Arctic Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) (Pallas, 1771)

Diagnosis: On the upperside, C. palaemon is dark brown with rectangular orange spots. On the forewing underside, this pattern is reversed, with dark brown spots on an orange background, and the hindwing underside has a beige ground colour with oval brown-rimmed white spots. Wingspan: 19 to32 mm.

Subspecies: The nominate subspecies is Palaearctic; in North America the only subspecies is mandan.

Range: The Arctic Skipper is found from coast to coast in the northern U.S. and Canada, where it flies in every province, north to Nain, Labrador, Lac Guillaume-Delisle, Quebec, Attawapiskat, Ontario, and Thompson, Manitoba, and in Yukon and the Northwest Territories north to Sam Lake, Yukon. It is absent from southwestern Ontario, south of Brant County.


Specimen collection data


Similar Species: None.

Early Stages: The larvae are cream-coloured, with a faint dorsal stripe and a yellowish lateral line above a row of black spots. They feed on grasses, probably only a few species, although they eat many in captivity.

Abundance: The Arctic Skipper is common over most of its range.

Flight Season: There is one generation per year, flying from late May to mid-July, sometimes to late July in the north.

Habits: The Arctic Skipper is found around forest trails, clearings, and edges, as well as in more open grassy areas, usually in slightly damp places, though rarely in marshes. The name is misleading as it is not found in the Arctic, and is most common in the Boreal and Mixed Deciduous Woodland Zones on the margins of deciduous forests.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.