Physical characteristics include antennae with a 'hook' on the end. Butterflies have clubbed antennae and moths have feathery antennae or simple straight filaments. Skippers have a thick, fuzzy body more in keeping with moths and larger compound eyes as well.
These little guys are generally recognized by their dull brown, tan or pale gold colors and are often overlooked in the garden. It's a shame, because these are some of the most entertaining insects you can find. They have good eyesight and are seldom still for more than a few moments. They skip from flower to flower and prefer plants of the Asteraceae family, although they do tend to really enjoy my Buddleja when it is in bloom as well.
One of the most unique habits some Skippers have is the tendency to hold their fore wings and hind wings at two different angles. This gives them a little 'fighter jet' appearance and as as quick as they are, it is a great description. There are also spread-winged Skippers and those that hold their wings vertical. These tend to be larger members of the family, however they are still on the small side in the butterfly world.
Below are just a few of the Skippers that visit my garden and I'm lucky to have such a selection.
Male and Female Sachem's Skipper
Skippers enjoy flowers with flat 'landing pads' such as zinnias, coneflowers, Shasta daisies and asters. A good selection of these types of flowers will attract them to your garden. They like sunny areas and open spaces and are often seen 'skipping' a few inches above the lawn. Preferred host plants include various locust and acacia trees, vetch, (and many other legumes) oaks, Baptisia, mallows and some canna species. The caterpillars tend to roll themselves in the leaves and are seldom seen. They are characterized with a large round head that sits upon a smaller 'neck' before the body of the caterpillar starts.
Give skippers a sunny garden with plants they enjoy and they will eventually show up. As I've stressed on numerous occasions, refrain from using pesticides in the garden if you want to attract insects, bees and butterflies. An herb garden is an excellent idea as well. These plants, such as mints, and salvias are tasty additions to your kitchen and do double duty as favorite butterfly food.
Little skippers are fun to watch and chances are, there's a number of them that are native to your area.
The skipper caterpillar image is courtesy of Wikimedia Images.