Copaeodes aurantiaca

Orange Skipperling

The tiny, bright yellow-orange Copaeodes aurantiaca is found in the southwestern U.S., east to Texas and south through Mexico to around El Salvador. In southern California, it is a creature primarily of the desert edges and desert mountains, such as the eastern side of the San Jacintos, much of Joshua Tree NP, and the Laguna Mountains. I see it often at Cactus Spring Trail, around 4000' elevation in desert transition habitat. The flight is from around March to September, give or take a couple of months. According to Ken Davenport in his Emmel Update publication, "this species seems to have disappeared from the Inyo, Kern, and Tulare County locations for it in the past 30 years." Several grasses have been mentioned as larval food plants. When we were working on our book on the Joshua Tree butterflies and skippers, Jim Brock told us that he had found larvae on Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), green spangletop (Leptochloa dubia), and sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), and he had seen it oviposit on Bamboo Muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) in Arizona.

Copaeodes aurantiaca - Orange Skipperling
Copaeodes aurantiaca taking nectar along Cactus Spring Trail. These are easily identified in the field in southern California by their small size first, and then by the relative lack of markings. September 20, 2014.
Copaeodes aurantiaca - Orange Skipperling
Also Cactus Spring Trail. March 23, 2014.
Copaeodes aurantiaca - Orange Skipperling
An orange skipperling from Bertha's Peak, Big Bear, July 11, 2006.
Copaeodes aurantiaca - Orange Skipperling
True to their common name, orange skipperlings are tiny and orange. This one is from Malibu Creek, July 26, 2005.
Life cycle of Copaeodes aurantiaca - Orange Skipperling
John A. Comstock described the life cycle as part of a series of studies he published over several years in the Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences. This one was in 1929, (Vol. 28(2)).

©Dennis Walker