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For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
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Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Mottled Dusky Wing (Erynnis martialis)

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Mottled Dusky Wing ( Erynnis martialis ), a State Special Concern butterfly. This skipper is found in scrub forest, pine/oak barrens and oak savanna. It is a bivoltine species, the spring flight occurs from mid May to mid-June and the summer flight from mid July to mid August. Larvae feed only on members of the plant genus Ceanothus.

State status

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 Mottled Dusky Wing (Erynnis martialis). 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 occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Erynnis martialis in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/N
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG3
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

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: The wings are dark brown above with a purplish sheen, prominently mottled with tan patches and marked with strongly contrasting black spots. Upperside: The brown background and irregular dark bands on the wing uppersides contribute to the mottled appearance. The habit of resting on the ground with wings held below horizontal helps separate the Erynnis skippers from other dark butterflies. Fresh individuals of the mottled duskywing are more easily distinguishable from the other Erynnis spp. which become more mottled in appearance when aged and worn. Wingspan: 28-32mm. Length of forewing: 14-17mm. Larvae are stout, light green with a dark head (Layberry et al. 1998).

Similar Species: Of the eight species of duskywings in Wisconsin, the Persius, Wild Indigo, and Columbine Duskywings are closely similar and the most difficult to distinguish from each other. Sleepy and Dreamy duskywings have no white spots and a prominent chain-like postmedian band on the forewing. Juvenal's duskywing is significantly larger ( minimum wingspan of 37 mm, length of forewing 18 mm). Juvenal's is distinguished by the two subapical light spots that are usually present on the underside of the hindwing.

Habitat: Scrub forest, pine/oak barrens and oak savanna.

Nectar Source: Asters, puccoon (Lithospermum spp.), downy phlox (Phlox pilosa), blazingstar (Liatris spp.), rock cress (Arabis lyrata), and bluets (Houstonia spp.) have been reported in Wisconsin (Borth 1994).

Host Plant: New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus), and redroot (Ceanothus herbaceus).

Associated Species: Other Erynnis species.

State Distribution: Brown, Burnett, Dane, Douglas, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, Sauk, Washburn, and Waukesha Counties. Locally common in Burnett and Douglas Counties, not often seen in numbers in other areas.

Global Distribution: Southern Ontario and Manitoba and one site in Quebec. Southern New England south and west to Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, eastern Wyoming, and the Great Lakes States.

Rationale for Species Listing and Threats: Habitat loss due to woody species and forest encroachment. Overwintering immatures are exposed and vulnerable to being killed by fire.

Phenology: The spring flight occurs from mid May to mid-June and the summer flight from mid July to mid August.

Life and Natural History: Bivoltine. Larvae form a nest of leaves above the ground from which they go out to feed. Second brood mature larvae hibernate and pupation occurs above the ground (Borth 1994). A remnant-dependent species (Panzer et al. 1995).

Survey Guidelines: Males perch and patrol in search of females (Opler et al. 1995). Under sunny conditions, males may be found in open areas. When cloudy, they perch on oaks and shrubs in wooded habitat (Borth 1997). Often found on damp spots on dirt roads and sand trails. New county records should be documented with voucher specimens.

Inventory, Monitoring and Research Needs: Locate additional populations and monitor known localities, particularly in sites managed with fire.

Management Guidelines: Immature stages of the species are on the plant throughout the year. Sites managed with fire should be divided into several burn units leaving the majority of the site unburned in a given season. Avoid burning adjacent units the following season.


No additional photos are available for Mottled Dusky Wing at this time. Please consider donating a photo to the Natural Heritage Conservation program.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Mottled Dusky Wing. Only natural communities for which Mottled Dusky Wing is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Natural community Score
Oak Barrens 3
Pine Barrens 3

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Mottled Dusky Wing. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Mottled Dusky Wing occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020