Mexico, USA & Canada
Family - HESPERIIDAE
Carterocephalus palaemon, Kananaskis, Alberta Canada
There are 15
species. The genus is centred on China, but 3 species reach Europe
treats Carterocephalus as a member of
the Hesperiinae, but the genus
is currently placed in the Heteropterinae due to differences in the
structure of the antennae, palpi and venation. There are only a few
members of the Heteropterinae which occur in the northern
hemisphere. In South America there are many related species in the
genus Dalla - largely montane species
from the Andes; and another similar genus,
Metisella, occurs in the tropics of Africa.
are dark brown with yellow or cream markings. The pattern is
repeated on the underside, but in muted colours.
is known as the Chequered Skipper, but in the USA and Canada it is
usually referred to as the Arctic Skipper or Arctic Skipperling. The
butterfly is found across most of Europe and temperate Asia to
Japan. It is the only Carterocephalus
species found on North America where it occurs in northern
California, southern Alaska and across most of Canada.
© Peter Bruce-Jones
is found in grassy glades and clearings in coniferous or deciduous
temperate and sub-arctic forest, at elevations between sea level and
The shiny white spherical eggs are laid singly on
the underside of grass blades. Oviposition occurs primarily on
grasses growing in dappled sunlight beneath bog myrtle bushes. They
are usually laid on Molinea caerulea,
but occasionally on Brachypodium,
Bromus ( Poaceae ).
larva makes it's first meal of the eggshell. It later constructs a
shelter made by rolling a blade of grass into a tube, held together
with strands of silk. As it grows, it moves to other grass blades
and constructs larger tubes. It feeds diurnally, eating little
notches out of the grass blade above and below where it rests. Like
other grass-feeding skippers, the larva is equipped with a pair of
prongs at the tail end, which it uses to flick away its droppings.
This helps to prevent the grass shelter from becoming fouled, and
also removes evidence of the larva's presence which might otherwise
attract parasitoids or predators.
the larva is fully grown in late September it constructs a silk tent
amongst the grass blades, where it hibernates until April. The
mature larva is pale green, but in autumn the colour gradually
changes to pale straw, matching the surroundings. Prior to pupation
in May the larva constructs yet another shelter, made from dead
grasses and silk. The long thin pupa is formed within the shelter.
It is pale ochreous, with dark lines along the back and sides. The
pupal stage lasts about 2 weeks.
On sunny mornings males
establish perches on bushes or saplings. They use these vantage points
to survey passing females, and defend their territories vigorously
against all passing insects. Other male Chequered Skippers are
promptly ousted from the vicinity. When a female is intercepted she is
chased until she settles, whereupon copulation takes place
immediately. The pair remain joined for about an hour, during which
time they sit with wings held erect, on low foliage.
Both sexes spend long periods
basking on the terminal leaves of shoots of bog myrtle, birch, and
other small trees or shrubs. Unlike Hesperiine skippers, but like the
Pyrginae, they usually bask with their wings spread flat, usually with
the forewings draped slightly backwards.
They nectar, with wings closed, at
a wide variety of herbaceous plants including dandelion, bugle,
lousewort, bluebells and orchids. Males also imbibe from wet soil at
the edges of puddles.
In dull dry weather and overnight,
the butterflies roost on the terminal leaves of bog myrtle bushes, or
sometimes on bracken fronds or clumps of heather.
In wet weather they hide deep within grass tussocks.