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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Arctic Skipper - Carterocephalus mandan
Other Names:  Carterocephalus palaemon

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status


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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 1.3-1.4 cm. Uppersurface dark brown with checkered pattern of golden spots; undersurface of hindwing tan with yellow to silvery spots outlined in black. (Marked like a miniature fritillary.)

One flight, mostly late May through June (June to mid-July in the north) (Scott 1986). Mid-April to early August (Glassberg 2001). Late June to early August in the Rocky Mountain states (Ferris and Brown 1981), mid-April to early August in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002), mid-April to late July in Oregon (Warren 2005), early May to early August in British Columbia (Threatful 1988; Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Distinctive; determined by combination of the uppersurface pattern and the undersurface of hindwing tan with yellow to silvery spots outlined in black.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Holarctic. In North America, from central Alaska east throughout boreal Canada to the Maritime Provinces, south in the Pacific states to northern California, in the Rocky Mountain states to southwestern Wyoming, in the Great Plains to northern North Dakota, in the Great Lakes region to southern Wisconsin and central Michigan (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); near sea level to about 2134 m elevation in Oregon (Warren 2005), 457 m to 1219 m elevation in southeastern British Columbia (Threatful 1988). In Montana, reported from at least 20 counties in the western 1/2 of the state (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993; FLMNH Lepidopterists' Society database), to at least 1981 m elevation. Locally rare to uncommon (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 14

(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)

Non-migratory. In Europe, rarely fly as much as 3 km (Scott 1986).

Boreal woodland openings, grassy breaks, montane meadows, grassy bogs near forest edges, streambanks, wet valley bottoms (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Threatful 1988; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Guppy and Shepard 2001; Pyle 2002). Habitat in Montana not described but probably similar.

Food Habits
Larval food plants are grasses, including Brachypodium, Bromus, Calamagrostis, Molinia (Scott 1986; Ravenscroft 1994; Guppy and Shepard 2001; Warren 2005; James and Nunnallee 2011), probably other species (including Phalaris?), which remain largely unknown in North America. Adults feed on flower nectar (including Calyptridium, Geranium, Geum, Iris, Polymonium) and mud (Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002; Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly on host grasses; adults may live up to 21 days. Eggs hatch in about 7-13 days, develop from L1 instar to L5 instar in about 44 days (depending on temperature), remain active as L5 instar for about another 21 days before entering diapause (hibernation). After exiting diapause in spring, L5 instars pupate in about 5 days, adults eclose (emerge from pupae) in about 12 days. Larvae feed on host grass leaves, live in nests of leaves silked together, overwinter as L5 instars in silk-tied leaf nests, pupae attached to grass stem or blade (Scott 1979, 1986; Guppy and Shepard 2001; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males perch and sometimes patrol throughout the day < 1 m above ground in sedge swales and wet valleys searching for females (Scott 1975b, 1986; James and Nunnallee 2011).

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Citation for data on this website:
Arctic Skipper — Carterocephalus mandan.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from