Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)
The Long-tailed Skipper is a species of small, short-winged butterflies found in parts of both the Americas. They are characterized by a large head and a pair of prominent, dark eyes. Like other ‘skipper’ species, biologists consider them to be somewhere between butterflies and moths.
Description and Identification
The mature larva has a yellowish green body with two thin yellow lines running vertically down their bodies on both sides, along with some orange-yellow tints at the end. The head is relatively large and black.
The chrysalis takes around two to three weeks to attain its pupal stage. The pupa has a tan to reddish brown body, smudged with dusty white patterns that perfectly mingles with the dead leaves of its host plant. The stage lasts for about 10 days.
Sexual Dimorphism: Present
Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, both the long tails can be viewed distinctly, with the dorsal side being brownish black, while the base of the wings showing hues of iridescent bluish green. The males of the species display a costal fold along the leading edge of the pair of forewings, which the females lack. There is a dark row on the underside of each of the hindwings, with both forming a complete band. When the wings are closed, they display the same color scheme, except for the bluish-green hue.
Average wingspan: 4.5 and 6 cm
Flight pattern: Fast, erratic
Eggs are white or yellow, and can be laid both singly, or else, in small clusters.
|Distribution||Tropical to subtropical South America, southern parts of Argentina, and a small region in southern US|
|Habitat||Brushy fields, meadows, wood edges, manmade gardens, and various disturbed open habitats|
|Lifespan of adults||Up to two weeks|
|Host plants||Vine legumes including different species of beans (Phaseolus), hog peanuts (Amphicarpa bracteata), beggar’s ticks (Desmodium), blue peas (Clitoria), and wisteria (Wisteria)|
|Adult diet||Nectar from a variety of flowers like shepherd’s needle, lantana, and bougainvillea|
Did You Know?
- There is a subspecies of this butterfly, U. p. domingo, found in the Bahamas and entire West Indies, though they have nominal difference with only some reduced white markings, and hence, are difficult to differentiate.
- In southern US, the larva of this species is considered as a crop pest, mostly beans, and hence, is referred to as the ‘bean leafroller’ in the region they occur.
- The natural predators of the species are wasp, fly parasitoids, and Florida predatory stink bug.
- During the autumn, a nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV) often kills up to 50% of the caterpillar population.