Indian Skipper (Hesperia sassacus) (Harris, 1862)

Diagnosis: In both sexes the upper side is pale orange, with wide black borders that extend into the wing in lobes between the veins. Both sexes have yellowish orange undersides, with the costal area a richer orange colour. The medial spot band is pale yellowish, usually not contrasting, with rectangular spots arranged in a chevron shape. Wingspan: 25 to 30 mm.

Subspecies: None. Subspecies manitoboides was described from "Nepigon" (Nipigon) and Sudbury, Ontario, but is not now recognized as a distinct subspecies.

Range: Hesperia sassacus flies throughout the northeastern U.S., and in Canada in southwestern New Brunswick and in a broad band from the Eastern Townships of Quebec through southern Ontario to southern Manitoba. Isolated records from Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick and Schist Lake, Manitoba, suggest that it may be more widespread than the records show; it could be confused with the Common Branded Skipper (H. comma).

Similar Species: The Common Branded Skipper and Leonard's Skipper (H. comma and H. l. leonardus). Females can be confused with the female Long Dash Skipper (Polites mystic), which is darker above and has the underside medial band curved, parallel to the hindwing margin. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larvae of the Indian Skipper are apparently undescribed. They have been reported to feed on a wide variety of grasses, including Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius), Nodding Fescue (Festuca obtusa) panic grass (Panicum spp.) and Poverty Grass (Danthonia spicata) (Scott, 1986).

Abundance: The Indian Skipper is widespread and occasionally common, but never abundant; it is scarce to rare in north western Ontario and Manitoba.

Flight Season: Hesperia sassacus flies from late May to early July.

Habits: In the east, sassacus is found in a wide variety of wet and dry grassy habitats; in Manitoba it is more restricted to woodland clearings and rocky areas.

© 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.