Dusted Skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna) (Scudder, 1868)

Diagnosis: Males have no visible stigma; both sexes have pointed forewings and are very dark brownish grey above, lighter beneath, with a distinctive light grey dusting along the outer fringes of both wings. There are a number of small white translucent spots on the forewing, one group of which touches the costa. Some spots show through to the underside, and there are sometimes a few small white patches on the hindwing underside. All markings are more distinct in females. Wingspan: 25 to 35 mm.

Subspecies: Two, but only the nominate subspecies is found in Canada.

Range: The Dusted Skipper is found throughout the eastern U.S., reaching Canada only in southwestern Ontario, southern Manitoba, and southeastern Saskatchewan.

Similar Species: The Northern and Southern Cloudywings (Thorybes pylades and T. bathyllus) have more white spots, with two groups of spots touching the costa, and more rounded wings. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is pale lavender with the sides pale grey; the head is reddish purple. Foodplants are grasses, Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) and Little Bluestem (A. scoparius) (McCabe and Post, 1977; Opler and Krizek, 1984).

Abundance: This species is considered uncommon to rare in Ontario and Manitoba, but is occasionally common in Saskatchewan.

Flight Season: The Dusted Skipper has only one generation per year in Canada, from mid-May to mid-June in Ontario, about a week later on the Prairies. There are several flights farther south. It is an avid flower visitor and has been twice reported nectaring on Narrow leafed Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) in sandhills at the Pinery Provincial Park, Lambton County, Ontario.

Habits: Atrytonopsis hianna is confined to remnants of dry virgin prairie in the west, and to very dry sandy areas in Lambton County, Ontario. It is almost certainly becoming rarer as these habitats disappear.

© 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.