What Are Skippers?

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May 29, 2020

Is it a moth? Is it a butterfly? It’s a skipper! Let’s explore these special butterflies and discover some that you might see in your own backyard!

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What is a skipper?

Although they used to be considered their own independent superfamily, skippers are a type of butterfly that are distinguished by their antennae. If you look closely, you’ll see that their antennae have an elongated curved tip to the club. Within this larger group, there are two subgroups: folded-wing skippers and spread-wing skippers.

Some common skippers

The Nature Museum’s Butterfly Garden is a hot spot for a variety of butterflies, including skippers. Some common ones that you might spot include the silver-spotted skipper and the fiery skipper. Check out this at-a-glance graphic to see six common Illinois skippers side-by-side!

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Behind the Scenes

Speaking of skippers, Dr. Doug, our chief curator, encountered this beautiful arctic skipper when he visited the Moosejaw National Wildlife Refuge last year. Although it may not look like it in this photo, this butterfly is actually pretty small⁠—about the size of your thumbnail!

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