Saturday, August 15, 2020

Grass Skippers Grace the Grassland!

 Restoring prairie is a lot of hard work but it's also a thrill--especially when prairie-associated wildlife start to return.   It's been wildly exciting this summer to discover some new "Grass Skippers" here at Bird Runner--that's the name given the butterfly sub-family that uses grasses and sedges as caterpillar host plants.    The Grass Skippers below alighted in or near the bottomland prairie restoration in our Creek Field, next to McDowell Creek in Geary County, Kansas.

This Arogos Skipper (Atrytone arogos) came to get minerals from the stones and mud on the banks of McDowell Creek (August 2020):


Arogos Skipper caterpillars feed mostly on Big Bluestem and sometimes on Little Bluestem.   They weave two leaves together with silk to create a little shelter inside which they eat and grow.   

This Byssus Skipper (Problema byssus) came to nectar on Echinacea Purpurea in the Creek Field (August 4, 2020):

Bysssus Skippers use Eastern Gamma Grass as their caterpillar food plant.   Eastern Gamma Grass has been mostly grazed out of native pastures in the Flint Hills--but it's abundant in our ungrazed Creek Field prairie restoration.  

This Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris) was just basking on a leaf of Giant Ragweed in the Creek Field (August 4, 2020):

Dun Skippers' caterpillar food plants are sedges.   In this rainy year, sedges are flourishing in the Creek Field and in the uplands.

This Zabulon Skipper was basking on the leaf of a sunflower, Jerusalem Artichoke, in the Creek Field (June 9, 2020):

Zabulon Skipper caterpillars feed on a variety of grasses, including wild ryes and Wheatgrass.  

When native plants take hold, energy extends to other species, seen and unseen.   Believe it or not, it's something we humans can feel.  It's exhilarating!  These little Grass Skippers are messengers from a restored landscape, increasingly charged.

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