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Mulberry Wing (Poanes massasoit)
Mulberry wing (Poanes massasoit), a Special Concern butterfly, has been found in found in marshes and sedge meadows. Host plants appear to be arrow-leaved sedges including Carex stricta, and possibly C. aquatilis. This butterfly is univoltine with the flight period from mid to late June through July. Mulberry wings overwinter as partially grown larvae. This species is not actively tracked in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database, but it could be tracked in the future if there is further evidence of its decline.
Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin
The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Mulberry Wing (Poanes massasoit). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.
|Federal Status in Wisconsin||none|
|Tracked by NHI||W|
Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was originally presented as part of the Online Field Guide to Rare Lepidoptera: Bogs and Barrens.
Identification: A small dark skipper with a bright yellow airplane-shaped patch on the underside of reddish brown hindwings. Wings are relatively short and rounded. Males are black or dark brown above with a purplish sheen when fresh. Females are black with a few white spots. The mulberry wing is a folded-wing skipper, a stout-bodied butterfly that perches with closed wings and has antennae with hooked tips. Markings on the underside of the hindwings are distinctive. Wingspan: 22-29mm. Young larvae are yellowish. Later larvae are olive green. The body is covered with long yellow hairs and the head is brown. Eggs are white and round (Shull 1987).
Similar Species: Hobomok skipper (Poanes hobomok) has yellow areas below but the dorsal surface has many orange patches where the mulberry wing is nearly all dark. Like the mulberry wing, broad-winged skipper males (Poanes viator) also patrol for mates instead of perching like similar skippers.
Habitat: Wetland obligate. Marshes, sedge meadow. Restricted to areas containing patches of narrow-leaved sedges. Stays low in the sedges, flying slowly.
Nectar Source: Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).
Host Plant: Narrow-leaved sedges including Carex stricta and possibly C. aquatilis.
Associated Species: Black dash (Euphyes conspicua). May be found with two other Special Concern species: the two-spotted skipper (Euphyes bimacula), and the broad-winged skipper (Poanes viator).
State Distribution: Mainly in central and eastern Wisconsin.
Global Distribution: Limited distribution. Maine west across Great Lake states to southern Minnesota and North Dakota. Southwest Ontario to Quebec.
Rationale for Species Listing and Threats: Loss of wetland habitat and disruption of hydrology.
Phenology: Univoltine. Adults are present mid to late June through July.
Life and Natural History: Larvae build shelters that are made of tied leaves or live in the base of the hostplant from which they go out at night to feed. Pupation will also occur in this shelter. Mulberry wings overwinter as partially grown larvae. Mating and egg-laying occur in the afternoon. Females lay eggs singly on host leaves. A remnant-dependent species (Panzer et al 1995).
Survey Guidelines: This species is restricted to patches of narrow-leafed sedges. The skippers never fly outside the sedge patches and only rarely above the tops of the plants; their normal flight is down in between the stems of the sedges, very slow and weak even when alarmed. Layberry was able to record this species for the first time in Quebec by exploring roadside ditches for the characteristic sedge patches (Layberry et al. 1998). New county records should be documented with voucher specimens.
Links to additional Mulberry Wing information
- WisconsinButterflies.org Species Profile
- Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
- NatureServe Explorer information