Ottoe Skipper (Hesperia ottoe) (W.H. Edwards, 1866)

Diagnosis: Males are yellowish orange, unmarked above except for the diffuse dark border and the black stigma. Females are dull brown with pale buff markings and appear faded even when fresh; they have a round translucent spot in the centre of the forewing. The underside of both sexes is pale orange, usually completely lacking medial spots on the hindwing, occasionally with just a trace in females. Wingspan: 29 to 35 mm.

Range: This species has a wide range in the central U.S. but has been recorded in Canada only in a small area of southern Manitoba.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: Hesperia ottoe shares with the Dakota Skipper (H. dacotae), the Leonard's Skipper (H. leonardus pawnee), and the Plains Skipper (H. assiniboia) the pale underside and reduced medial spot band on the hindwing. [compare images]

Females of pawnee are less faded in appearance and have the translucent forewing spot squarish, not round, and a row of cream-coloured spots on the hindwing underside; males have yellow interior felt in the stigma and a faint row of cream-coloured spots on the hindwing underside. Females of dacotae are slightly darker and more greyish above than the other two species, and in both sexes the underside is greyish brown, usually with a small pale, blurred spot band on the hindwing. Hesperia assiniboia is darker above, and the underside has a slightly greenish ground colour. Hesperia leonardus pawnee and assiniboia fly in August and early September, a few weeks later than ottoe and dacotae.

Early Stages: The larva is greenish brown, with a dark brown head and a black prothorax. Hesperia ottoe has been recorded ovipositing on Fall Witchgrass (Leptoloma cognatum), Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius), and, in Minnesota, on the flowers of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia); the newly hatched larvae eat their egg shells before dropping off the flowers to feed on the grasses below (Dana, 1981).

Abundance: This has always been a rare species, and is becoming more so as its habitat disappears.

Flight Season: Only recorded in Canada in late July; however, H. ottoe could be expected any time between mid-June and early August.

Habits: The Ottoe skipper flies in native mixed- and tall-grass prairie, woodland clearings, and other places where native grasses occur. It is regularly seen on flowers, and is wary and difficult to approach.

© 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.