Friday, May 24, 2013

Butterfly of the Week: Peck's Skipper

Peck's Skipper

Polites peckius (Kirby 1837)
Status: Common breeding resident

Flight: Two distinct broods in Iowa. Adults are most commonly seen from late April to October. A single early October collection suggests that a partial third brood may fly in some years.

Distinguishing features: This small skipper has a distinctive patchwork of light yellow on the underside of the hind wing, unlike any other skipper in the state. Wingspan: 2.5 cm. (males), 2.7 cm. (females).

Distribution and habitat: Map 180. One of Iowa's most abundant skippers, found in a wide variety of human-altered and natural open habitats across the state. It is often seen along creeks and in permanent pastures.

Natural history: Peck's Skipper exhibits some degree of phenotypic variability in its markings. For instance, the hind-wing undersurfaces on some specimens do not have clear-cut spots but instead form a large yellow patch reminiscent of the Whirlabout (Polites vibex [Geyer 1832]). In fact, the few records of the Whirlabout from the state likely represent this form. While Peck's Skipper has been reared on a number of different grasses in the laboratory, it apparently commonly feeds on rice cut-grass and panic grass in nature.

Questions: What food plants are utilized by the larvae in Iowa? Is the variability in wing appearance (spot pattern, size, etc.) more controlled by genetic or by environmental factors? Are adults preferentially attracted to particular flower colors or shapes?

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