Purple-washed Skipper (Panoquina lucas) life history
Purple-washed Skipper (Panoquina lucas) Life History

Fresh egg, 10-15-22

Developing egg, 10-17-22

Egg almost ready to eclose, 10-18-22

Neonate, 10-19-22

First instar, 10-22-22

Second instar, 10-25-22

Third instar, 10-28-22

Fourth instar, 10-31-22

Molting from fourth to fifth instar, 11-3-22

Fifth instar, 11-11-22

Pupa, 11-11-22  (not same individual as above)

Fresh female Purple-washed Skipper, ventral view, 11-21-22

Fresh female Purple-washed Skipper, dorsal view, 11-21-22

I caught a female Purple-washed Skipper nectaring on Clammyweed in the fall of 2022. Within three hours she had deposited about 3 dozen eggs, so I released her that same day. Most of the eggs did prove viable. The result was quite surprising: the skippers were rare that fall, and my several attempts in previous years to get eggs had proved fruitless: I struggled to get eggs, and those that were produced did not eclose. I guess this was the right female; timing is everything!

The development of the eggs was interesting: as can be seen in the pictures, they went from cream (with a bit of yellow) to pink to a mottled whitish-gray in 4 days.

I fed the caterpillars Guinea Grass (Panicum maximum), which they have been observed to use in the wild. The first to eclose took quite some time to start feeding, so I misted them. Feeding commenced shortly afterward, so I continued to mist daily.

The larvae did not build nests as do many grass skippers. Early instars rested to one side of the leaf blade, and when preparing to molt they half-rolled the edge toward the middle of the blade, tying it fron and back with 1-2 silken threads. Later instars tended to sew the threads from edge to edge (see picture of the molting caterpillar to the right). When resting, the caterpillars most commonly rested on the top side of the blade, head toward the ground. Only occasionally were they on the underside of a blade or facing upward. They reached about 2" (5 cm) in length. Most pupated on the grass blades.

Face of Purple-washed Skipper (final instar)

The head capsule changed with each molt, making it easier to keep track of their progress. This is a good thing, as the caterpillars developed at widely varying rates. In the final instar (pictured above), the head capsule was entirely green.

The adult pictured to the right, a stunning female, was the first to emerge. The rest emerged over a period of about 2 weeks. Therefore, the time to develop from egg to adult averaged about 6 weeks. By rearing a good number, I learned the males may have a few purple highlights, but they lack the purple sheen even when fresh. The females got the looks!

Purple-washed Skipper Page