Leonard’s skipper

(Hesperia leonardus)

Conservation Status
Leonard’s skipper
Photo by Scott Leddy
  IUCN Red List

not listed

 
  NatureServe

N4 - Apparently Secure

S3 - Vulnerable

 
  Minnesota

Special Concern

 
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Leonard’s skipper is a large, late season, branded skipper. It occurs in North America east of the Rocky Mountains. It is listed as a Special Concern species in Minnesota, where it is declining due to habitat loss, insecticide drift from nearby croplands, and prescribed burning of managed prairies and savannas.

There are three subspecies of Leonard’s skipper, two of which occur in Minnesota. The western subspecies, Pawnee skipper (Hesperia leonardus pawnee), is found in prairies in the west. The eastern subspecies, Leonard’s skipper (Hesperia leonardus leonardus), is found in dry prairies, savannas, open woodlands, and woodland openings in the east. The ranges of the subspecies overlap in eastern Minnesota, western Iowa, and western Wisconsin. In these areas the subspecies interbreed, producing “blended” offspring that are closer in appearance to Leonard’s skipper. The Leonard’s skippers in eastern Minnesota are all or mostly “blended”.

Adults fly from early August to mid-September. They feed on nectar from many flowers, especially blazing stars in the west and New England aster in the east, but also on other asters, wild bergamot, heal-all, round-headed bush clover, goldenrods, spotted knapweed, prairie ironweed, thistles, Joe-pye weed, and sunflowers. Larva feed on grasses.

Adults have a 1¼ to 1¾ (32 to 45 mm) wingspan. On the male the forewings are angular and narrow. The upper side of the forewing on the male is reddish-orange with broad black borders. Near the middle of the wing there is a narrow, pointed area of black, specialized, scent scales (stigma). This is the “brand” that gives the genus its common name. On the female the basal area is darker and there is a row of squarish, orangish-yellow spots. As with many skippers, there is also a row of three small pale spots, the “wrist bracelet”, near the costal margin in the subapical area. The upper side of the hind wing on both sexes has a row of orangish-yellow spots.

The underside of both wings is rust-red. On the hind wing there is a row of prominent light brownish-yellow or white spots.

The antennae are short and barred. Each antenna has a swelling (club) at the tip, and a pale, thin, hooked extension (apiculus) at the end of the club. There is not a white band below the club.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Wingspan: 1¼ to 1¾ (32 to 45 mm)

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Leonard’s skipper: dry prairies, savannas, open woodlands, and woodland openings

Pawnee skipper: prairies

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

One generation per year: early August to mid-September

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

Leonard’s skipper is a fast flier. In flight the wings appear as a blur.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

First stage (instar) larvae overwinter. They continue feeding in the spring and pupate in July. Adults emerge in August.

 
     
 

Larva Hosts

 
 

Grasses

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Nectar from many flowers, especially blazing stars in the west and New England aster in the east, but also on other asters, wild bergamot, heal-all, round-headed bush clover, goldenrods, spotted knapweed, prairie ironweed, thistles, Joe-pye weed, and sunflowers.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 72, 75.

 
  5/11/2021      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Uncommon in Minnesota

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  
 

Suborder

Glossata  
 

Infraorder

Neolepidoptera  
  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  
 

Superfamily

Papilionoidea (butterflies)  
 

Family

Hesperiidae (skippers)  
 

Subfamily

Hesperiinae (grass skippers)  
 

Tribe

Hesperiini  
 

Genus

Hesperia (branded skippers)  
       
 

Subordinate Taxa

 
 

Leonard’s skipper (Hesperia leonardus leonardus)

Pawnee Montane skipper (Hesperia leonardus montana)

Pawnee skipper (Hesperia leonardus pawnee)

 
       
 

Skippers have traditionally been placed in their own superfamily Hesperioidea because of their morphological similarity. Recent phylogenetic analysis (Kawahara and Breinholt [2014]) suggests that they share the same common ancestor as other butterfly families, and thus belong in the superfamily, Papilionoidea.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

Leonard’s skipper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Apiculus

A thin hooked or pointed extension at the ends of each antenna just beyond the club of all skippers except skipperlings (subfamily Heteropterinae).

 

Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.

 

Instar

The developmental stage of arthropods between each molt; in insects, the developmental stage of the larvae or nymph.

 

Stigma

In plants, the portion of the female part of the flower that is receptive to pollen. In Lepidoptera, an area of specialized scent scales on the forewing of some skippers, hairstreaks, and moths. In other insects, a thickened, dark, or opaque cell on the leading edge of the wing.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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Nancy Falkum

 
 

Golden Rod with Leonard’s Skipper

 
    goldenrod (Solidago sp.)      
           
 

Blazing Star, Rough Liatris aspera w/Hesperia leonardus Leonard’s Skipper

 
    rough blazing star      
 

Scott Leddy

 
    Leonard’s skipper   Leonard’s skipper  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
 

 

 
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
Leonard's Skipper
Cory Gregory
  Leonard's Skipper  

 

slideshow

       
 
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Other Videos
 
  Leonard's Skipper Butterfly
Laurett Garden
 
   
 
About

Jan 11, 2021

Found this butterfly eating nectar from my purple coneflower.

 
  Late Flying Skippers
Dick Walton
 
   
 
About

Apr 18, 2011

Leonard's Skipper and Common Branded Skipper

 

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this insect.

 
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  Nancy Falkum
9/18/2021

Location: Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, Weaver Dunes Unit

rough blazing star  
  Scott Leddy
9/10/2017

Location: Fillmore County, MN

Leonard’s skipper

 
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
 

 

 

 

 

Binoculars


Created: 5/11/2021

Last Updated:

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