San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide

Hylephila phyleus
Fiery Skipper

Family: HESPERIIDAE (Skippers)


The Fiery Skipper belongs to the subfamily Herperiinae, or Grass Skippers. Generally distinguishable by their large bodies relative to their wings, Skippers are also characterized (as their name suggests) by their rapid, darting flight. The Fiery Skipper is sometimes called the Lawn Skipper.

Distinguishable by its very short antennae, the Fiery Skipper is moth-like in appearance. Its wingspan runs about 1 1/8 - 1 1/4 inches in length. Males are a fiery yellowish-orange with black, toothed margins. A wide black stigma (a gland that releases pheromones to attract females) is visible on the upper forewing. Females are yellowish-brown with small, dusky, dark spots.

Range and Habitat

Fiery Skippers are common on golf courses and are abundant around residential lawns. They range throughout California, south through Baja California and northern Mexico, and east toward the Atlantic states.

Natural History

Eggs are laid singly, and larvae feed on lawn grasses, especially preferring Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon). The caterpillars are densely covered with short hairs and are distinguishable by their relatively large, dark heads, which look to be segmented from their bodies. They are hard to spot, however, as they roll and tie leaves of grass around them to create shelters in the underlayer of the grass. Adults like to sun themselves with their wings partially spread and their fore and hindwings separated.


Glassberg, Jeffrey. (2001). Butterflies Through Binoculars: The West: A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Western North America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hogue, Charles L. (1993). Insects of the Los Angeles Basin. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Stewart, Bob. (1998). Common Butterflies of California. Patagonia, Arizona: West Coast Lady Press.

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. Butterflies of North America: Fiery Skipper Webpage.

Fiery Skipper, photo by Bob Parks

Hesperiidae: Skippers
3500 species are found worldwide. These "ancient" butterflies are frequently confused with moths. Their clubbed antenae are frequently hooked and their wings are usually folded back along the body. These small butterflies have large eyes and fly rapidly. This family is split into grass feeders and forb feeders.

Did you know ...
The first butterly you are likely to see when you step outside the San Diego Natural History Museum's doors is most likely to be the Fiery Skipper? That's because the larvae feed on grass -- something we have a lot of in Balboa Park.

Text by Liza Blue in consultation with Christian Manion.
Photos by Bob Parks.

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