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Common Sootywing
Photos © Gary Myers; May 2010

Common Sootywing
Pholisora Catullus

Wing span: 1 - 1 5/16 inches

Few butterflies are more aptly named than the Common Sootywing, a spread-wing skipper.

Often found in gardens, old fields, alongside roads, and other disturbed areas, the sootywing has a black or very dark brown upperside with an array of white spots on the outer third of its forewing; its hindwing is completely dark.

The butterfly’s underside mirrors its upperside, although given they fly very close to the ground, you are unlikely to see its underside.

Moreover, sootywings sit with their wings spread open, making recognition easier. The slightly frayed appearance along the lighter brown edges of their wings resembles iron filings, or soot deposits.

An excellent chance to see the sootywing in flight is when the male is looking for a mate. When doing so, he flits around in sunny spots trying to attract attention.

If successful, the sootywings produce two flights per year. The female lays her eggs inside the folds of leaves of lamb’s quarter or, less often, amaranthus or cockscomb, where the newly hatched caterpillars live and feed. Second brood caterpillars overwinter inside silk-lined leafs and pupate the following spring.