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Butterflies of Mexico, USA & Canada
Western Skipper
Ochlodes sylvanoides  BOISDUVAL, 1852
Family - HESPERIIDAE
subfamily - HESPERIINAE
Ochlodes sylvanoides Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada Martin Gascoigne-Pees
Introduction
There are 21 species in the genus Ochlodes, 5 of which occur in North America, with the remainder distributed variously across Europe and temperate Asia.
Most Ochlodes species have a fulvous or dark reddish-brown ground colour, and are marked on the forewings with a diagonal band of suffused pale yellowish or orange spots. Males of all species have a prominent black streak of androconial scales.
Ochlodes sylvanoides occurs in the western states of the USA, and in British Columbia in Canada.
Habitats
This species can be found in almost grassy habitat including sagebrush, chaparral, meadows, open sunny areas within deciduous or coniferous woodland, golf courses etc.
Lifecycle
The pale yellow dome-shaped egg is laid singly on the underside of grass blades. The larva feeds nocturnally on grasses including Phalaris, Elymus, Agropyron and Cynodon ( Poaceae ). It spends the early stages of it's life within a tube of grass constructed by joining together 2 grass blades with strands of silk. It periodically emerges from the tube to eject it's droppings, which are catapulted some distance by flicking them with a comb-like device on it's tail. It hibernates within a newly constructed tent of grasses and resumes feeding in the spring. The fully grown larva is pale green with a series of fine blackish dorsal and lateral stripes. The chrysalis is brownish-cream, dotted with brown and with a waxy whitish coating. It is formed within the final larval shelter, head-upwards, and secured by bristles on the head and cremaster.
Adult behaviour

The butterflies have a rapid whirring flight, 'skipping' from leaf to leaf. When basking they hold their wings in the characteristic position as illustrated.

Males patrol back and forth across their breeding sites in the late morning on warm sunny mornings to search for freshly emerged females. If unsuccessful at this time they switch to a 'perch and wait' tactic in the afternoon. Typically a male will then seek a sheltered, sunny spot in a woodland glade, a trail intersection, or at the base of a grassy hillside. There he will sit on a tall grass head or on a leaf, ready to dart up and investigate any passing insect.

Other males are challenged aggressively and driven off. During these territorial sorties the males buzz frenetically around each other, while flying rapidly in broad circles, soaring to a height of about 4-5 metres above ground level. At this point they separate and the "owner" of the territory returns to it's original perch - or very nearby, while the intruder moves on to set up a territory elsewhere.

When females are encountered they are chased until they settle, usually on a bush or small tree; and copulation follows after a brief courtship ritual.

Males imbibe mineralised moisture from mud. Both sexes nectar at a wide range of flowers.

 

 

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