Urbanus proteus

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Geographic Range

The geographic range of Urbanus proteus is from Argentina in South America, throughout Central America and the West Indies, up to the southern parts of North America (Carter 1992). These butterflies are abundant and year round residents of southern Texas and Florida, but during the summer months they can be found as far as Illinois and New York. However, they do not survive long in these northen areas because of the colder temperatures (Tveten and Tveten 1996). (Carter, 1992; Tveten and Tveten, 1996)

Habitat

The habitats of these butterflies include brushy fields, woodland edges, coastal dunes, and even suburban gardens (Tveten and Tveten 1996). They are not found in high elevations or altitudes because of the cool temperatures (Forestieno and Sbordoni 1998). (Forestieno and Sbordoni, 1998; Tveten and Tveten, 1996)

  • Range elevation
    0 (low) m
    0.00 (low) ft

Physical Description

Long-tailed skippers have a broad head and a hairy body with tufts of hair at the base of their curved-tip antennae. The wingspan of these hairy butterflies is between 4 - 5.4 cm (Klots 1951). The top side of Urbanus proteus is dark brown with lighter brown spots. Wing bases, the part of the wing attached to the body, on the top are an irridescent green. Undersides of the butterflies are a lighter brown with dark bands and spots.

Larvae are yellowish green with a black line down the dorsal side of the body. The head is maroon and black and there are yellow and orange/red side strips. The reddish black head is also accompanied by an orange or yellow spot on each side. The pupa of this species is a reddish-brown and is covered with a waxy whitish powder (Scott 1986). (Klots, 1951; Scott, 1986)

  • Range wingspan
    4 to 5.4 cm
    1.57 to 2.13 in

Development

Females lay up to 20 eggs (commonly in clusters of 2-6) underneath the leaves of the host plant (Scott 1986). Eggs are cream to bluish-green and are hemispherical and finely sculpted (Forestieno and Sbordoni 1998). Once the larvae hatch, they eat the leaves from their nests made of rolled leaves and supportive silk strands. The pupa forms a cocoon out of bits of leaves and silk strands. The life cycle of the butterfly is about thirty days (Capinera 1996). (Capinera, 1996; Forestieno and Sbordoni, 1998)

Reproduction

Male Urbanus proteus are territorial and stake out sites in places where females are common during the spring mating season. The males find the females through olfaction as they perch 1-2 meters from the ground on foliage and await passing females (Tveten and Tveten 1996). Males and females join in a courtship dance that involes spiraling upward together and eventually falling to the ground, where they mate. Females lay up to 20 eggs (commonly in clusters of 2-6) underneath the leaves of the host plant (Scott 1986). Eggs are cream to bluish-green and are hemispherical and finely sculpted (Forestieno and Sbordoni 1998). Once the larvae hatch, they eat the leaves from their nests made of rolled leaves and supportive silk strands. The pupa forms a cocoon out of bits of leaves and silk strands. The life cycle of the butterfly is about thirty days (Capinera 1996). (Capinera, 1996; Forestieno and Sbordoni, 1998; Scott, 1986; Tveten and Tveten, 1996)

  • Average eggs per season
    20

Beyond choosing sites to lay eggs, butterflies offer no parental care.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning

Behavior

Caterpillars live in rolled leaves that are supported with strands of silk (Tveten and Tveten 1996). This is the reason for their nickname of 'Bean Leaf Roller' or 'Roller Worm' (Klots 1951). The adults are known as erratic flyers as their flightpath is rapid and completely unpredictable. (Klots, 1951; Tveten and Tveten, 1996)

Communication and Perception

Males find potential mates through olfaction. (Tveten and Tveten, 1996)

Food Habits

The adult butterflies have no specific attraction to certain plants. As long as there is a flowering plant with nectar, the butterfly will stop frequently (Tventen and Tventen 1996).

Larvae are found on Leguminosae and Fabacceae (Neck 1996). Some examples of common larval plants are Pisum, Desmodium, Bauhinia, cultivated beans, and any other viney plants (Klots 1951). (Klots, 1951; Tveten and Tveten, 1996)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • nectar

Predation

Larvae are found to be preyed on by certain species of wasps and stink bugs. (Capinera, 1996)

Ecosystem Roles

Adults pollinate many plant species, while larvae feed on many plant species.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Long-Tailed Skippers have no positive influence on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Since this species lays its eggs under bean plants, it can have a devastating effect on bean crop yield (Scott 1986). Although it takes many larvae to make an impact on the yield, they are still considered pests of bean plants. In terms of biological control, these larvae are found to be preyed on by certain species of wasps and stink bugs. The beanleaf roller larvae can also be infected with a virus that can kill up to 50% of the population. Common insecticides are also effective on killing the larvae (Capinera 2001). (Capinera, 1996; Scott, 1986)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

The butterfly and its habitat are not listed as threatened. The adaptation of the Urbanus proteus to suburban gardens exempts it from becoming threatened in its wild habitat.

Other Comments

Collectors are not fans of this butterfly because of the tendency of the wings to fold under at death so they are hard to display. The wing muscle of the live butterfly are very strong and are therefore hard to capture. The long tails are very fragile and easily broken (Forestieno and Sbordoni 1998). (Forestieno and Sbordoni, 1998)

Contributors

Matthew Wund (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Jessica Palmer (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chaparral

Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nectarivore

an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Capinera, J. 1996. "Featured Creatures" (On-line). Accessed April 3, 2001 at http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/veg/bean/beanleaf.htm.

Carter, D. 1992. Eyewitness Handbooks Butterflies and Moths. Boston, Massachusettes: Dorling Kindersley, Inc.

Forestieno, S., V. Sbordoni. 1998. Butterflies of the World. Willowdale, Ontario: Firefly Books.

Klots, A. 1951. A Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Great Plains. Boston, Massachusettes: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Neck, R. 1996. A Field Guide to Butterflies of Texas. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Company.

Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History & Field Guide. Standford, California: Standford University Press.

Tveten, J., G. Tveten. 1996. Butterflies of Houston & Southeast Texas. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.