Hobomok Skipper (Poanes hobomok) (Harris, 1862)

Diagnosis: This yellow-orange skipper has wide black irregular borders on both wings, wider in females giving them a generally darker appearance. The males have no stigma, but there is a narrow vertical black line at the end of the cell; this is present in females, but is hidden by a large dark patch that connects with the wide borders. The hindwing underside is dark brown with a large, straw-coloured central patch. There is an uncommon dark female form, "pocahontas", which is found in most populations in varying proportions, but this is not a subspecies. In "pocahontas" both wing surfaces are purplish brown with a varying number of white and cream spots on both sides of the forewing; the largest spots have a blurred appearance. The hindwing underside in this form has a central patch that is a pale greyish-purple colour. Wingspan: 24 to 32 mm.

Subspecies: There are two, but only the nominate subspecies is found in Canada.

Range: The Hobomok Skipper is found throughout the eastern and central U.S., except in the farsouth, and in Canada from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, through southern and central Quebec and Ontario to eastern Alberta. It is absent from Newfoundland, Labrador, and the north shore of the St. Lawrence east of Les Escoumins, Saguenay County, Quebec. It occurs north as far as Chibougamau, Quebec, Attawapiskat, Ontario, William River, Manitoba, and Meadow Lake Park, Saskatchewan.

Similar Species: Males of the Zabulon Skipper, Poanes zabulon (Boisduval & Leconte), resemble hobomok males, and females resemble "pocahontas" females. Both sexes have more pointed wings than hobomok; the male hindwing underside has a more irregular dark margin and the central yellow patch has three or four dark spots in the patch. Females resemble the dark "pocahontas" form, but they lack a pale patch near the middle of the upper margin of the forewing below the costa that is present in "pocahontas". See Remarks below.

Early Stages: The larva is dark green to brown with many small black tubercules bearing blackspines. The head is black with many white hairs (Tilden and Smith, 1986). Food plants are grasses, including panic grass (Panicum spp.) and blue grass (Poa spp.).

Abundance: The Hobomok Skipper is very common and widespread.

Flight Season: Poanes hobomok flies from mid-May to mid-July over most of its range and until late July in the north.

Description of this image follows
Hobomok Skipper
(Poanes hobomok hobomok).
St. Catharines, Ont. J. Kamstra

Habits: The Hobomok Skipper is always found near woodlands, around forest edges and in small clearings and trails. Males perch at vantage points on trails awaiting females. In the Ottawa area they almost invariably choose raspberry canes and leaves for perches if any are available. This species and the Arctic Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) are the earliest orange-brown skippers in the east, and are always a welcome sign of spring.

Remarks: Since 2000, the Zabulon Skipper (P. zabulon) has been reported twice from Pelee Island, in southwestern Ontario; anywhere but extreme southwestern Ontario the Hobomok Skipper is unmistakable. In the late 1800s and early 1900s these two skippers were confused and the name Zabulon was often used in error for the Hobomok Skipper. Older records from southwestern Ontario were misidentified Hobomok Skippers.

© 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.