skipperling 1
Yummy nectar!

When I was in Burnaby the other day I took a walk in Deer Lake Park—not around the lake itself, but around a section of riparian wetlands. The path was bordered by clover, and on every clover flower, not one but many butterflies. Thousands and thousands of them. Tens or hundreds of thousands, likely—it’s a big area. Other walkers told me it had been like that for a week.

skipperling 2

They’re some kind of skipperling, I think, but I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of identifying butterflies to know which for sure. They looked like Garita skipperlings to me, but according to the E-Fauna atlas map their range doesn’t extend to the lower mainland. So I guess I’ll just stick with generic skipperling.

I coaxed one into sitting on my finger for quite a while, so I got a good look at it, but that didn’t leave me with enough hands free to take its portrait. Oh well!

skipperlings 3
By the time there are 5 on a single flower, it’s starting to get crowded.

18 thoughts on “Skipperling

    1. I posted on a friends facebook wall who may well know the sp and will let you know if he comes up with something, and doesn’t post it here.

  1. I think these are European Skippers (Thymelicus lineola), an introduced species that was first recorded in Terrace BC in 1960. It was first reported in Burnaby in 1991. See “Butterflies of British Columbia”, Guppy and Shepard (UBC Press). This species has since spread south into Washington and outbreaks were most recently reported near Spokane.

    1. Thanks, Bill, that’s really helpful. I notice that the E-Fauna range map doesn’t show a strong concentration of them—but with the numbers I was seeing, that could change!

      1. The illustration on e-fauna appears to be a scan of the distribution map from “Butterflies of British Columbia.” If so it would be ~12 years old. It would also be based on a small population of observations by folks who report such things — usually from semi-urban, or at least, roaded country. It’s almost certain that the poplations also much thicker and extensive than shown in the e-fauna image.

  2. I would not call the congregation of the butterflies an outbreak as I believe they are in a stage of migration. From what I’ve read weather plays a big part in what triggers a migration. A lot of butterflies start to move in mid summer. So I would guess your butterflies are doing just that, migrating.

    1. True. But as an introduced species that is probably doing considerable harm to the local ecology, outbreak is a pretty good word. Beautiful they may be, but infestation they surely are.

  3. Ok but I don’t understand your reasoning on how they are ( an introduced species that is probably doing considerable harm to the local ecology, ) according to stats Canada (Canadian biodiversity information) they say -Range: The Garita Skipperling occurs from Mexico northwards throughout the American Midwest, and in Canada from southern Manitoba to the Peace River District of Alberta and British Columbia. IT ALSO FLIES IN A FEW AREAS IN THE SOUTHERN INTERIOR OF BRITISH COLUMBIA and in the vicinity of Manitoulin Island in Ontario. Introduced how? It seems to me a butterfly does it’s own migrating Butterflies are pollinators which to me are beneficial not harmful to our ecology. I have never heard of butterfly larva devastating vegetation like say the gypsy moth or tent caterpillars. Now that was an infestation.

    1. Hi Cher – I was referencing Bill Yake’s species identification in a comment above that these are European Skippers introduced sometime before 1960. Bill is very knowledgeable about butterflies.
      How are they introduced? Any number of ways – with imported feed and grains for instance, or plants for gardens. Its why there are supposed to be tight border controls on the importation of plants.

  4. Cher: Please read the entire exchange. These are not (with 99.9% probablity) Garita skipperlings. They are European skippers which first showed up in Terrace BC in 1960. [Probably fell off a hay bale coming from the east. See distribution map here for this species in the US: The confusion with Garita skipperlings is understandable as they are quite similar in appearance. Garita is paler, Thymelicus lineola is more orangish.

    1. Thanks for the additional info, Bill. I do have a question: I assume that any harm they do is in the caterpillar stage. Are they as voracious and damaging as tent caterpillars?

  5. I haven’t experienced them directly, but these are ‘grass skippers’ — the caterpillars feed strictly on monocots (grasses and the like). They are said to be especially prevelant in Timothy pastures, but also a range of other grassy habitats. Also, I read that they first appeared in North America in Ontario (1910). The adults nectar on a fairly wide range of plants, but this would do them little, if any, harm.

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