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Montana Field Guides

Leonard's Skipper - Hesperia leonardus


Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4

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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001] Forewing 1.5-1.8 cm. Uppersurface pale tawny-orange, male stigma on forewing relatively long with yellow interior felt; female with extensive black strongly contrasting pale yellow spots. Undersurface pale yellow-orange, hindwing with postmedian chevron reduced to a few small cream to whitish spots or completely absent.

Phenology
One flight, mid-August to early September northward, late August to mid-September southward, mid-September to early October in Arkansas (Scott and Stanford 1981; Scott 1986). Mid-August through September (Glassberg 2001). August and September in Canada (Layberry et al. 1998). Mid-August through September in the Rocky Mountain states (Ferris and Brown 1981). Mid-August to mid-September in Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978; Scott and Stanford 1981; Wooley et al. 1991), late August to early September in Nebraska (Dankert and Nagel 1988), early August to early October in North Dakota (McCabe and Post 1976).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by a combination of late flight season, male stigma on uppersurface of forewing relatively long with yellow interior felt, female uppersurface with extensive black strongly contrasting pale yellow spots, undersurface of hindwing with postmedian chevron reduced to a few small cream to whitish spots or completely absent.

Species Range
Montana Range

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Range Comments
Montana and southeastern Saskatchewan east across southern Canada to southern Quebec and Nova Scotia, south to central Colorado, central Nebraska, northern Arkansas, northern Georgia (Scott 1986; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001), to at least 2286 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978; Ferris and Brown 1981; Wooley et al. 1991). In Montana, reported from at least 24 counties in the eastern 2/3 of the state as far west as Meagher County (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993; FLMNH Lepidopterists' Society database), to at least 1402 m elevation. Locally common (Glassberg 2001).

Migration
Non-migratory.

Habitat
Short-grass prairie, grassy openings in ponderosa pine woodland (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Dankert and Nagel 1988; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001), dry and sandy prairie and barrens in upper Midwest, in sites experiencing some grazing and haying (Reed 1997; Swengel and Swengel 1999, 2015). Habitat in Montana not described but probably similar.

Food Habits
Larval food plants are grasses, including Agrostis, Andropogon, Bouteloua (several species), Bromus, Danthonia, Eragrostis, Panicum, Poa, Sporobolus, Stipa, and Tridens; also Cynodon in captivity, sometimes sedges (Carex) (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott and Stanford 1981; Scott 1986, 1992, 2006; Wooley et al. 1991; Layberry et al. 1998). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Allium, Carduus, Chrysopsis, Chrysothamnus, Cirsium, Clematis, Dalea, Echium, Erigeron, Eriogonum, Eupatorium, Geranium, Grindelia, Gutierrezia, Helianthus, Heliomeris, Heterotheca, Liatris, Lycium, Machaeranthera, Monarda, Petalostemum, Ratibida, Senecio, Solidago, Symphyotrichum, Tagetes, Verbesina, Veronia) and mud (Scott and Stanford 1981; Wooley et al. 1991; Layberry et al. 1998; Swengel and Swengel 1999; Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Limited information. Females lay eggs singly and haphazardly on and near host plant on undersides of leaves. Eggs hatch in fall, larvae live in silk-tied leaf nest, L1 instar (rarely L2 instar) overwinters, continues feeding on host plant leaves the following spring until pupation (83-114 days post egg-hatch in captivity), adults eclose (emerge from pupae) in captivity in 19-36 days, depending on temperature (Scott 1975e, 1979, 1986, 1992). Males patrol throughout the day, sometimes perch, on hilltops near favored nectaring flowers (especialy Liatris) searching or waiting for passing females (Scott 1975b, 1982, 1986; Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott and Stanford 1981).

References
  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Brown, F.M. 1957. Colorado Butterflies. Proceedings; Numbers Three through Seven. Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver, Co.
    • Dankert, N.E. and H.G. Nagel. 1988. Butterflies of the Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 16:17-30.
    • Ferris, C.D. and F.M. Brown (eds). 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountains. Univ. of Oklahoma Press. Norman. 442 pp.
    • Glassberg, J. 2001. Butterflies through Binoculars: A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Western North America. Oxford University Press.
    • Kohler, S. 1980. Checklist of Montana Butterflies (Rhopalocera). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 34(1): 1-19.
    • Layberry, R.A., P.W. Hall, and J.D. LaFontaine. 1998. The Butterflies of Canada. University of Toronto Press. 280 pp. + color plates.
    • McCabe, T.L. and R.L. Post. 1976. North Dakota butterfly calendar (including possible strays). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 15:93-99.
    • Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright. 1999. A field guide to western butterflies. Second edition. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 540 pp.
    • Reed, C.C. 1997. Diurnal Lepidoptera of native and reconstructed prairies in eastern Minnesota. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 51:179-184.
    • Scott, J.A. 1975b. Mate-locating behavior of western North American butterflies. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 14:1-40.
    • Scott, J.A. 1975e. Early stages of seven Colorado Hesperia (Hesperiidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 29:163-167.
    • Scott, J.A. 1979. Hibernal diapause of North American Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 18(3): 171-200.
    • Scott, J.A. 1982. Mate-locating behavior of western North American butterflies. II. New observations and morphological adaptations. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 21(3): 177-187.
    • Scott, J.A. 1986. The butterflies of North America: a natural history and field guide. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
    • Scott, J.A. 1992. Hostplant records for butterflies and skippers (mostly from Colorado) 1959-1992, with new life histories and notes on oviposition, immatures, and ecology. Papilio new series #6. 185 p.
    • Scott, J.A. 2006. Butterfly hostplant records, 1992-2005, with a treatise on the evolution of Erynnis, and a note on new terminology for mate-locating behavior. Papilio new series #14. 74 p.
    • Scott, J.A. 2014. Lepidoptera of North America 13. Flower visitation by Colorado butterflies (40,615 records) with a review of the literature on pollination of Colorado plants and butterfly attraction (Lepidoptera: Hersperioidea and Papilionoidea). Contributions of the C.P. Gillette Museum of Arthopod Diversity. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University. 190 p.
    • Scott, J.A. and G.R. Scott. 1978. Ecology and distribution of the butterflies of southern central Colorado. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 17(2): 73-128.
    • Scott, J.A. and R.E. Stanford. 1981. Geographic variation and ecology of Hesperia leonardus (Hesperiidae). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 20:18-35.
    • Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of western USA butterflies: including adjacent parts of Canada and Mexico. Unpubl. Report. Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado 275 pp.
    • Swengel, A.B and S.R. Swengel. 2015. Grass-skipper (Hesperiinae) trends in midwestern USA grasslands during 1988-2013. Journal of Insect Conservation 19:279-292.
    • Swengel, A.B. and S.R. Swengel. 1999. Observations of prairie skippers (Oarisma poweshiek, Hesperia dakotae, H. leonardus pawnee, and Atrytone arogos iowa)(Lepidoptera:Hesperiidae) in Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota during 1988-1997. Great Lakes Entomologist 32:267-292.
    • Wooley, R.L., L.C. Keenan, M.N. Nelson, and R.E. Stanford. 1991. Oviposition behavior and nectar sources of the Pawnee Montane Skipper, Hesperia leonardus montana (Hesperiidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 45:239-240.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Allen, T.J., J.P. Brock, and J. Glassberg. 2005. Caterpillars in the field and garden: a field guide to the butterfly caterpillars of North America. Oxford University Press.
    • Brock, J.P. and K. Kaufman. 2003. Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY 284 pp.
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Leonard's Skipper — Hesperia leonardus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from