Pyrgus communis? Yes…but that’s the scientific name for the Common Checkered Skipper butterfly recently photographed while dining on our Cochise County golden crownbeard flowers. It’s not a purge by Communists or of Communists no matter what it sounds like.
Rather, it’s kind of a…weird little butterfly. With a wingspan under two inches and a strikingly pretty white-and-black (or black-and-white, take your pick) wing pattern, it should be able to pass as “just another” attractive insect, but there is more. There is, in fact, a coat of markedly blue and decided fuzzy hair covering the torso which makes it look–at a glance, anyway–more like a hairy moth than a sleek butterfly.
Only the clubbed antennae ends put the lie to the moth theory. Moths have feathery antennae, not upside down golf clubs stuck in their heads like butterflies do.
So it was a butterfly, but what kind?
I don’t even remember how many flailing-around Google Images searches it took before I finally managed to stumble across a photo that looked like our golden crownbeard nectar sipper. Aha! Eureka! It was a checkered white…or wait, maybe a checkered skipper which might or might not be the same thing. This is confusing. There are several different checkered skipper species, too, which adds to the confusion.
In the end, patiently (or at least persistently) working through the possibilities, the ID narrowed down to a single unmistakeable choice. What we had was the Common Checkered Skipper butterfly, Pyrgus communis, a common little critter indeed; they show up in all of the lower 48 states, Mexico, Central America, and even a thin slice of South America.
It turns out there are numerous species of butterflies that belong to a group known as Skippers, so named for their swift, darting flight. All Skippers also have fuzzy body hair; an Orange Skipper has a much different wing coloration pattern than a Common Checkered Skipper, for instance, but both are hairy-bodied. Thus, for future reference, we can be fairly confident that a hairy butterfly will definitely be a Skipper butterfly of some sort–and not a moth of any sort.
Glad we got that sorted out.
Too many close-ups? Okay; let’s close out with this one, then.