The Long-tailed Skipper butterfly is a large skipper that is an attractive addition to every garden. The Long-tailed skipper is easily recognized because of the long “tails” that protrude from its wings. There are thousands of different skippers that live worldwide. Skippers are smaller than other commonly seen butterflies and many feed on grass. Skippers were given this name because of their appearance to skip as they fly.
The Long-tailed Skipper's caterpillars feed on plants in the bean family. One of their host plants is the Butterfly Pea plant which has beautiful purple flowers. They often lay they their eggs on bean plant in agricultural fields. Sadly it is thought of as a agricultural pest by bean growers along the southeastern U.S. I welcome the Long-tailed Skipper in my “Secret Garden” and enjoy taking photographs of this unique creature.
A female Long-tailed Skipper deposited eggs on my butterfly pea plant while visiting. Long-tailed Skippers often lays their eggs in groups underneath leaves. They even will lay eggs on top of each other. Their eggs are round and cream colored. Inside the egg the caterpillar is developing. The tip of the eggs will turn a dark color when ready to hatch. The black area is the head of the caterpillar.
The tiny caterpillars ecloses from the egg shell by chewing through the tip of the egg. The new caterpillars are yellow with black heads. They begin crawling around the plant and chewing slivers out of the leaves to construct their special hiding spot.
The Long-tailed Skipper caterpillar must hide from predators after hatching. Some of its enemies include wasps, birds, spiders, ants, dragon flies, and frogs. The caterpillar will choose a leaf and start working on creating a shelter to hide inside. It makes a shelter by chewing out a piece of the leaf and wrapping it around itself. The caterpillar hides in its shelter during the day, but eats at night when fewer predators are around. Long-tailed skipper caterpillars have earned the name “bean leafroller” because of this action.
The tiny caterpillar won't stay small for long. Its skin becomes too tight and it will have to shed it off. The caterpillars appearance changes as it gets larger. Its body turns green with yellow stripes along the sides. The caterpillar's head is black with small red spots that look similar to “eyes”.
The Long-tailed Skipper caterpillar's head will begins to turn dark red as it nears pupating. The caterpillar does not hang or attach itself to branch. Instead it hides in a leaf and makes its pupa inside. The brown pupa is covered in white powder that easily rubs off. Its pupa looks similar to the droppings from a frog.
The butterfly stays in the pupa for about 10 days before emerging. The Long-tailed skipper butterfly has long “tails” and its antennas are hooked at the ends. When the skipper opens its wings, its colorful scales can be seen. The scales are a bluish green and look like fuzz growing on the skipper's butterfly. These scales are easily removed when your finger is rubbed across them. Its long “tail”, colorful scales, and quick flight make this butterfly attractive and easy to recognize.