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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

Cobweb Skipper (Hesperia metea)



Cobweb Skipper (Hesperia metea), a State Special Concern species, has been found in pine barrens and oak savanna. Its host plants are big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). This skipper is a univoltine species. Adults are present from mid May to early June. Fully grown caterpillars hibernate.

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 Cobweb Skipper (Hesperia metea). 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 Hesperia metea in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/N
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG4
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: In males, the wings above are dull orange bordered with black. Forewings have a wide black band along the outer margin with orangish-cream spots apically, and a black stigma filled with gray. Wings of the females are black above with little or no trace of orange, the forewings marked with orangish-cream spots. Undersides of both sexes are brown and prominently marked with postmedian cream spots on both forewings and hindwings. Named for the alternating pattern of light and dark contrast on wing undersides that give a "cobwebbed" appearance. The early season flight distinguishes H. metea from other Wisconsin Hesperia species. Wingspan: 25-30 mm. Length of forewing: 13-15 mm. Larvae are brown with a distinct narrow greenish dorsal line (Howe 1975).

Similar Species: Female dusted skippers (Atrytonopsis hianna) may also occur at the same time in the same habitat. They are a similar brown, but larger and lack well-defined white spots below, particularly on the forewing.

Habitat: Pine barrens and oak savanna.

Nectar Source: Low-growing plants: strawberry (Fragaria spp.), bird's-foot violet (Viola pedata), blackberry (Rubus spp.), rock cress (Arabis lyrata) and clover.

Host Plant: Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).

Associated Species: Often found with the dusted skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna), another bluestem feeder. The cobweb skipper is typically out about a week earlier than the dusted skipper..

State Distribution: A localized species in Wisconsin. Adams, Burnett, Douglas, Eau Claire, Florence, Jackson, Juneau, Marinette, Monroe, Oconto, Sauk and St. Croix Counties.

Global Distribution: Southern Maine west through Wisconsin, south through the Gulf States and eastern Texas.

Rationale for Species Listing and Threats: Habitat loss due to woody species and forest encroachment. Overwintering larvae may be exposed and vulnerable to being killed by fire, and may be impacted by Bt spraying for gypsy moth control.

Phenology: Adults are present from mid May to early June.

Life and Natural History: Univoltine. Larvae construct silken shelters among leaves of the host plant but may feed some distance away from them. Pupation takes place in a loose cocoon constructed amid debris (MacNeill in Howe 1975). Fully grown caterpillars hibernate (Pyle 1997). A remnant-dependent species.

Survey Guidelines: The males in particular are difficult to spot and follow, as they blend in with the dry grass present during their flight. Females are more often seen on flowers. Adults fly in search of new grass growth in recently burned or cleared areas (Pyle 1997). New county records should be documented with voucher specimens.

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

Management Guidelines: Sites managed with fire should be divided into several burn units leaving refugia as a necessary precaution.



Cobweb Skipper

Cobweb Skipper, below.

Photo © Ann Swengel.

Cobweb Skipper

Cobweb Skipper, female below. Jackson County.

Photo © Mike Reese.

Cobweb Skipper

Cobweb Skipper, female. Jackson County.

Photo © Mike Reese.

Cobweb Skipper

Cobweb Skipper

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Cobweb Skipper

Cobweb Skippers

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Cobweb Skipper. Only natural communities for which Cobweb Skipper 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
Pine Barrens 3
Oak Barrens 2
Oak Opening 2

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Cobweb Skipper. 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 Cobweb Skipper 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