) Patagonia, AZ; August 7, 2001 (photo by Rebecca Gracey).
Occurrence of Drusius Cloudywing (Cecropterus drusius) in New Mexico.

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Spicauda procne (Plötz 1881)                               Brown Longtail (updated August 6, 2022)

Description. The Brown Longtail is easily separated from Long-tailed Skipper and Dorantes Longtail by its unchecked tan fringes and (in males) the lack of white spots on the forewing upperside. Some females have a narrow white postmedian band on the forewing, causing them to be mistaken at times for Spicauda teleus (Hübner). It also can be confused with Spicauda simplicius (Stoll), a rare stray to southeast Arizona. In some cases, genitalic examination may be needed to confirm identification. All are rare or currently unknown (but should be looked for) in New Mexico. Range and habitat. Our solitary report is from Cottonwood Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains (county: Hi), 23 September 1990, by Kilian Roever. Life History. Unlike fellow Eudamiines, larvae of this species apparently eat grasses (Poaceae)! For example, Jim Brock (1993, pers. comm.) observed oviposition on Cynodon dactylon in southeast Arizona. There is no evidence of reproduction in our area and its occurrence here is too infrequent to support breeding. Flight. Our single record suggests observers would be most likely to encounter this species during the late summer rains. Comments. Li, et al. (2019) moved this species from the genus Urbanus.

Brown Longtail male (Spicauda procne) Mission, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 20, 2002 (photo by Steve Cary).
Brown Longtail (Spicauda procne) Frontera Audubon, McAllen, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 20, 2003 (photo by Steve Cary).
Brown Longtail female (Spicauda procne) Mission, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 19, 2003 (photo by Steve Cary).
Brown Longtail male (Spicauda procne) Mission, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 20, 2002 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of Brown Longtail (Spicauda procne) in New Mexico.

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Urbanus proteus (Linnaeus 1758)              Long-Tailed Skipper (updated August 13, 2022)

Description. Several subtropical skippers found or potentially found in NM have long hindwing tails, but only Urbanus proteus has blue-green scaling above. Forewing light spots are whitish. Ventral postmedian bands are smooth and straight. Range and habitat. This species lives along the west and east coasts of Mexico, extending north along the Gulf Coast of southeastern US as far as South Carolina. Strays wander inland occasionally, but only rarely to southwest New Mexico (county: Hi). Life history. Legumes (Fabaceae) are larval hosts. One larva was found on Desmodium batocaulon in southeast Arizona (Bailowitz and Brock 2022). Flight. Our reports, for September and October, represent stray occurrences. Comments. This butterfly can be a true migrant in the eastern US, exhibiting gradual northward movements in spring and summer, and a southward flight in fall (Scott 1986).

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) Resaca de la Palma State Park, Cameron Co., TX; October 31, 2014 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) Estero Llano Grande State Park, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 29, 2014 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Occurrences of Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) in New Mexico.

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Telegonus cellus (Boisduval & Le Conte [1837])     Golden Banded-Skipper (updated August 11, 2022)

Description. The common name describes the most prominent feature of this skipper: a diagonal gold band traversing the forewing. Wing fringes are checked. Ventral surfaces are mottled and camouflaged. A very similar species, the Sonoran Banded Skipper, Cecropterus pseudocellus (Coolidge & Clemence, [1910]), was discovered in SE Arizona at the beginning of the 20th century, but has not been found there since 1937 (Bailowitz & Brock 2022). There is a slim possibility that this species could turn up in SW NM. It is distinguished from the Golden Banded-Skipper by its smaller size, narrower gold band on the FW, more checkered fringes, and a white ring around the antenna. Range and Habitat. In New Mexico this beautiful skipper resides in Upper Sonoran and Transition Zone canyons (5500 to 8500′) in our southwest corner (counties: Ca,Gr,Hi,Si). It also is found south well into Mexico and in the southeastern US. Life History. Scott (1986) reported larval hosts in our area to be legumes (Fabaceae) such as Phaseolus wrightii, P. grayanus, Clitoria mariana and Vigna species. Bailowitz and Brock (2022) reported use larval use of Robinia neomexicana and Phaseolus ritensis as well as Desmodium batocaulon (all Fabaceae). Pupae overwinter. Flight. Golden Banded-Skippers have one annual generation that flies here between May 27 and September 5, primarily July and August. Males perch on shrubs along creeks and patrol up and down drainage corridors in search of females. Adults take nectar and electrolytes at streamsides. Comments. Kansas Professor F. H. Snow made the first New Mexico observation of Telegonus cellus along Walnut Creek, 12 miles north of Silver City (Gr) in August 1884. Pelham (2019) moved this species from the genus Autochton.

Golden Banded-Skipper (Telegonus cellus) Little Cherry Cr., Pinos Altos Mtns., Grant Co., NM; June 23, 2000 (photo by Dale and Marian Zimmerman).
Golden Banded-Skipper (Telegonus cellus) Black Bill Canyon, Animas Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM; August 2, 1992 (photo by Steve Cary).
Golden Banded-Skipper (Telegonus cellus) Pinos Altos Mountains, Grant Co., NM; June 27, 2000 (photo by Dale and Marian Zimmerman).
Golden Banded-Skipper (Telegonus cellus) Railroad Canyon, Black Range, Grant Co., NM; July 22, 2018 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of Golden Banded-Skipper (Telegonus cellus) in New Mexico.
Comparison of Golden Banded-Skipper and Sonoran Banded-Skipper. A). Golden Banded-Skipper (Telegonus cellus) B) Sonoran Banded-Skipper (Cecropterus pseudocellus) C) Antennae, showing white ring of Sonoran Banded-Skipper. Photos courtesy of Jim Brock and Andy Warren (https://www.butterfliesofamerica.com/index.html).

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Epargyreus clarus (Cramer 1775)        Silver-Spotted Skipper (updated August 15, 2022)

Description. Large for a skipper, Silver-spotted skippers, including the next species, may be our most recognizable skippers. The hindwing underside sports a bright silver-white blob. The forewing shows a bold gold band above and a bold yellow band below. Range and Habitat. Epargyreus clarus occupies most of the US, shunning only arid areas. It is a routine species in our northern mountains, preferring Transition and Canadian Zone canyons, 6500 to 9200′ elevation (counties: Be,Co,LA,Mo,RA,Sv,SM,SF,Ta,To,Un). Life History. Larvae eat leaves of woody legumes (Fabaceae). A principal host in our area is New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana), a native shrub or small tree which colonizes disturbed areas. Others may include Robinia pseudoacacia and Glyccirhyza lepidota in the Rockies (Scott 1992). Flight. Males perch on protruding branches from which they defend territories in riparian corridors. Peak flight is in June, but records span April 19 to August 20, suggesting one extended or two overlapping broods each summer. Adults nectar at beebalm (Monarda) and thistle (Cirsium). Pupae overwinter. Comments. Individuals from southern New Mexico are the next species, Epargyreus huachuca Dixon. Andy Warren suggests that “The final word on [old] clarus will be determined by a careful study of what is going on within 100 miles of Albuquerque.” Until that happens, we include here the Epargyreus populations in the Sandia (Be) and Manzano Mountains (To,Va).

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) Jemez Mountains, Los Alamos Co., NM; May 30, 2008 (photo by Steve Cary).
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) Los Alamos, Los Alamos Co., NM; June 6, 2017 (photo by Selvi Viswanathan).
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) Chicorica Creek, Sugarite Canyon State Park, Colfax Co., NM; June 23, 2001 (photo by Steve Cary).
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) Jemez Mountains, Los Alamos Co., NM; June 7, 2009 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of silver-spotted skippers (Epargyreus clarus and E. huachuca) in New Mexico. Black circles = E. clarus; white circles = possible intermediates; yellow squares = E. huachuca.
Comparison of Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) and Sonoran Skipper (Epargyreus huachuca). A). E. clarus B) E. huachuca. Photos courtesy of Jim Brock and Andy Warren (https://www.butterfliesofamerica.com/index.html).

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Epargyreus huachuca (Dixon 1955)        Sonoran Skipper (updated August 13, 2022)

Description. Sonoran Skipper is the spitting image of Silver-spotted Skipper, with minor differences. In particular, the posterior spot of the forewing gold/yellow band is displaced toward the wing margin, leaving it separated from the rest of the gold/yellow band. Range and Habitat. While Epargyreus clarus occupies most of the non-arid eastern and northern US, Epargyreus huachuca replaces it in the Sky Islands of the southwestern US. Sonoran Skipper is fairly routine in southern New Mexico’s montane woodlands where it prefers Transition and Canadian Zone canyons with hostplants, 7500 to 9500′ elevation (counties: Ca,DA,Gr,Hi,Li,Ot,Si,So). Life History. Larvae eat leaves of woody legumes (Fabaceae). The principal host in our area appears to be New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana), but Robinia pseudoacacia and Glyccirhyza lepidota also may be used. Flight. Males patrol and defend territories in riparian corridors. Peak flight is in June, but records are known from April 29 to August 22, suggesting one very extended or two overlapping broods each summer. Adults nectar at flowers and balance electrolytes at damp soil. Pupae overwinter. Comments. Zhang et al. (2020) pulled huachuca out from under clarus. Toliver et al. (2000) commented that clarus and huachuca are not well differentiated in NM. Very recently, Andy Warren (pers. comm., October 2021) suggested that populations within 100 miles of Albuquerque, once studied, may have a lot to say about the final arrangement of these very similar creatures. Until that happens, we include populations in Lincoln and Otero counties under E. huachuca.

Sonoran Skipper (Epargyreus huachuca) Gum Spring, Capitan Mountains, Lincoln Co., NM; July 9, 1995 (photo by Steve Cary).
Sonoran Skipper (Epargyreus huachuca) Pine Tree Trail above Aguirre Springs, Organ Mtns., Dona Ana Co., NM; May 20, 2022 (photo by Jim Von Loh)
Sonoran Skipper (Epargyreus huachuca) near Eagle Peak, Catron Co., NM; May 22, 2017 (photo by Steve Cary).

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Chioides albofasciatus (Hewitson 1867)   White-Striped Longtail (updated August 15, 2022)

Description. White-Striped Longtail is distinguished by – can you guess? – a bold white stripe and a tail as long as the rest of the hindwing. The DFW spot pattern resembles that of the Southern Cloudywing, but even in an individual White-Striped Longtail which had lost its tails, the bold white stripe on the VHW would immediately distinguish it from other known NM Eudaminae. The Gold-spotted Aguna (Aguna asander [Hewitson, 1867]), which may eventually be found in NM, has a somewhat similar white stripe, but the shape of the stripe is different, it lacks tails, and the FW spots are orange-red rather than cream. Range and habitat. This beauty lives in South America, Mexico and the Caribbean islands. Individuals occasionally stray into southern Arizona, southern Texas and southern New Mexico (counties: Hi,Lu), where it is a very memorable find. In addition to the records from NM, the species has been found in west TX close to the SE NM border (El Paso and the Davis Mtns.). Life history. Legumes (Fabaceae) are larval hosts in the breeding range. Galactia wrightii (Fabaceae) was shown to be a host in southeast Arizona (J. Brock, pers. com.). Flight. Males patrol stream corridors looking for mates while nectaring at seepwillow (Baccharis spp.). Our few New Mexico records fall between August 1 and October 30, during and after the monsoon season. Comments. Until recently (see Opler and Warren 2002), Chioides albofasciatus was considered to be a subspecies of Chioides catillus (Cramer 1779).

White-Striped Longtail (Chioides albofasciatus) La Estanzuela, Nuevo Leon, Mexico; October 22, 2002 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of White-Striped Longtail (Chioides albofasciatus) in New Mexico.

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Chioides zilpa (Butler 1872)                                 Zilpa Longtail (updated August 15, 2022)

Description. Much like White-Striped Longtail in size and shape, Zilpa has a unique pattern of olive and tan with patches of white and brown on the hindwing underneath. Also note the dark triangle near the ventral forewing apex. Range and Habitat. This skipper lives from Ecuador north to Mexico and into south Texas. It rarely strays to southern Arizona, southern New Mexico and even as far as Kansas. Life History. Larvae eat leguminous vines (Fabaceae), but reproduction is unlikely in New Mexico. Flight. Zilpa is least improbable here in late summer monsoons. Comments. Our single record was videotaped on 26 August 2001 at Percha Dam State Park (Si) by Christopher Rustay, Douglas Emkalns and Bruce Neville.

Zilpa Longtail (Chioides zilpa) Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 17, 2003 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of Zilpa Longtail (Chioides zilpa) in New Mexico.

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Codatractus arizonensis (Skinner 1905)           Arizona Skipper (updated August 16, 2022)

Description. About the same bulky size as Epargyreus clarus and E. huachuca, the Arizona Skipper has a prominent, hoary whitish patch along the margin of the hindwing below. The DFW spots are cream, rather than orange-gold as in Epargyreus. Range and Habitat. The distribution of this Mexican species reaches northward into southwest Texas, southern Arizona, and southwest New Mexico (counties: Hi,Lu). Life History. Bailowitz and Brock (2022) reported Eysenhardtia orthocarpa (Fabaceae) as a food plant in southeast Arizona, so it breeds seasonally there. There are two or more broods every year in its breeding range to the south. The recent photo (below) of a gravid female in southern Hidalgo County is evidence that it reproduces here, or least places eggs here, too. Flight. Males defend territories in Upper Sonoran Zone riparian corridors and arroyos. Except for a single report for late April, suggesting a sparse local spring flight, our remaining New Mexico sightings fall between July 30 and August 10. Comments. Codatractus arizonensisis is one of the many attractive, if infrequent, subtropical strays that tantalize butterfly chasers in our Bootheel riparian areas during the monsoon season.

Arizona Skipper male (Codatractus arizonensis) Ruby Road, Santa Cruz Co., AZ; July 31, 2018 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Arizona Skipper female (Codatractus arizonensis) Guadalupe Canyon, Hidalgo Co., NM; August 1, 2020 (photo by Raymond VanBuskirk).
Arizona Skipper (Codatractus arizonensis) Box Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Coronado National Forest, Pima Co., AZ; August 3, 2018 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Occurrences of Arizona Skipper (Codatractus arizonensis) in New Mexico.

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Zestusa dorus (W. H. Edwards 1882)     Short-tailed Skipper (updated August 19, 2022)

Description. For Short-tailed Skipper, the cluster of three white post-median spots on the hindwing above is a diagnostic feature. Also note the pronounced lobe at back of the hindwing, where some species have pronounced tails. A uniquely intricate ventral pattern is accented by pale blue tints. Range and Habitat. Zestusa dorus occurs from the Sierra Madre of Mexico north into Arizona, New Mexico and southernmost Colorado. It is a denizen of scruffy, oak-covered hillsides and canyons in habitats ranging from Upper Sonoran to Transition Zones (counties: Be,Ca,Co,Gr,Hi,Li,LA,Lu?MK?,Mo,Ot,RA,Sv,SJ,SM,SF,Si,So,Ta,To,Un,Va) generally 6200 to 8500′ elevation. Life History. Oaks (Fagaceae) serve as larval hosts for this butterfly. Quercus arizonica and Quercus emoryi are confirmed. Quercus gambelii, Quercus grisea and Quercus undulata are inferred to be hosts based on adult association. Winter is passed as pupae, then adults emerge with the first warm spring weather. Flight. This insect is widespread, but not often seen, perhaps because of its early flight. Look for it between March 22 and May 31: mostly April in southern New Mexico and a month later farther north. Adults feed at moist earth and tree sap; evidence of nectar feeding is scant (e.g., Prunus spp.). Males perch on twigs and branches of oaks when they are still in bud. Comments. A scarce summer generation is reported in southeast Arizona (Bailowitz and Brock 1991), but as yet there is no evidence of this in New Mexico. Female Zestua dorus are rarely encountered in nature.

Short-tailed Skipper (Zestusa dorus) Pinos Altos Mountains, Grant Co., NM; April 11, 2000 (photo by Dale and Marian Zimmerman)
Short-tailed Skipper female (Zestusa dorus) east slope Black Range, Sierra Co., NM; March 31, 2008 (photo by Steve Cary).
Short-tailed Skipper (Zestusa dorus) near Glorieta, Santa Fe Co, NM; April 24, 1994 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of Short-tailed Skipper (Zestusa dorus) in New Mexico. Black dots = confirmed sightings; white dots = unconfirmed sightings.

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Polygonus leo (Gmelin [1790])                         Hammock Skipper (updated August 18, 2022)

Description. This big skipper has a characteristic pattern of white spots on the forewing above, a violet tinge to the hindwing below, and a prominent lobe at the back of the hindwing. Range and Habitat. Hammock Skippers occasionally wander from Mexico into New Mexico, where they loiter in riparian areas with nectar and water along our southern border (counties: Ca,Ed,Hi,Ot,Si,To). Life History. Legumes (Fabaceae) are likely hosts in Mexico, where Hammock Flight. Skipper can have two or more broods per year. Late summer vagrants to New Mexico have been seen from July 31 to November 2. Comments. Our earliest record is a specimen in the Allyn Museum of Entomology from Willard (To), 2 June 1913. It probably traces to a traveler passing through on the AT&SF Railroad, around which Willard was founded in 1902.

Hammock Skipper (Polygonus leo) Hidalgo Co., TX; October 27, 2011 (photo by Joe Schelling).
Hammock Skipper (Polygonus leo) Hidalgo Co., TX; October 30, 2011 (photo by Joe Schelling).
Occurrences of Hammock Skipper (Polygonus leo) in New Mexico.

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Cogia hippalus (W. H. Edwards 1882)              Acacia Skipper (updated August 19, 2022)

Description. Acacia Skippers resemble other medium size, white-edged Eudamiines in southern New Mexico. Distinguish them by larger dorsal forewing white spots, a creamy white hindwing fringe, banded antennal shafts, hindwing shape and ventral hindwing markings. Range and Habitat. This species occurs from South America to Mexico. It barely reaches into the US in southern Arizona, west Texas and southern New Mexico (counties: DA,Ed,Gr,Hi,Lu,Si). In New Mexico it is resident in canyons and drainages in Upper Sonoran Zone grasslands and open scrublands, where the larval host grows. Life History. The only reported larval host for our region is the thorny shrub, Whiteball Acacia (Acacia angustissima; Fabaceae). Flight. Cogia hippalus has two generations in New Mexico; records span April 30 to September 22, with peak flight from July to August. Adults patrol arroyos and canyon bottoms, nectaring and balancing electrolytes at moist earth. Comments. Here at the northern edge of its range, the Acacia Skipper is seen inconsistently, though it does seem to be getting more predictable in some areas. Credit Mike Toliver with the first New Mexico report, in Clanton Draw, Peloncillo Mountains (Hi) on 5 July 1975.

Acacia Skipper (Cogia hippalus) Organ Mountains, Dona Ana Co., NM; July 3, 2022 (photo by Jim Von Loh).
Acacia Skipper (Cogia hippalus) Guadalupe Canyon, Hidalgo Co., NM; August 1, 2020 (photo by Raymond VanBuskirk).
Acacia Skipper (Cogia hippalus) San Andres Mountains, Dona Ana Co., NM; September 14, 2013 (photo by Steve Cary).
Acacia Skipper (Cogia hippalus) Achenbach Canyon, Organ Mountains, Dona Ana Co., NM; July 8, 2022 (photo by Jim Von Loh).

Acacia Skipper (Cogia hippalus) Box Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Pima Co, AZ; August 1, 2018 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Occurrences of Acacia Skipper (Cogia hippalus) in New Mexico.

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Cogia caicus (Herrich-Schäffer 1869)            Gold-costa Skipper (updated August 20, 2022)

Description. Gold-costa Skipper resembles Acacia Skipper, but is usually smaller, with darker ventral hindwing colors and white scaling near the ventral hindwing margin. The leading edge of the forewing is gold, which sounds obvious, but it is pencil-thin and you really have to be looking for it. Range and Habitat. This species is somewhat regular in our SW quadrant (counties: Ca,Ed?,Gr,Hi,Lu,Si). Look for it in foothill canyons of desert mountains, from 5000 to 6700′. It ranges south to Central America. Life History. Whiteball acacia (Acacia angustissima, Fabaceae) is a reported larval hostplant in southeast Arizona. Flight. In New Mexico there are two generations per year. The spring generation flies from about April 8 to May 25; the summer brood flies from about July 19 to September 6. Males establish and defend territories by perching on rocks in canyon bottoms, then patrolling up- and down-canyon. “It shows a decided predilection for large rocks in either dry or wet streambeds, where its low, exceptionally bouncy flight readily identifies it” (Zimmerman 2001). Adults often nectar at thistles. Comments. Our populations are assigned to subspecies Cogia caicus moschus (W. H. Edwards 1882).

Gold-Costa Skipper (Cogia caicus moschus) Big Burro Mountains, Grant Co., NM; July 25, 2000 (photo by Dale and Marian Zimmerman)
Gold-Costa Skipper (Cogia caicus moschus) Double Adobe Creek, Animas Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM; July 21, 1991 (photo by Steve Cary).
Gold-Costa Skipper (Cogia caicus moschus) Peloncillo Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM; August 6, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).
Occurrences of Gold-Costa Skipper (Cogia caicus moschus) in New Mexico. White circle represents and unconfirmed report.

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