Ocola Skipper

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday, we have a migratory insect to discuss. This week we’re talking about the Ocola Skipper (Panoquina ocola).

The Ocola Skipper is a small, grayish-brown butterfly with long wings and an occasional band of spots on the hindwing. They’re a member in the Skipper family. Skippers are a type of butterfly that are built for agility with narrow triangular wings and a compact, streamlined body. Unlike the floaty flights of Monarchs and Swallowtails or the labored lofts of Hairstreaks and Satyrs, Skippers move with purpose. Pumping their triangular wings rapidly to launch their torpedo shaped torso into the air. Ocola Skippers are built more for speed than other skippers. This is evidenced by their characteristic extra-long forewings and an overall elongated appearance. Ocola Skippers flap their wings with such speed that you can even hear them buzz past your head.

Ocola Skippers need this speed because they are a migratory species. They have to be able to fight crosswinds and fly efficiently over long distances. However, unlike the Monarch that migrates south each fall, Ocola Skippers migrate North each summer. Ocola Skippers are a wetland species. Their caterpillars host on the leaves of Rice and Sugarcane. As summer is winding down, adults begin to migrate north from Florida in search of new habitat for their offspring. Ocola Skippers flood the Lowcountry by the hundreds of thousands every September on their way North. They saturate every ecosystem and swarm nectar plants. They are partial to feeding on Asters, Lantanas, and patches of Elephant’s Foot. Their migration usually peaks in the first week of October. I’ve even had day counts for this species tip into the thousands at pollinator hotspots like Roxbury Park. Yesterday’s butterfly walk, led by Dr. Forsythe and myself at Roxbury Park, was no exception!

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