Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the November 7, 2010 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

Skippers are butterflies of the family Hesperiidae. The family's main fieldmarks are the massive heads, thoraxes and abdomens, in comparison to the wings, which are proportionately much smaller. Their antennae arise far apart atop their broad heads and their antennae are often tipped by a slender, tapering, hook called the apiculus. Mexico is home to about 788 skipper species.

Skippers normally are fairly dark, unornamented, hard-to-identify butterflies. However, that wasn't the case with the skipper photographed this week, shown above.

Bea in Ontario, delighted to work with such a handsomely blue-blotched species, quickly figured out that we had ASTRAPTES ALECTOR HOPFFERI, the Gilbert's Flasher.

Adult Gilbert's Flashers rest upside down under large leaves. They feed on flower nectar and bird droppings. Their caterpillars feed on trees and shrubs of the Bean Family, of which the forest here has an abundance. The species is distributed throughout Mexico, rarely straying across the Rio Grande into Texas.