Mercurial Skipper (Proteides mercurius [Fabricius])
Wing span: 2 1/4 - 2 3/4 inches (5.8 - 7 cm).
Identification: Head and thorax are bright orange above; forewings are elongate. Upperside of wings is brown with golden orange at the bases. Underside is chestnut brown with white frosting on outer edges; center of hindwing has an indistinct white mark.
Life history: Adults bask with their wings spread open. Males perch to find females. Caterpillars rest in leaf shelters and come out at night to eat leaves.
Flight: April-May in southern Florida, April-October in South Texas, all year in Mexico.
Caterpillar hosts: Tree and vine legumes including senna (Cassia), cow pea (Vigna), and Muellera.
Adult food: Flower nectar.
Habitat: Near streams in lowland tropical forests, particularly in edges and openings.
Range: Argentina north through Central America to Mexico and the West Indies. Strays to Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.
Conservation: Not usually required.
The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.
Management needs: None reported.
Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates. Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.
Author: Jane M. Struttmann
State and Regional References:
Opler, Paul A. 1999. Peterson Field Guide to Western Butterflies, revised edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western USA Butterflies. Privately published, Denver, Colo.