Western Branded Skipper (Hesperia colorado) (Scudder, 1874)

Diagnosis: This skipper is similar to Common Branded Skipper (Hesperia comma) and generally looks like a larger (wingspan: 25 to 32 mm), paler, washed-out version of it. The range of Hesperia colorado overlaps that of comma in southern British Columbia and that of Plains Skipper (Hesperia assiniboia) in southwestern Saskatchewan.

Subspecies: There are about ten subspecies of Hesperia colorado, of which two occur in Canada. Subspecies harpalus occurs throughout the dry interior of southern British Columbia and in southwestern Saskatchewan, and has white spots on the hindwing beneath. Subspecies oregonia occurs from southern Vancouver Island southward and has pale yellow spots on the hindwing beneath.

Range: This species occurs in arid habitats in the southern third of British Columbia, and in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: Most likely to be confused with Common Branded Skipper (Hesperia comma), but can be distinguished by its paler coloration and occurrence in Great Basin sagebrush and steppe habitats, rather than the boreal and subalpine habitats occupied by comma. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larvae are similar to those of the Common Branded Skipper (Hesperia comma), but the head is pale on each side. They feed on grasses including rye grass (Lolium spp.) and brome grass (Bromus spp.) (MacNeill, 1964).

Abundance: It is fairly common in British Columbia; rare in Saskatchewan.

Flight Season: Generally flying from mid-July to mid September, occasionally as early as mid-June in the Okanagan Valley.

Habits: A butterfly of open arid land habitats, this skipper is especially common on hillsides and in valleys.

Remarks: This species was kept separate from the Common Branded Skipper (Hesperia comma) (called manitoba) in MacNeill's (1964) revision of western North American Hesperia; he later (in Howe, 1975) included it within Hesperia comma, but arranged comma into an Old World and boreal group of subspecies and a western North American group of subspecies. We treat Hesperia colorado as a valid species because its range broadly overlaps that of comma in British Columbia, although the two rarely occur together.

© 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.