|Sachem Skipper – Atalopedes campestris|
Family: Hesperiidae – Skippers / Subfamily: Hesperiinae – Grass skippers
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Live adult skipper butterflies photographed at Alpharetta, Georgia and The Morton Arboretum
Identification: Upper side of male is yellow-orange with a wide brown border and a large squarish black stigma. Female upper side varies from yellow-brown to very dark brown, but always has a square transparent white spot at the end of the forewing cell. Underside of female hindwing is brown with nearly square cream or white spots.
Life history: Males perch on or near the ground during most of the day to wait for receptive females. Females lay single eggs on dry grass blades in the afternoon. Caterpillars feed on leaves and live at the base of grasses in shelters of rolled or tied leaves.
Wing span: 1 1/4 – 1 5/8 inches (3.2 – 4.2 cm).
Caterpillar hosts: Grasses including Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), crabgrass (Digitaria), St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), and goosegrass (Eleusine). Adult food: Nectar from many flowers including swamp and common milkweeds, buttonbush, dogbane, peppermint, red clover, tickseed sunflower, thistles, New York ironweed, marigold, and asters.
Habitat: Disturbed, open areas such as roadsides, landfills, pastures, meadows, fencerows, yards, parks, and lawns.
Range: Southern United States from Virginia west to California; south through Mexico and Central America to Brazil. Strays and colonizes north to central North Dakota, southern Michigan, Manitoba, and northern Pennsylvania.
The word sachem, of Algonquin Indian origin, was used among some northeastern tribes to refer to their leaders. In contrast to chiefs, who were chosen for their skill in battle or oratory, sachems held hereditary, civil positions and ruled by consensus. In keeping with its preference for employing Indian words, the infamous New York City political machine Tammany Hall called its local leaders Sachems. "Sachem" has since come to mean a boss, or big cheese.
Order Lepidoptera, which contains both butterflies and moths, includes at least 125,000 known species including 12,000 in North America. Butterflies are revered for their brightly colored wings and pleasing association with fair weather and flowers.