Saltbush Sootywing - Hesperopsis alpheus
Some authorities elevate the subspecies Hesperopsis alpheus gracielae (MacNeill's Sootywing) to full species status (MacNeill 1970; Ferris and Brown 1981; Opler and Wright 1999), other authorities do not (Scott 1986; Glassberg 2001). The following account includes gracielae as a subspecies of H. alpheus.
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001] Forewing 1.1-1,4 cm. Small, fringes checkered at least on forewing. Uppersurface of forewing dark grayish-brown (frosted) with series of tiny white spots at base of darker discal dashes; undersurface of hindwing dark brown, usually with white bar in middle.
One flight, mostly April to mid-June (June at higher elevation) across much of range; multiple flights, April to November in the south (Scott 1986). May to July in one flight areas, May to mid-September in two flight areas (March to June in California and southern Nevada)(Glassberg 2001). May to September (June and July at higher elevation) in the Rocky Mountain states (Ferris and Brown 1981), mid-May to early August in Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978).
Best determined by a combination of habitat and flight behavior (moth-like and through shrub canopy), small size, dark color, checkered wing fringes, uppersurface of forewing with series of tiny white spots at base of darker discal dashes; undersurface of hindwing dark brown, usually with white bar in middle.
Northern Nevada and northeastern California east through southern Utah to central Colorado, south to southeastern California, Arizona, New Mexico, northern and western Texas, also adjacent northern Mexico (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); 1311 m to 2347 m elevation in the Rocky Mountain states including Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978; Ferris and Brown 1981). Extralimital and accidental in Montana, with but two records on the same date in 2007 from adjacent drainges in Carbon County (Kohler 1980; Opler and Wright 1999; FLMNH Lepidopterists' Society database), to about 1250 m elevation. Mainly rare to uncommon (Glassberg 2001).
Non-migratory. Hesperopsis alpheus gracielae apparently fail to cross habitat gaps of 30-160 km (Pratt and Wiesenborn 2011).
Saltbush alkali flats, arid canyons, dry washes and ditches, riparian corridors (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001), often in native or mixed native-exotic riparian vegetation where exotic trees or shrubs (Tamarix in particular) not dominant (Nelson 2007; Nelson and Wydoski 2008; Pratt and Wiesenborn 2011). Habitat in Montana not described but probably similar.
Limited information. Larval food plants are shrubs in the Chenopodiaceae, including Atriplex (multiple species) and Chenopodium (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986, 1992; Pratt and Wiesenborn 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Erigeron, Heliotropium, Malvella, Medicago, Pluchea, Portulaca, Prosopis, Psorelea, Sesuvium, Tamarix), possibly honeydew (Scott and Scott 1978; Scott 2014; Pratt and Wiesenborn 2009, 2011).
Limited information. Females lay eggs singly or in small loose cluster on host plant leaf. Larvae feed on host plant leaves, live in silk-tied rolled-leaf nests, feed primarily nocturnally, pupate on host plant leaf possibly in leaf litter beneath host plant (Scott 1986; Pratt and Wiesenborn 2009, 2011). Males patrol throughout the day in gullies, around host plant, in search of females (Scott 1975b, 1986; Pratt and Wiesenborn 2009).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Brown, F.M. 1957. Colorado Butterflies. Proceedings; Numbers Three through Seven. Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver, Co.
- 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.
- MacNeill, C.D. 1970. A new Pholisora with notes on P. alpheus (Edw.)(Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae). Entomological News. 81:177-184
- Nelson, S.M. 2007. Butterflies (Papilionoidea and Hesperiodea) as potential ecological indicators of riparian quality in the semi-arid western United States. Ecological Indicators 7:469-480.
- Nelson, S.M. and R. Wydoski.2008. Riparian butterfly (Papilionidae and Hesperioidea) assemblages assiciated with Tamarix-dominated, native vegetation-dominated, and Tamarix removal sites along the Arkansas River, Colorado, USA. Restoration Ecology 16:168-179.
- 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.
- Pratt, G.F. and W.D. Wiesenborn. 2009. Macneill's Sootywing (Hesperopsis gracielae)(Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) behaviors observed along transects. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 111:698-707.
- Pratt, G.F. and Wiesenborn, W.D. 2011. Geographic distribution of MacNeill's Sootywing (Hesperopsis gracielae)(Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) along the lower Colorado River floodplains. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 113:31-41.
- Scott, J.A. 1975b. Mate-locating behavior of western North American butterflies. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 14:1-40.
- 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. 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.
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