North American Butterflies and Moths List

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Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of New York

Dotted Skipper (Hesperia attalus)
JPG -- species photo

Dotted Skipper (Hesperia attalus [W. H. Edwards])

Wing span: 1 3/8 - 1 5/8 inches (3.5 - 4.2 cm).

Identification: Variable and rarely seen. Forewing is pointed, particularly in the male. Male: Upperside is dull brownish orange with wide dark borders; stigma on forewing has black felt. Female: Upperside is dark brown with pale spots; underside is green-brown to dull orange with or without small pale spots.

Life history: Males perch to watch for receptive females. Eggs are deposited on or near the host. Caterpillars feed on grass leaves and live in silken tubes at the base of grass clumps. They overwinter in shelters that are partially buried.

Flight: Two broods from May-September with a longer flight period in Florida.

Caterpillar hosts: Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and fall witchgrass (Leptoloma cognatum).

Adult food: Nectar from flowers of prickly pear cactus, alfalfa, thistles, and purple coneflower.

Habitat: Short-grass prairies, pine barrens, and woodland meadows.

Range: Atlantic seaboard from eastern Massachusetts (rarely) south to peninsular Florida and the Gulf Coast. A separate population occurs from central Kansas south to east-central Texas. Strays to eastern Nebraska.

Conservation: Populations should be conserved wherever they are found.

The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G3 - Very rare or local throughout its range or found locally in a restricted range (21 to 100 occurrences). (Threatened throughout its range).

Management needs: Care should be taken not to eliminate populations by overuse of fire on small preserves.


Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains. Johns 
     Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates.

Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson 
     field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, 
     Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of western USA butterflies including 
     adjacent parts of Canada and Mexico. Denver and Fort Collins, CO. 

Author: Jane M. Struttmann

State and Regional References:

Cech, R. 1993.  A Distributional Checklist of the Butterflies and Skippers of 
     the New York City Area (50-mile Radius) and Long Island.  New York City 
     Butterfly Club Special Publication.  27 pp.

Forbes, W.T.M.  1960.  Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States.  Part 
     IV: Agaristidae through Nymphalidae Including Butterflies.  Cornell Univ. 
     Agricultural Experimental Station, Ithaca, N.Y.  Memoir 371.  188 pp.

Glassberg,  J.  1993.  Butterflies Through Binoculars: A Field Guide to 
     Butterflies in the Boston-New York-Washington Region.  Oxford Univ. Press, 
     New York, N.Y.  160 pp. 

Klass, C. and Dirig, R.  1992.  Learning about Butterflies.  Cornell Cooperative 
     Extension Publication, 4-H Member/Leader Guide 139-M-9.  Ithaca, N.Y.  
     36 pp.

Layberry, R.A., Hall, P.W. & Lafontaine, D.J., 1998.  The Butterflies of 
     Canada.  University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON.  280 pp.
Opler, P.A. 1998. A field guide to eastern butterflies, revised format.
     Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.      

Shapiro, A.M.  1974.  Butterflies and Skippers of New York State.  Cornell Univ.
     Agricultural Experimental Station, Ithaca, N.Y.  Search 4:1-60.   
Dotted Skipper (Hesperia attalus)
distribution map
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