Fiery Skipper: A Small Colorful Surprise

This week I spotted the 35th butterfly species of 2022 in Eliza Howell Park, a little orange and brown/black skipper that I did not recognize immediately. It was nectaring on Chicory.

The many species of small skippers are often hard to distinguish (for me), so I photographed it to help with later identification.

It was in no hurry to move on, so I got more than one view.

After narrowing it down to a couple possibilities using field guides and online photos, I sent my photos to a couple people in the Michigan Butterfly Network who have helped me in the past. They identified it as a Fiery Skipper, a species that is not usually seen in Michigan, though it does show up once in a while. 

This map of its range is taken from the Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America.

The dark green area is the area in which it is common, a very long way from Michigan. The lighter green shaded section is the area in which the Fiery Skipper is also found, but not as frequently. The additional area included by the dotted green line indicates the extent to which it sometimes wanders in late summer. We are in this occasional area, where “uncommon” overstates its frequency.

The very next day I saw another butterfly in another section of the park, also on Chicory. It too is a Fiery Skipper.

Some butterflies are sexually dimorphic (females and males look different). Fiery Skipper is one. The second one I saw this week, in the two photos immediately above, is a female. The previous day’s find was a male.

In the next picture, the two are shown together. The female clearly has more extensive dark markings.

The Fiery Skipper is very small (its body is about an inch long) and has noticeably short antennae. It is not only unusual; it is very attractive. A wonderful surprise!

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