|scientific name Hesperia comma |
common name Common Branded Skipper
Mountain grasslands and meadows, including alpine and subalpine habitats.
Flies in even-numbered years, with peak activity from early July to early August.
Distinguishing species of the genus Hesperia can be a challenge even to the experienced lepidopterist; differences in wing markings are subtle, and are best appreciated by looking at series of individuals from any given locality. The Common Branded Skipper can usually be separated from the Plains Skipper (H. assiniboia) and the Nevada Skipper (H. nevada) by habitat, since both of the latter species are primarily prairie inhabitants; The Nevada Skipper can also be distinguished by its larger size, pale greenish underside ground colour, and by the ventral hindwing maculation: the spot nearest the abdomen is more or less in line with the adjacent spots in H. comma, whereas this spot is offset towards the wing base in H. nevada. Additional characters that distinguish comma include the darker underside ground colour and a 'stubbier' forewing shape. H. comma was described from Europe, and our subspecies, manitoba (Scudder), may prove to be distinct at the species level from the true comma.
Undescribed for Alberta populations. Larvae are green with brown or black heads (Opler 1999). The closely related taxon oregonia (W.H. Edwards) overwinters as an egg on Vancouver Island, BC (Hardy 1954). The Common Branded Skipper's biennial life cycle in the mountains indicates it overwinters twice, likely once as an egg and again as a larva. Larvae of oregonia construct silken cells and use these as shelters (Hardy 1954). In addition to the cordilleran records of this species, there are also a few isolated records from the northern boreal region, where it should be looked for in open, grassy areas. Unlike the mountain populations, boreal H. comma manitoba fly every year (McNeill 1964).
Not of concern.
There are no reported larval host plants for H. comma manitoba, but the larvae likely feed on native grasses.
Hesperia comma manitoba occurs throughout most of the boreo-montane region of western Canada, south to Montana and Washington state (Layberry et al. 1998, Guppy & Sheppard 2001). Nominate H. comma (L.) was originally described from Europe, and as such the Common Branded Skipper is considered to range from northern Africa across Eurasia into North America, and south to California.
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