Help with skippers
Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 10:15 AM
Dears Bugman:
Try as I might, I’m just not confident in my ID’s of all those pesky little orange skippers in my garden and lawn. I’m getting pretty good at the rest of the butterflies, but those skippers–yeeeshh!

Grass Skipper 1

Grass Skipper 1

I think I’ve been able to ID sachems and Peck’s skippers, but I wouldn’t bet my reputation on it (what little reputation there is). Wonder if you could take a look at the attached pics and give me a clue. I’ve also attached pics of a couple interesting moths I couldn’t ID. All these photos were taken summer 2008. Much obliged! (P.S. love your site!)
John Meredig
Spencer County, Southwest Indiana

Grass Skipper 2

Grass Skipper 2

Dear John,
Your letter is quite amusing, and we are quite certain the peskiness you mention has more to do with trying to identify the species than it does with the behavior of the Skippers. We too are quite frustrated when attempting to identify species of Skippers, and we generally just lump them all together as Grass Skippers in the subfamily Hesperiinae, which Jeffrey Glassberg describes in Butterflies Through Binoculars The West as: “Generally smaller than spread-wing skippers, most grass skippers have a rapid darting flight. When landed, theri wings are kept completely closed (often), or with the HWs [hind wings] more or less completely open but with the FWs [fore wings] only partially opened, forming a V or U. Males usually have a black ‘stigma’ on the FW that contains specialized sex scales. The characteristics of the stigma are sometimes useful for identification.”

Grass Skipper 3

Grass Skipper 3

We are sorry we cannot assist you more with exact species identification and we hope our own reputation has not suffered adversely because of this. We are posting all of your Grass Skipper images in the hopes that our readership can assist in the identification, though we would not eliminate the possibility that they are all the same species. Your photos are quite excellent and we hope you consider sending us some other underrepresented butterfly species one at a time for possible posting consideration.

Grass Skippers 4

Grass Skippers 4

Update
Re: Help with skippers – Jan 4, 2009
Happy New Year Daniel:
Indeed, the little orange grass skippers can be frustrating. However, John’s excellent photos clearly show the very large, squarish, black stigma that is characteristic of a male Sachem (Atalopedes campestris). There’s always room for some uncertainty when dealing with grass skippers, but I am reasonably certain about this one. Regards.
Karl

3 Responses to Grass Skippers are Sachem Skippers

  1. choliapeach says:

    Beautiful photos!
    Skippers are sooooo hard to identify, they all look so similar! 🙂

  2. Alsearsa says:

    A good id source is http://www.jeffpippen.com/. Jeff is a biologist who was for a long time with Duke University.

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