Least Skipper

Ancyloxypha numitor

least_skipper_2009.jpg

Photo of a Least Skipper
One of the smallest skippers in the eastern United States, the least skipper is found in moist, grassy areas, usually near water.
Donna Brunet
Family

Hesperiidae (skippers)

Description

In adult least skippers, the dorsal (top) side of the forewing is dark, but males have some dark orange. The dorsal hindwing has an orange center surrounded by a dark border. With the wings folded together, the underside typically appears all orange, although the ventral (lower) side of the forewing is mostly dark with orange borders.

As a grass skipper, this species commonly rests with the forewings held open in a V shape, while the hindwings are held out horizontally to the side. They may also have all four folded together so that only the bottom surfaces are visible.

Larvae are green, covered with short, pale hairs; the head is dark brown with pale markings.

Similar species: There are about 130–140 species of grass skippers in North America north of Mexico.

Size

Wingspan: ¾–1 inch.

Habitat and conservation

Usually found in tall grass next to water and in other moist places, although it is sometimes found in damp meadows or even dry habitats with tall grass. Its flight is weak and near the ground.

Foods

Larvae feed on grasses. The adults visit flowers, especially small, low-growing species. Being a rather small skipper, this species can glean nectar from plants with rather small, dainty flowers.

image of Least Skipper Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide in moist localities.

Status

Resident species.

Life cycle

Adults fly from mid-May into October. Although most grass skippers perch on plants to await potential mates as they happen by, male least skippers fly low through tall grass in search of females. A female rejects a male by dropping her wings to a position below her body. After mating, females lay eggs singly on grasses. The larvae make shelters by curling up leaves of grass. This species overwinters as a nearly full-grown larva.

Human connections

For many authors, butterflies and their kin are a source of inspiration and symbols. Astrophysicist Carl Sagan described our human perspective amid the vast dimensions of universal time: “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”

Ecosystem connections

The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for predators.