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For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
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Jay Watson
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Dusted Skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna)



Dusted Skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna), a State Special Concern species, has been found in dry, open sandy areas, dry prairie, pine barrens. Its host plants are big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and little bluestem (Schizachryium scoparius). This species is univoltine with adults in flight from late May to early June in Wisconsin when few other skippers are present. Fully grown caterpillars hibernate and pupate in a sealed case 1-3 inches above the ground at the base of the host plant.

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 Dusted Skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna). 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 Atrytonopsis hianna in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/N
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3
Global RankG4G5
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: Both sexes as adults are dark brown with pointed wings and grey dusting along the outer edge of both wings below. The forewings sport several translucent spots, including near the tip. Most individuals are faintly marked with at least one white spot near the body on the ventral hindwing. Males have a tiny three-part stigma not readily seen without magnification. A folded wing skipper. The forewings are more sharply pointed than in similar species. If in doubt, send specimen to a specialist for verification. Wingspan: 28-34 mm. Length of forewing: 15-18 mm. Eggs are bright yellow. The caterpillar is pale lavender with pale gray sides. The head is deep red-purple with a dark brown collar. The body is covered with long, yellow-white hair (Heitzman 1974).

Similar Species: Female cobweb skippers (Hesperia metea) are a similar brown, but are smaller and have well-defined white spots below, particularly on the forewing. The northern cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) is a spreadwing skipper that rests with wings open, not angled as do the folded wing skippers. It has translucent spots on the forewings with a short row of three near the leading edge. The fringe is slightly checkered at the veins, and there is some frosting on the outer edge of the hindwings below. The roadside skipper (Amblyscirtes vialis) is considerably smaller.

Habitat: Dry, open sandy areas, dry prairie, pine barrens.

Nectar Source: The dusted skipper frequently visits flowers and is strongly attracted to puccoon (Lithospermum spp.). Strawberry (Fragaria spp.), blackberry (Rubus spp.), phlox,and vervain (Verbena spp.) have also been reported (Opler et al.).

Host Plant: Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and little bluestem (Schizachryium scoparius).

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

State Distribution: A localized species in Wisconsin, but not uncommon in some sites. Adams, Burnett, Clark, Dane, Douglas, Eau Claire, Grant, Jackson, Juneau, Monroe, Pierce, Richland, Sauk and Wood counties.

Global Distribution: Southern New England south to Florida and the Gulf States, west in scattered locations across the Great Lakes states to eastern Wyoming and Colorado. Occurs in Canada in southwestern Ontario, southern Manitoba, and southeastern Saskatchewan.

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

Phenology: Adults fly in late May to early June in Wisconsin when few other skippers are present.

Life and Natural History: Univoltine. Caterpillar lives in a tent of leaves sewn together at least a foot above the ground. Fully grown caterpillars hibernate and pupate in a sealed case 1-3 inches above the ground at the base of the host plant. Males perch on grass stems and dart out at passing insects that resemble females. During the daytime, males also perch on or near the ground to watch for receptive females (Opler et al. 1995). A remnant-dependent species (Panzer et al 1995).

Survey Guidelines: Search puccoon flowers for nectaring adults. New county records should be documented with voucher specimens.

Inventory, Monitoring and Research Needs: Locate additional populations.

Management Guidelines: Adults move about and readily colonize newly burned areas (Pyle 1997). Immature stages of the species are on the plant throughout the year. Sites managed with prescribed burning should be divided into several burn units leaving the majority of the site unburned in a given season.



Dusted Skipper

Dusted Skipper, below - Beaver Creek Reserve, Fall Creek in Eau Claire County.

Photo © Mike Reese.

Dusted Skipper

Photo © Ann Swengel.

Dusted Skipper

Dusted skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna) nectaring on orange hawkweed.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, WDNR.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Dusted Skipper. Only natural communities for which Dusted 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
Dry Prairie 2
Oak Barrens 2
Pine Barrens 2
Sand Barrens 2
Sand Prairie 2

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Dusted 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 Dusted 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