Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) (Cramer, [1775])

Diagnosis: The largest resident Canadian skipper (wingspan: 37 to 45 mm), clarus has very pointed forewings, and a dark brown ground colour above and below. The forewing has a golden yellow band on both surfaces, and the hindwings have a large silvery spot in the centre beneath.

Subspecies: Only the nominate subspecies is found in Canada.

Range: The Silver-spotted Skipper flies throughout the eastern and much of the western U.S., and in southern Canada from Quebec to southern mainland British Columbia, with one record from western New Brunswick. It ranges north to Quebec City, Quebec, Langton Lake, Ontario, Overflowing River, Manitoba, and near Taber, Alberta; there are no records in Ontario from north of Lakes Huron andSuperior.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: Similar to the Hoary Edge (Achalarus lyciades), but in that species the white shading is along the outer third of the hindwing underside rather than as a silvery-white patch near the middle of the wing. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larvae are yellowish or pale green, with a dark brown head bearing two bright orange spots, resembling at first glance large eyes. They live in leaf-nests on the foodplant, constructed initially by making two parallel cuts in the edge of the leaf and folding the flap between them; later they fold whole leaves or pull together two or more leaves. They pupate and hibernate in a nest made of the lowest leaves of the foodplant, or of any nearby plant, occasionally even leaves of Poison Ivy. Foodplants are always in the pea family (Fabaceae). In the U.S. and probably southern Ontario the usual foodplant is Black Locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia), but elsewhere in Canada only herbaceous plants are used: Hog Peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata), Groundnut (Apios americana), Showy Tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense), and False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa). Oviposition wasonce observed, at Taber, Alberta, on Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota).

Abundance: Rarely seen in large numbers anywhere in Canada. It tends to be somewhat colonial, occurring in small numbers where found.

Flight Season: Flies from early June to late July in most of its Canadian range, a little later inManitoba. One generation per year except in extreme southwestern Ontario, where there is occasionally a partial second flight.

Habits: Usually seen in open sunny areas near patches of the foodplants, but at places where Hog Peanut grows on shaded woodland trails it can be found in the mottled light and shade of deciduous woods. It is an avid flower visitor, and is often seen perched on leaves. When startled it flies off, but usually returns to the same leaf. It regularly nectars on the larval foodplants, sometimes alternating ovipositing and nectaring on the same plant. It is a very strong flyer and difficult to catch, moving much too fast to follow with the eye once disturbed.

© 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.