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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

Poweshiek Skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek)



Powesheik Skipper (Oarisma powesheik), is listed as State and Federally Endangered in Wisconsin. Poweshieks require wet-mesic prairie or southern fen habitat with native grasses, sedges, and a significant component of plants in the sunflower family. These wet communities often support Joe Pyeweed (Eupatorium maculatum), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), gayfeather (Liatris pychnostachya), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and possibly cordgrass (Spartina pectinata). This is a univoltine species, with adults present mid-June through July, peaking the first two weeks of July. Eggs are laid near the tips of leaf blades. Eggs and larvae are on the host plants from late June through the winter until pupation in late May.

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 Poweshiek Skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek). 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 Oarisma poweshiek in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in WisconsinLE
State RankS1
Global RankG1
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Poweshiek Skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek) has very few known occurrences in the state and is of the highest priority for conservation; we encourage you to consult with your District Ecologist or an NHI Zoologist for specific recommendations for your site.

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication PUB-ER-085-99 (now out-of-print).

Identification: Wings are triangular and sharply pointed at the tips. Upper sides of the wings are dark grayish-brown with a somewhat lavender cast. The leading edges of forewings, and occasionally the base of the hindwings and veins have distinctive orange lines. The lower surface of the hindwing is pale brown with black on the inner margin. Underwing veins are lined silvery white. The wingspan is 0.9 -1.25 inches (27-31 mm).

Habitat: Poweshieks require wet mesic prairie habitat with native grasses, sedges, and a significant component of plants in the sunflower family. These wet communities often support JoePyeweed (Eupatorium maculatum), marsh milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), gayfeather (Liatris pychnostachya), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and possibly cordgrass (Spartina pectinata). Favorite nectar sources are pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia sp.).and coneflower (Ratibida sp.). Larvae are reported to feed primarily on prairie dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). When these plants are present in drier areas adjacent to the wetland, poweshieks can be found there as well.

State Distribution: Occurs in Green Lake and Waukesha counties of Wisconsin.

Phenology: The flight period runs from mid-June through July, typically peaking in the first two weeks of July. Poweshieks bask with wings spread and may be found resting on prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinacium) or sedges. Eggs are laid near the tips of grass blades. Larvae feed until they enter diapause in late autumn (based on temp, and overwinter on the host plant. Feeding resumes around the end of March and pupation occurs in late May to early June.

Management Guidelines: Each of the few sites in the state must be managed as the only remaining habitat for the species. Populations appear to exhibit fluctuations in size and small populations any given year combined with extremes of weather, management, or unforeseen events could cause local extirpations. Therefore efforts to expand habitat, create corridors between existing populations, and bolster population sizes are important for the long term survival of the species in Wisconsin. The poweshiek skipperling is fire-sensitive and burn management used to discourage woody plants and cool-season grasses in the open wet prairie community is best conducted with controlled infrequent burns affecting only a portion of the available habitat. Selective cutting and mowing may be better management tools for inhabited patches.



Poweshiek Skipperling

Powesheik Skipperling

Photo © Mike Reese.

Poweshiek Skipperling

Powesheik Skipperling

Photo © Mike Reese.

Poweshiek Skipperling

Photo © Robert Borth.

Poweshiek Skipperling

Photo © Robert Borth.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Poweshiek Skipperling. Only natural communities for which Poweshiek Skipperling 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
Wet-mesic Prairie 3

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Poweshiek Skipperling. 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 Poweshiek Skipperling occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

Ecological landscape score
Southeast Glacial Plains 3

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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