The group of butterflies know as skippers have robust bodies that are more moth-like than the usual slender bodies associated with butterflies. Their antennae are distinctive, ending in pointed, curved clubs. Skippers are named for their rapid, darting flight.
One common skipper found along the Pacific Coastal area from British Columbia to Southern California is the propertius duskywing (Erynnis propertius), named for the Roman poet, Sextus Propertius. This butterfly is found in open oak woodlands, forest openings and edges and in meadows and fields near oaks.
The propertius duskywing coloration is variable. The hindwings have a dark brown fringe while the forewings are more grey with a mottled appearance and variable amounts of white or clear spotting.
Adult propertius duskywing butterflies fly during the day and are seen early in the spring feeding on flower nectar. They are also avid puddlers (see “Butterfly Puddling“). Leonard and I found hundreds of propertius duskywings puddling at a runoff area near Rock Creek (Shasta County CA). I finally was able to photograph several duskywings only when they stopped flitting about and briefly settled down on the moist soil and rocks.
Propertius duskywings larvae feed on oaks, both evergreen and deciduous oaks. They live in rolled oak leaf nests, usually the young foliage on tree tips. Mature, fully grown caterpillars are the life stage of peopertius duskywings that hibernate over the winter.
Propertius duskywings usually have only one brood per year, although occasionally if conditions are right, there may be a second brood.
Propertius duskywings do not have flashy, bright colors. Yet to have hundreds fluttering about is a beautiful sight in a different way.