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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide


Image of Common roadside skipper.Zoom+ Common roadside skipper. Photo courtesy of Jim Springer.

Common roadside skipper

Amblyscirtes vialis

Species Group: Invertebrate

Conservation Status

State: Threatened

 


IDENTIFICATION

The common roadside skipper has very tiny forewings. The top side of the forewings are very dark with a white "bracelet," and sometimes two additional tiny pale spots in the center of wing. The hindwings are unmarked and dark brown. Brown-and-tan checkered fringes visible on trailing edges of both wings. On the underside, it is very dark with white spots on leading edge of forewing.

The common roadside skipper can often be confused with the pepper and salt skipper. However, the pepper and salt skipper is small and dark above but is much lighter below, with a white spot band across hindwing. The dusted skipper is also very dark but is much larger and has white around the eye. Dusted and pepper and salt have only one brood in spring. Therefore, any tiny, dark skipper seen in late July and early August is probably a common roadside.

Image of Range of the common roadside skipper in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the common roadside skipper in New Jersey.

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT

The range of the common roadside skipper extends all the way to the west coast and well into Canada, and through the southeastern United States south to northern Georgia, although at higher elevations and inland, not on the lowland coastal plain. It is scarce or at least uncommon anywhere in its east coast range. It is rare and local within New Jersey, primarily found in the northwestern portion of the state.

This skipper is usually classed as a forest understory species. It is most reliably found in dry barrens locations, but also regularly found in clearing and edges of moist, deciduous woodlands.

DIET

Common roadside skippers often takes minerals and moisture from bare soil areas, such as roadsides, hence the name roadside skipper. The caterpillars of this species feed on various grasses including wild oats, bent grass, bluegrass, Bermuda grass, and Indian woodoats grass. The adult butterflies feed off of low-growing blue flowers including verbena and selfheal.

LIFE CYCLE

The common roadside skipper has only one brood in our area, but two in southern states. It is univoltine in central New York as well and in New Jersey. Their one and only flight occurs from mid-May to mid-June. It is bivoltine in Georgia and in West Virginia where its second flight is July-August. It overwinters in the pupa stage but it has been observed overwintering in the larva phase.

CURRENT STATUS, THREATS, AND CONSERVATION

Many authorities believe this skipper is declining in the mid-Atlantic and southern New England, although it appears more secure further west and north. The common roadside skipper has become quite rare in the mid-Atlantic region. As of 2014, the common roadside skipper is ranked by NatureServe as S1 or “critically imperiled" in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and S2 in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The reasons for the decline are unknown, but may have to do with climate warming. Given this species’ higher-elevation distribution, and univoltine brood status at our latitude, it is probably vulnerable to climate warming trends. It could retreat to higher and more northern locations if climate warms.

In 2015, the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Advisory Committee recommended a Threatened status for this species within the state, but no formal rule proposal has been filed to date.


Text written by Michael Colella in 2015.



References

  • Butterflies of Massachusetts
  • North American Butterfly Association
Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Arthropoda
       Class: Insecta
          Order: Lepidoptera
             Family: Hesperiidae
                Genus: Amblyscirtes
                   Species: A. vialis

Find Related Info: Invertebrates, Threatened

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