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dred

Some kind of skipper? Vicksburg Mississippi

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Seen today in a park just above the Mississippi River 

2017-11-04_06-38-07

 

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It's one of the Checkered Skippers in the genus Pyrgus.There are 3 species found in Mississippi, of those 2 - White-checkered Skipper and Common Checkered-Skipper are only reliably separated by dissection, the 3rd is the Tropical Checkered-skipper. I dont know the southern ones well enough to confidently tell you which.

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CC is correct about the choices for Checkered-Skippers in Mississippi.

The Tropical Checkered-Skipper is identifiable in photos -- and this is not one -- leaving Common and White as the remaining options.  If you didn't know the location, you would need to collect and dissect a male in order to confidently identify the species.  However, this far south in Mississippi you can be very sure this is a White Checkered-Skipper just from the location.

Source: have collected and dissected a lot of Pyrgus in Mississippi.

J

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Thanks guys for all that great info. So the only way to correctly id the males is to cut them open and inspect the gonads? 

This was by far the most interesting butterfly I saw at the park today. 

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Yes, the only way to distinguish between Pyrgus communis and P. albescens is to collect a male and look at the valves under magnification.

The word "dissect" is a little too strong in this context.  You can usually make the valves visible just by carefully brushing away the scales at the tip of the abdomen.  And you don't need much magnification to see the difference in the valves.  A child's toy microscope would probably be adequate, although a pretty decent "student" microscope can be had for about $200.

John Burns spelled out the diagnostic differences and provided plenty of examples in his 2000 paper, "Pyrgus communis and Pyrgus albescens (Hesperiidae: Pyrginae) are separate transcontinental species with variable but diagnostic valves."  It's available online:

http://images.peabody.yale.edu/lepsoc/jls/2000s/2000/2000-54(2)52-Burns.pdf

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