Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) (Linnaeus, 1758)

Diagnosis: This large dark brown skipper has white translucent spots on the pointed forewings and long tails on the hindwings. The body and the basal part of both wings are iridescent blue-green. Wingspan: 37 to 46 mm.

Range: Resident from Argentina to the extreme southern U.S., Urbanus proteus migrates north each summer, occasionally reaching Michigan, and in 1994 southwestern Ontario.

Similar Species: None in Canada.

Early Stages: The larvae are yellowish green, with bands of dark spots, a dark dorsal line and reddish and green lateral lines. The head is brown with large yellow or orange spots on each side near the eyes. They live in leaf-nests on the foodplants, always Fabaceae, often vines. They are sometimes a pest on beans in the southern U.S.

Abundance: Although common to abundant in the far south, it is less so farther north and extremely rare in Canada.

Flight Season: Many generations occur all year round in Florida and southern Texas, spreading north each summer, reaching the northern states and Canada only in late summer or fall.

Habits: Unable to withstand frost in any stage, proteus migrates north each year, but slowly, as if each generation flies only a certain distance before laying eggs. There is a partial southerly return flight, at least in northern Florida, in September and October. It has an extremely fast, skipping flight, very difficult to follow with the eyes.

Remarks: The Long-tailed Skipper has been recorded only twice in Canada, the first a fresh male reported by Alan Wormington at West Beach, Point Pelee National Park, Ontario, where it was nectaring on Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), on 7 August 1994. The second specimen was reported at Ojibway Prairie, Windsor, Essex County, Ontario, on 18 September 1994 by G.T. Hince (Wormington, 1995a).

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.