Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) life history
Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) Life History

Egg before development

A developing egg, 9-26-20

Neonate, 9-26-20

First instar (second caterpillar)

Second instar, 9-28-20

Third instar, 9-30-20

Fourth instar, 10-2-20

Fifth instar, 10-6-20

Pupa (from second caterpillar), 10-23-20

Fresh adult Long-tailed Skipper,  10-29-20

Fresh adult Long-tailed Skipper, ventral view, 10-29-20

I placed a captive female in a small popup tent with two reported hosts, Cowpea (Vigna) and Orchid Tree (Bauhinia). After 3 days with no eggs being placed on the plants, I decided to release the female. When I was removing the plants, I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of eggs on the walls of the popup.

Only two of the eggs proved to be viable. I fed the caterpillars Cowpea, as it was easy to keep cuttings fresh. The caterpillars nested as is typical of skippers: in early instars they cut out and folded over a small piece of leaf; in later stages they sowed leaves together. I was interested that the two caterpillars behaved very differently when I opened the nests -- the elder rarely moved (which made photography easy); the younger became very agitated and worked to quickly sew the shelter closed again.


Face of Long-tailed Skipper

The first and second instars seemed similar, but after that each stage had distinctive features. In the third instar, the two yellow stripes running the length of the body became prominent. In the fourth instar, eyespots appeared on the black face. In the fifth instar, the head capsule had three distinct colors, which gave the interesting appearance in the picture above this paragraph. The orange parts of the caterpillar also became very bright, making it a quite colorful critter.

The dated pictures in the photo essay are of the first caterpillar. It emerged from the September 26, pupated about October 10,  and then the adult emerged October 20. Thus, the time from egg to adult was just under a month. The adult, unfortunately, refused to pose for a picture before flying away, so I have included photos of the second adult when it was released.

Long-tailed Skipper Page