Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor) (Fabricius, 1793)

Diagnosis: This very small (wingspan: 17 to 26 mm) skipper is easily recognized by its size and by the shape of its rounded wings. The forewings are mostly dark brown, except for a little orange near the costa, and the hindwings are orange with a wide dark brown border. The underside hindwing is a clear, golden colour.

Range: The Least Skipper is found throughout the eastern U.S., and in Canada from Nova Scotia, through Quebec from Bonaventure to northern Témiscamingue County, and from southern Ontario to Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan. There is an old record from Lethbridge, Alberta (3 July 1909, J.B. Wallis), currently in the J.B. Wallis Collection at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

Similar Species: None. Its small size and dark forewing quickly distinguishes it from other skippers.

Early Stages: The larvae are light green, with a brown head with white patches and lines. They live singly in leaf-nests on the foodplant, various species of wetland grasses, including blue grass (Poa spp.) and Rice Cut grass (Leersia oryzoides) in Manitoba; around Ottawa, colonies often appear to be localized around areas of Canary Reed Grass (Phalaris arundinacea).

Abundance: The Least Skipper is sometimes abundant for just a few days in its restricted habitat.

Flight Season: There are two generations per year in Canada, from mid-June to early July, and from August to early September, more in the U.S.

Habits: Ancyloxypha numitor flies very weakly, usually down in between the tall grass stems, and is very restricted to wet places, road-side ditches, and streams, as well as rich wet swampy meadows. At its northern limits it can be found in a much wider variety of habitats, although always in wet areas. In 1983 RAL found it at an altitude of 430 metres, near Round Lake in the northern interior of Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, at a tiny wet grassy area beside a small bog; flying nearby were much more northerly species, the Bog Copper (Lycaena epixanthe), the Northern Blue (Lycaeides idas), and the Pink-edged Sulphur (Colias interior).

© 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.