Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

At least a skipperling

with 94 comments

Least Skipperling on Nolina Leaf Tip 4359

As I wandered along the trail on August 19th at Hamilton Pool Preserve, I noticed a small orange butterfly on a bedraggled leaf tip of a beargrass plant (which is in the genus Nolina). I thought it might be a least skipperling, Ancyloxypha numitor, but on September 14th Dan Hardy (thanks) of the Austin Butterfly Forum told me that this little butterfly is most likely an orange skipperling, Copaeodes aurantiacus. According to Stephen G. Williams, as mentioned by John Tveten in his book about butterflies of Houston, this is the most common skipperling in Austin. The two tiny “horns” on the butterfly’s face between its eyes are still puzzling.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 11, 2013 at 6:07 AM

94 Responses

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  1. Awww, it’s so cute and fuzzy :). Great macro shot!!


    September 11, 2013 at 6:11 AM

  2. Awesome!!


    September 11, 2013 at 6:30 AM

  3. Steve…..great portrait. you may have a new calling. Incredible detail on the little skipper….en theos…jim

    Developing A New Image

    September 11, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    • Nature keeps calling, Jim, so there’s always something new to be en-theos-iastic about.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 6:39 AM

  4. You really got in the face of that little fellow. I’m no expert at butterflies and moths. Here is another skipper photo. Looks like some ‘horns’ on it, too. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Ancyloxypha-numitor

    Jim in IA

    September 11, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    • “Got in the face” is a good way to put it. So the “horns” seem to be a regular feature, but I still wonder what purpose they serve. Maybe we’ll hear from a butterfly expert.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 6:57 AM

  5. Whowhh, was für ein wundervolles Foto!! ♥


    September 11, 2013 at 7:10 AM

  6. Wow! Incredible.


    September 11, 2013 at 7:19 AM

  7. Wow! …hello there. This is ABC…amazing, beautiful and captivating.


    September 11, 2013 at 7:19 AM

    • That makes three consecutive “wow”s, and you’ve added the first three letters of an alphabet that I’m only too willing to recite. Thanks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 7:25 AM

  8. Great macro. It does look like a skipper, not that I’m an expert. I’ve had these pointed out to me by an expert.


    September 11, 2013 at 7:29 AM

    • It’s definitely a skipper, Nora, but there are many species, and some of them that live in Austin look pretty similar to my untrained eyes. Not knowing what species this little butterfly is didn’t stop me from photographing it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 7:42 AM

  9. Very, very nice. An insect portrait that looks different than most. Sweet one too!


    September 11, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    • Thanks, Bente. The portrait does use a non-traditional pose, and that seems to be part of its appeal.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 2:05 PM

  10. fantastic!

    Dr. Booky

    September 11, 2013 at 9:11 AM

  11. The “Awwww” factor’s off the charts with this one. I’ve never seen a plush toy butterfly, but this one could be the model. It’s such a fine photo, and a terrifically appealing creature. It’s right up there with the standard for measuring such things – the green caterpillar!


    September 11, 2013 at 9:13 AM

  12. Spectacular shot Steve! My first thought was of an alien creature! Amazing details we get to see through the use of macro photography!

    Michael Glover

    September 11, 2013 at 9:57 AM

  13. This charmer is as winsome as his [probable] name! Great macro!


    September 11, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    • Thanks, Kathryn. As I always say (except I’ve never said it till now): Winsome, lose some.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 2:17 PM

  14. WOW!


    September 11, 2013 at 11:28 AM

  15. Either you have very steady hands or a very maneuverable tripod – or both. Although I bill myself as an Invertebrate Zoologist, my specialties are the land and aquatic molluscs. I am no expert in the Lepidopterans but I’d hazard a guess that those ‘horns’ are sensory structures of some sort – I’ll put my money on chemosensors. D

    Pairodox Farm

    September 11, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    • I find that a tripod impedes my freedom of movement too much with a subject like this one that’s already flitting about or likely to be. I steady myself and the camera as best I can by kneeling or sitting on the ground if possible and I typically use a shutter speed of 1/400 sec. or faster to limit movement of the subject and the camera.

      Thanks for your hypothesis that those structures are chemosensors. That certainly makes sense.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 2:25 PM

  16. Excellent image – love the angle of view. I may try the ID later, but skippers are tricky; you need dorsal and ventral views for good ID of some species.


    September 11, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    • Agreed: the oblique angle accounts for part of this portrait’s appeal. As for identification of butterflies in general and skippers in particular, I often find it difficult, so I’m always grateful when people who know a lot more about such things help out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 2:34 PM

  17. Waouh gorgeous one.
    Good evening.

    Sophie L.

    September 11, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    • Merci, Sophie. C’est le soir chez vous, mais toujours l’après-midi ici.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      • Bonne fin de journée alors😜.
        Je ne savais pas que tu parlais français. Je n avais pas encore lu ton about.
        Est ce que je peux t envoyer une photo de fleur en message privé pour que tu m’aides à trouver son nom?

        Bonne après midi😝

        Sophie L.

        September 11, 2013 at 3:20 PM

  18. Amazing shot! Perfect details and beautiful colors and light. 🙂


    September 11, 2013 at 1:45 PM

  19. It was so nice of the little guy/gal to pose for this photo. Remarkable to say the least!


    September 11, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    • So nice indeed of this tiny skipper not to fly away before I could take a few pictures of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 3:50 PM

  20. Let’s see. Burnt orange, horns, what else could it be but a Texas Longhorn butterfly. Maybe a bit sad this week but eternally optimistic.

    Dee Smith

    September 11, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    • Now that’s a highly localized and imaginative take on this little butterfly.

      I’ll have some more orange from my Hamilton Pool visit coming up in a few days. We’ll see if your imagination conjures up anything for that critter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 5:55 PM

  21. Skippers are among the hardest of butterflies to identify I am told. I’m no expert either. However, I do know antennae when I see them. They are used to receive the XM Lepidopteran channel. 🙂 Pairodox Farm is correct…they are sensory organs and are used in different ways by different insects. Feel, smell, moisture and sounds are all detectable with the antennae.

    Steve Gingold

    September 11, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    • Last week I renewed my XM radio subscription but no one mentioned the Lepidopteran channel. Maybe it’s in a higher subscription tier.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2013 at 7:58 PM

  22. I have always though these guys were interesting. Great shot!

    Pamela Breitberg

    September 12, 2013 at 7:06 AM

    • Thanks, and I see that just a few days ago you showed a relative of the mistflower in the next post, Eupatoriadelphus purpureus. That’s another case where one genus name piggybacks on another: Eupatoriadelphus on Eupatorium.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2013 at 7:28 AM

  23. Une macro fascinante Steve, j’adore!


    September 12, 2013 at 1:14 PM

  24. That is just gorgeous, horns and all. I love the colours.

    Lyle Krahn

    September 12, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    • It’s clear that for you the least skipperling is anything but the least appealing of the butterflies in Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2013 at 4:21 PM

  25. What a great shot!


    September 12, 2013 at 9:10 PM

  26. Fantastic photo!


    September 12, 2013 at 10:50 PM

  27. Too cute!

    BTW, since our last conversation your prediction has proven correct. I have been seeing the little skippers (ones I remembered from my youth) all over the lantana outside my window. 😉


    September 13, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    • Call me a prophet, and one from whose prediction you’ve been able to profit. I suspect skippers are common in most places but may get overlooked because they’re small and not nearly as colorful as many of the larger butterflies. Your youth is returning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 13, 2013 at 12:16 PM

  28. Like, like, LOVE!


    September 13, 2013 at 7:44 PM

  29. Love those antennae, horns, whatever they are! Went on a walk yesterday, photographing this and that, including some sort of dragonfly and some sort of butterfly, I thought, if Steve were here, he’d know the names of everything. There is one thing I made sure to identify when I got back home–that would be the bobcat I’d seen ahead of me on the path!

    Susan Scheid

    September 14, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    • I appreciate your vote of confidence, Susan, but my knowledge of nature is so limited, constrained to this little bit of central Texas. When I visited your part of the country last summer I felt like a stranger in a strange land, botanically, and when I did my guest posts of plants photographed there I had to scrounge for identifications. A bobcat is something I’ve never seen in the wild, so you’re ahead of me there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2013 at 3:21 PM

      • I understand exactly what you mean–I was totally flummoxed by the birds in England, scrounged for ID when I posted them, and still had to be corrected on several IDs!. The comparison I was really drawing as I walked had to do with what’s local for each of us, and in that regard, I appreciate what it takes to gain strong knowledge of even a small sector of the natural world, as you’ve done.

        Susan Scheid

        September 14, 2013 at 3:55 PM

  30. […] I wandered along the trail on August 19th at Hamilton Pool Preserve, not only did I see an orange butterfly, but also a bunch of orange-collared moths on some Eupatorium serotinum, a white-blossoming member […]

  31. I had my first encounter with Skippers not too long ago in Puerto Rico; great close-up!

    M. Firpi

    September 15, 2013 at 7:09 AM

    • Thanks. I appreciate that, given that it comes from someone who does excellent macros herself.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2013 at 8:08 AM

  32. Don’t all Texas butterflies have (long)horns? (I can’t help myself sometimes with these comments.)

    Mad Queen Linda

    September 15, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    • This butterfly’s “horns” are so tiny that I doubt many Texans would want to claim them, but I could be wrong. In any case, can’t-help-myself comments are always welcome.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2013 at 7:49 PM

  33. […] Thanks to Dan Hardy of the Austin Butterfly Forum for telling me that the little butterfly you saw here a few days ago is most likely an orange skipperling, Copaeodes aurantiacus. According to Stephen G. Williams, as […]

  34. Magnificent! Your images are Fabulous!


    October 2, 2013 at 7:32 PM

  35. Qué extraordinario macro!

    Isabel F. Bernaldo de Quirós

    September 14, 2015 at 3:42 PM

  36. What a beautiful composition


    December 18, 2015 at 6:47 AM

  37. Aww that is adorable! ❤


    May 21, 2016 at 1:32 PM

  38. I just spotted this in your side panel, how lovely it is! I don’t think we have these butterflies here.


    March 9, 2018 at 8:23 PM

  39. Fascinating~ I don’t believe I’ve ever had such a close look at a skipper’s face, although I’ve held them on my finger to ID them. I didn’t know they sported those little horns. I don’t think they are antennae. Now I’m wondering whether other species have them.
    As to Horace’s Dusky, that is a favorite of mine.


    September 29, 2019 at 12:18 PM

    • Right: the horns don’t seem like they could be antennae because the separate antennae are clearly visible.

      I don’t believe I’d ever had such a close view of a skipperling, either, nor have I had one since.

      We have the Horace’s duskywing here, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 29, 2019 at 1:23 PM

  40. Your photo shows amazing detail, Steve. Like so many fellow bloggers, I have never seen an insect close enough to discern similar short protuberances.


    February 15, 2022 at 6:16 PM

    • Throughout the years of this blog I’ve used a high-quality macro lens (Canon’s L-series) that has let me get good details. I think you could carry around a little pocket lens that would let you see things this closely—assuming a butterfly would stay put for you to examine it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 15, 2022 at 9:53 PM

  41. “Here is looking at you, kid.”


    June 30, 2022 at 6:14 PM

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