Common Roadside Skipper (Amblyscirtes vialis) (W.H. Edwards, 1862)

Diagnosis: Amblyscirtes vialis is another small, very dark brown skipper, above and below, with brown and white fringed wing borders. It has three or four tiny white spots on the forewing costa. Beneath, the forewing spots are repeated and the hindwing is a little lighter, with a faint purplish tinge towards the edge. Wingspan: 18 to 25 mm.

Range: The Common Roadside Skipper occurs throughout most of the U.S. except the west. In Canada it is found in every province except Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, north to near Chibougamau, Quebec, Sandy Lake, Ontario, Snow Lake, Manitoba, and Otter Rapids, Saskatchewan. It just fails to reach the Northwest Territories where it occurs in northern Alberta a few kilometres south of Fort Smith.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: All other Amblyscirtes species.

Early Stages: The larva is pale green covered with small raised green dots, each containing a very short, downy hair; the rear segments are yellowish. The head is whitish with vertical red-brown stripes on the front. The larvae feed on grasses, including Kentucky Blue Grass (Poa pratensis), bent grass (Agrostis spp.) and, in the U.S., Spikegrass (Uniola latifolia). They have also been reported on Cultivated Oats (Avena sativa).

Abundance: Although widespread, this species is usually uncommon, but is occasionally fairly common in Manitoba.

Flight Season: Amblyscirtes vialis flies from late May to mid-June in most of its Canadian range, and into July farther north and in Manitoba. There is one generation per year in Canada, with a partial second generation in the U.S.

Habits: The Common Roadside Skipper is well named; it is almost always seen on the ground, on trails, gravelly or sandy roads, and road verges, usually in wooded areas. It is very rarely seen on flowers. It flies very rapidly when disturbed and is difficult to follow.

Remarks: Because of its small size and dark colouring, this butterfly may be overlooked and might be more common in some parts of the country than records suggest.

© 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.