Mexico, USA & Canada
Common Branded Skipper
Family - HESPERIIDAE
© Adrian Hoskins
There are 25 Hesperia species
distributed variously across the temperate and subarctic regions of
Europe, Asia and North America. The genus is closely allied to
Polites and two genera share many
common characteristics. Both for example have underside hindwings
with a distinctive configuration of white spots, and the males of
both genera have conspicuous black androconial on the forewings.
Hesperia comma is one of the most widely distributed skipper
species in the world. It occurs in Alaska, over most of Canada, and
across the western half of the USA. Beyond North America it is found
across the whole of Europe, and in the Atlas mountains of north
Africa. Its range extends eastward across temperate and subarctic
Asia to Siberia, Amurland and China.
species occurs in a wide range of grassy habitats including alpine
meadows, open woodlands and tundra edge grasslands.
© Adrian Hoskins
In Europe and most of
North America the butterfly is univoltine, but in Alaska the
lifecycle takes two years to complete, the first winter being spent
as an egg and the second as a fully grown caterpillar or chrysalis.
Ovipositing females dart about close to the
ground and alight randomly on short grasses. They then thrust their
abdomen forward to lay a single egg on a grass blade without any
investigative hopping or walking about. After ovipositing they
usually rest for a few seconds while before flying to another
similar nearby spot where they repeat the process.
The straw-coloured eggs are laid singly on the
narrow leaf blades of grasses including
Bromus and Bouteloua ( Poaceae
The larvae are fully developed within the eggs by early autumn, but
do not hatch until the following March. They feed nocturnally on the
fine tender leaf blades, sheltering by day in a flimsy silken tent
spun at the base of a grass tuft. The fully grown larva is dark
with wrinkled skin, and a black head. The pupa is
dark brown with blackish wing cases. It is formed within a cocoon of
the base of grass tufts. The butterfly develops very quickly,
emerging after only about 7 days.
The adults are
extremely active, zipping and darting about in every direction just
above the surface of the ground.
Males occupy loosely
defined overlapping territories where they dart from flower to flower,
stopping periodically to perch on low herbage or on a patch of bare
ground. They dart up to intercept and investigate any small
rapidly flying insect including flies, bees and wasps as well as other
butterflies. They are very pugnacious in nature, and will chase off
even the largest and most powerful butterflies. During male / male
encounters, the butterflies zigzag frenetically just above the ground,
and then spiral upwards in tight circles until the weaker male is
ousted, whereupon the other male returns to within a few metres of
it's original position.
virgin female is encountered she is abruptly forced to land on the
ground, usually in a tuft of grass, where she vibrates her wings
rapidly. The male lands alongside her, and buzzes excitedly around
her, showering her with pheromones from his androconial scales. The
female then flies in a series of short hops, until she finds a
comfortable spot to settle, and the male then settles by her side,
curving his abdomen round until he engages her. He then slowly turns
to face away from her, after which the pair remain stationary in
copulation for about 2 hours.
gravid female is encountered the ritual begins the same way, but after
settling together 3 or 4 times in succession without successfully
copulating the male flies off. There does not appear to be any visual
rejection signal given to the unwanted male, so presumably mating only
takes place of the female is receptive to the male pheromones.
sexes nectar avidly at a wide variety of low growing flowers,