Sachem (Atalopedes campestris) life history
Sachem (Atalopedes campestris) Life History

Egg, 3-22-14

Hatchling, 3-30-14

First instar, 4-2-14

Second instar, 4-7-14

Third instar, recently molted, 4-25-14

Fourth instar, 5-21-14

Fifth instar, 5-29-14

Pupa, 6-7-14

Fresh adult Sachem, 6-13-14

A captured female deposited several eggs on Bermuda and Saint Augustine's grasses. As with many grass skippers, development was slow. The eggs took 8 days to eclose. The larvae matured at varying rates. The first reached the fifth instar at least two weeks before the last did. As most of the larvae were kept together, the early-instar photos are probably not of the same caterpillar as the one pictured in the fourth and fifth instars.

Since skippers tend to form nests and seem to dislike moving around a lot, I usually keep stems of grass in small containers of water (with some barrier to prevent the caterpillar from getting to the water). Beginning with the middle instars, the caterpillars tied together several grass stems to form a thick shelter. The shelters were formed as low as possible, indicating that in the wild the caterpillars would nest near the ground.

The fifth and final instar had a couple of noteworthy features. Two white bars crossed its underside between the last segments on its body. The ends of these bars are visible in the photo.  I have also seen this feature on Whirlabout (Polites vibex), a somewhat close relative of the Sachem. The face had two faint brown bars at the top of the head, and two orange eye spots (see the picture below). I have not seen these characters in published photos of the caterpillar, nor mentioned in its descriptions.


Face of Sachem

The final caterpillar pupated on June 3, a little over a month after it eclosed from the egg. It emerged 10 days later, about two and one half months after the eggs were deposited.

Sachem Page