A Sunflower and Some Sort of Skipper

Late in a day, once the sun lessened its August gaze on the garden, I spied this skipper on a sunflower.   It wasn’t nectaring, nor did it fly away as I watched.  Was it settling in for an evening’s rest?  Perhaps.  Everyone, even busy pollinators, need their rest.

I think this skipper is a Eufala SkipperLerodea eufala, as described by the Butterflies and Moths of North America website.  The site describes the Eufala as plain grey-brown, with several vague spots.  But, it could be a Dun SkipperEuphyes vestris, and if so, probably a female, as the same website mentions three “cloudy” white spots on the forewing.  Both species are widespread in their North American distribution and common in Texas.  Both skippers belong to the same Lepidoptera Family (Hesperiidae) and Subfamily (Hesperiinae).  As well, these skippers use grasses or grass-like plants as their host plants, which are plants the eggs are laid on and that hatched larvae feed upon.  The adult food sources differ just a bit, with the Eufala being the one who feeds from flowers the composite family of plants–plants like sunflowers.  

I photographed top, bottom, and at each side, rushing my efforts in case the skipper became annoyed and took flight.  It remained motionless.

I enjoy the intellectual exercise of identifying insects, even with my frustratingly limited background on types, species, and families.  Thankfully, with a click of my mouse or a swipe of my phone, there are plenty of resources available when I’m searching for an answer to an insect question.  In a case like this one, where the object could be one thing, or perhaps another, and where the identifier doesn’t have the training (or patience…), the answers for this amateur activity aren’t always definitive.  And that’s okay.  

I enjoyed watching this unobtrusive beauty: its quiet presence against the showoff summer flower was satisfying.  While sleuthing insect answers increases my knowledge and appreciation of the garden’s goings-on, ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I know exactly what sort of critter rests on the flower.  The skipper’s existence is valuable because it is. 

And that’s all that matters.


10 thoughts on “A Sunflower and Some Sort of Skipper

  1. Conundrums like this are why I appreciate being a member of the iNat site. People with a lot more expertise/patience than I have will sometimes weigh in on a confusing ID. I’ve learned a lot and enjoyed it a great deal. Maybe you should give it a try!

    (Pretty sure the Skipper knows which one it is and that may be what really matters!)


    • I’ve had mixed results with inaturalist. I do use the section for Texas and Austin from time-to-time, but have seen mistakes. I’ve sent in photos to Butterflies and Moths of North America and have been satisfied with their responses, though sometimes, they take a while. BugGuide is also pretty good. You’re right though: the skipper knows who he/she is and will consort accordingly, creating more of the same. Now, if folks won’t spray insecticide, we’ll be in pollinator business!


  2. I empathize: it’s often much easier to take a picture of something than to identify the thing. My fantasy invention is a lightweight portable device that when pointed at an animal or plant can read its DNA and identify the thing.


  3. It took me a few minutes to sort out eufala, since I read it as ‘Eufaula.’ That, of course, is the name of the Oklahoma lake I drive past every time I go to Kansas, as well as a town in Alabama. For a minute, I was fantasizing that the lake had been named after a skipper, and all those skippers of boats on the lake were associated with butterflies. Sometimes I worry about myself.

    I do agree with you about the pleasures and frustrations associated with learning about both flora and fauna. I spent all of last weekend at my desk, trying to sort things out for my post about my walk to the San Bernard oak. When even concepts are unfamiliar, like ‘ecotone,’ it takes time, and sometimes, with the critters, there’s no satisfactory answer. If I can get down to the genus level — especially with insects — I’m often satisfied. I don’t mind saying I can’t identify something, and I’m never offended when someone points out that I’ve mis-identified something!


    • I’m always seeing extra, or sometimes, not enough letters in these names! For me, I think if I had a better scientific background, I’d get past some of those kinds of mistakes. But, maybe I’m rationalizing.

      I’ve spent hours at times, trying to figure out what “it” is, often ver the course of days. Usually, like you, if I can figure out genus, I feel some success. What annoys me even more, is that I’ll find something, insect of plant, and I know I’ve seen a photo or read some description, but I can’t remember the name or in what context. That’s frustrating!


  4. I find identifying insects much harder than identifying plants. The only skipper I can recognized is the Silver Spotted. My sunflowers are late to bloom this year, though at a nearby nature preserve there are fields of them in flower right now.


    • Yes, it’s challenging. We have lots of skippers around here; my issue is to remember that ‘Yes, I’ve seen that one before and I should remember its name!’.


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