Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) (Drury, 1773)

Diagnosis: This medium-sized skipper (wingspan: 22 to 33 mm), like most of the branded skippers, has very different male and female wing patterns. The male has a yellowish-orange upperside with toothed black shading on the wing margins and a black stigma on the forewing. The female upperside is dark brown with a complex pattern of light orange spots. Below, the male hindwing is orange with very small black spots and a dark anal fold, while the female hindwing is greyish brown with a crescent of pale marks and dark spots.

Subspecies: Two subspecies occur in the U.S. and farther south, but only the nominate subspecies reaches Canada.

Range: Resident only in southern U.S. and in Central and South America, the Fiery Skipper migrates north each year, crossing the Canadian border regularly only in southwestern Ontario; it has been found as far northeast as Presqu'ile Provincial Park.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: The male could be confused with the Whirlabout (Polites vibex), but the hindwing upperside is dark brown in the Whirlabout and the hindwing underside spots are fewer and larger. Females could be confused with females of the Sachem (Atalopedes campestris), but the Sachem is larger and has a rectangular transparent patch on the forewing. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larvae are various shades of brown or dull green, with brown dorsal and lateral lines. They feed on a variety of weedy grasses and can be a pest on lawn grasses in the southern U.S..

Abundance: The Fiery Skipper is abundant in the south, progressively less common in the north where its range extends each summer.

Flight Season: Flies all year in the south, migrating north in late summer and fall, often reaching Point Pelee, sometimes in good numbers. Ontario records range from 30 July to 29 October, with one Point Pelee record on 1 June 1994. These are often fresh specimens, and they have been seen in copula at Windsor, Ontario; larvae, however, would not survive the Canadian winter.

Habits: The Fiery Skipper flies in a variety of grassy habitats including roadsides, old fields, marshy meadows, lawns, and gardens.

Remarks: A male in the Canadian National Collection from Prince Edward Island is labelled "Charlottetown, 29.7.1947, F. Hazen Wigmore." We accept this record because migrants flying northwards towards the northeastern states quite likely follow the coast to some extent, and could have been carried into the Maritimes by strong south winds.

© 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.