Ironweed and Two Skippers

The checklist of skippers in Illinois includes 54 species — 17 of the spread-wing  and 37 of the fold-wing ones. Similarities make many of them difficult to identify.

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Ironweeed (Vernonia baldwini) grows to 4 feet tall and will bloom into September. It’s always been a favorite of mine, especially because it’s a butterfly magnet. I realized earlier that the 3 plants in my butterfly garden were slowly dying. Why?  I didn’t know. So, I planned to be on the lookout for seeded plants later.

And then … and then I found two plants blooming in an unexpected area of the backyard!

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And a skipper was nectaring on the flowerheads. I’m 98 percent sure it’s an eastern dun skipper (foldwing). The faint pattern is on the male and not the female.

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Then there were two. I assumed one was the male and the other a female.

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They don’t stay in any one place very long. They can even  dart away without being seen leaving.

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The dun skippers’ wingspread measures 1 1/3 inches wide.

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Our butterfly numbers have been so low this summer and are only now increasing.


I used to have a children’s garden here and had families and groups visit. The kids got excited when I’d net a skipper and put in it a jar. Then one of the kids would slowly stick his/her finger in the jar. The skipper would usually walk slowly up the finger and start “sipping” the sweat through its proboscis.

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