Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan up to 2-3/4 inches. The wings are brownish-black, with an overall cobalt blue iridescence. The hindwing has iridescent turquoise blue streaks on both the upperside and underside. The caterpillar has a reddish-brown head with large yellow eye patches. Young caterpillars are red with transverse yellow stripes; adults are waxy white.
East and west coasts of Florida, Florida Keys, West Indies, Mexico, Central America, South America south to Argentina.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Strays to North Florida; locally common to uncommon all year in Central Florida and South Florida; uncommon to common all year in the Keys.
Coastal mangrove forests and openings; nearby tropical hammocks.
Three or more broods per year. The eggs are laid singly on the leaves of host plants. Caterpillars are present throughout the year.
Mangrove skippers are fast, powerful fliers.
Caterpillars feed on the leaves of host plants and make shelters from the leaves. The only native larval host plant is red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). Cultivated native nectar plants include the trees poisonwood (Metopium toxiferum) and wild-tamarind (Lysiloma latisiliquum), the shrubs Florida Keys blackbead (Pithecellobium keyense), sevenyear-apple (Casasia clusiifolia), and smooth strongback (Bourreria succulenta), the vines ocean-blue morningglory (Ipomoea indica) and yellowroot (Morinda royoc) and the wildflower sweetscent (Pluchea odorata). Other native nectar plants are jack-in-the-bush (Chromolaena odorata) and the weedy Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata). Adults also will feed on the nonnative orchid tree (Bauhinia variegata var. variegata), paper flower (Bougainvillea glabra), and Mexican flamevine (Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides) and the invasive shrubverbena (Lantana camara).