Dakota Skipper (Hesperia dacotae) (Skinner, 1911)

Diagnosis: Males are pale yellowish orange above with diffuse brown borders and a relatively short stigma. Females are variable, from a greyish buff to brown above. Below, both sexes are greyish brown, slightly more orange in the male, and both have very reduced paler medial spots. The wings are slightly shorter, and more rounded, than in other species of Hesperia. Wingspan: 21 to 29 mm.

Range: The Dakota Skipper flies in a small area of the U.S. west of the Great Lakes, and reaches Canada only in southern Manitoba.

Similar Species: Ottoe, Leonard's, and Plains Skippers (H. ottoe, H. leonardus pawnee, and H. assiniboia). [compare images]

Early Stages: The larvae are light brown with a dark brown head and black prothorax. They have been found on Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius). Females lay eggs low down on the grass leaves, but also, more commonly, on broad-leafed plants such as milk-vetch (Astragalus spp.) (McCabe and Post, 1977).

Abundance: This skipper is rare everywhere and is endangered in many parts of its range.

Flight Season: The Dakota Skipper flies from mid-June to late July; in Manitoba it is recorded from 23 June to 14 July (Klassen et al., 1989).

Habits: The Dakota Skipper flies in northern alkaline tall-grass prairie where Camas (Zygadenus elegans) grows. This habitat is rapidly disappearing. Formerly the habitat was maintained by fires, which prevented shrubs from taking over; it has been suggested that the best way to protect the habitat today would be mowing for hay in October. Near Lundar, Manitoba, males were often seen perching on Camas flowers waiting for females.

© 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.