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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Woodland Skipper - Ochlodes sylvanoides

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status


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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 1.3-1.5 cm. Uppersurface tawny orange, lacking white spots but with dark brown border projecting inward between veins, male forewing with prominent black stigma imbedded in dark diagonal band from wing base to somewhat rounded tip, female forewing with a dark diagonal band and no stigma. Undersurface variable (yellow, purple, chocolate-brown), hindwing usually yellow-orange with postmedian chevron of pale squarish yellow or yellow-cream spots.

One flight, mostly late July through August (late August to early October in California); multiple flights April to October at lower elevation in California (Scott 1986). Mid-June to early October, mainly August through September (Glassberg 2001). June to September in Canada (Layberry et al. 1998). Mid-July through August in the Rocky Mountain states (Ferris and Brown 1981), mid-July to late September in Colorado (Scott and Epstein 1987), mid-August to mid-September in the Black Hills of South Dakota (McCabe and Post 1976), mid-June to early October in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002), late June to early October in Oregon (Warren 2005), late July to mid-September in British Columbia (Threatful 1988; Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by a combination of the uppersurface with dark brown border projecting inward (tooth-like) between veins, both sexes with a dark diagonal band from wing base to tip, encompassing a prominent black stigma in the male; undersurface of the hindwing variable in color, usually yellow-orange with postmedian chevron of pale and large squarish yellow or yellow-cream spots.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Central British Columbia, southern Alberta, southwestern Saskatchewan south to northern Baja California, central Nevada, northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, east to western North Dakota, western South Dakota, Colorado (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986, Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; expanded northward in Alberta during the past 20 years (Bird et al. 1995); typically to 2600 m elevation in the Rocky Mountain states (Ferris and Brown 1981), to 3353 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957), to at least 2075 m elevation in northern California (Emmel and Emmel 1962), sea level to at least 2134 m elevation in Oregon (Warren 2005), sea level to about 1000 m elevation in British Columbia (Threatful 1988; Guppy and Shepard 2001). In Montana, reported from at least 45 counties throughout the state (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993; FLMNH Lepidopterists' Society database), to at least 1600 m elevation. Common to abundant (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 66

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)


Hillsides, grassy areas in chaparral, sagebrush, montane meadows, gardens, along streams and roadways (Scott 1986; Threatful 1988; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002; Warren 2005). Habitat in Montana not described but probably similar.

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2012.  Mammals of Montana.  Second edition.  Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.  429 pp.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Larval food plants are native and exotic grasses, including Agropyron (several species), Agrostis (multiple species), Avena, Bromus (several species), Cynodon, Dactylis, Danthonia, Elymus (multiple species), Leucanthemum, Leucopoa, Leymus (several species), Muhlenbergia, Phalaris (multiple species), Phleum, Pseudoroegneria, possibly Calamagrostis, and Poa in captivity (Scott 1986, 1992, 2006; Pyle 2002; Graves and Shapiro 2003; Warren 2005; James and Nunnallee 2011); anomalous oviposition reported on the shrub Ceanothus cuneatus (Shapiro 2013). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Achillea, Alyssum, Anaphalis, Arctium, Asclepias, Astragalus, Berteroa, Buddleia, Carduus, Centaurea, Cerastium, Chamaenerion, Chrysanthemum, Chrysothamnus, Cichorium, Cirsium, Dipsacus, Epilobium, Ericameria, Erigeron, Eriogonum, Geranium, Grindelia, Helianthus, Heterotheca, Lathyrus, Lavandula, Leontodon, Liatris, Linaria, Lythrum, Machaeranthera, Medicago, Mentha, Monarda, Nepeta, Phlox, Polygonum, Prunella, Solidago, Sonchus, Symphyotrichum, Tagetes, Tanacetum, Trifolium, Verbena, Viguiera, Zinnia) and mud (Scott 1986, 2014; Pyle 2002; Warren 2005; Shapiro 2013).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly on the undersides of dead host plant leaves, typically 10-60 cm above ground (Scott 1992; James and Nunnallee 2011). L1 instar hatches from egg in about 7-18 days (depending on temperature), L1 instar overwinters in silk-tied leaf-tube shelter, emerges from diapause in spring, develop from L1 instar to L5 instar and pupa in about 44 days, adults eclose (emerge from pupae) in about 6-10 days. Larvae depart nests to feed on host plant leaves, feed nocturnally but may become more active during day as larvae mature, mature (L5 instar) larvae may aestivate for about 30 days prior to pupation, pupates in new leaf-nest (Scott 1979, 1986; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males perch throughout the day about 1 m above ground in gullies, valley botttoms, among shrubs on ridges, awaiting passing females (Scott 1975b, 1986).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Bird, C.D., G.I. Hilchie, N.G. Kondla, E.M. Pike, and F.A.H. Sperling. 1995. Alberta Butterflies. The Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton. 349 pp.
    • Emmel, T.C. and J.F. Emmel. 1962. Ecological studies of Rhopalocera in a High Sierran Community-Donner Pass, California. I. Butterfly associations and distributional factors. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 16:23-44.
    • 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.
    • Graves, S.D. and A.M. Shapiro. 2003.Exotics as host plants of the California butterfly fauna. Biological Conservation 110: 413-433.
    • Guppy, C.S. and J.H. Shepard. 2001. Butterflies of British Columbia: including western Alberta, southern Yukon, the Alaska Panhandle, Washington, northern Oregon, northern Idaho, northwestern Montana. UBC Press (Vancouver, BC) and Royal British Columbia Museum (Victoria, BC). 414 pp.
    • James, D.G. and D. Nunnallee. 2011. Life histories of Cascadia butterflies. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press. 447 p.
    • 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.
    • Opler, P.A., K. Lotts, and T. Naberhaus, coordinators. 2010. Butterflies and moths of North America. Big Sky Institute, Bozeman, MT. Available at: (Accessed 15 June 2015).
    • Pyle, R.M. 2002. The butterflies of Cascadia: a field guide to all the species of Washington, Oregon, and surrounding territories. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington. 420 pp.
    • Scott, J.A. 1975b. Mate-locating behavior of western North American butterflies. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 14:1-40.
    • 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. 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 M.E. Epstein. 1987. Factors affecting phenology in a temperate insect community. American Midland Naturalist 117(1): 103-118.
    • Shapiro, A.M. 2013. Oviposition on a shrubby dicot by Ochlodes sylvanoides (Boisduval)(Hesperiidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 68:65-66.
    • 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.
    • Threatful, D.L. 1988. A list of the butterflies and skippers of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, British Columbia, Canada (Lepidoptera). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 27(3-4): 213-221.
    • Warren, A.D. 2005. Lepidoptera of North America 6: Butterflies of Oregon, their taxonomy, distribution, and biology. Contributions of the C. P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity, Colorado State University. Fort Collins, Colorado. 406 pp.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • 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.
    • Forister, M.L., C.A. Halsch, C.C. Nice, J.A. Fordyce, T.E. Dilts, J.C. Oliver, K.L. Prudic, A.M. Shapiro, J.K. Wilson, J. Glassberg. 2021. Fewer butterflies seen by community scientists across the warming and drying landscapes of the American West. Science 371:1042-1045.
    • Forister, M.L., E.M. Grames, C.A. Halsch, K.J. Burls, C.F. Carroll, K.L. Bell, J.P. Jahner, et al. 2023. Assessing risk for butterflies in the context of climate change, demographic uncertainty, and heterogeneous data sources. Ecological Monographs 93(3):e1584.
    • Sater, S. 2022. The insects of Sevenmile Creek, a pictorial guide to their diversity and ecology. Undergraduate Thesis. Helena, MT: Carroll College. 242 p.
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Woodland Skipper — Ochlodes sylvanoides.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from