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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide


Image of An adult dotted skipper.Zoom+ An adult dotted skipper. © Jim Springer

Dotted skipper

Hesperia attalus slossonae

Species Group: Invertebrate

Conservation Status

State: Special Concern

 


IDENTIFICATION

There are two distinct subspecies of the dotted skipper. Hesperia attalus slossonae can be found in New Jersey and along the Atlantic coastal plains. The other subspecies, H. a. attalusis found in western North America.

The dotted skipper’s most distinctive characteristics are often absent and they are considered to have variable appearances. Overall, the dotted skipper is a large species with a prominent pointed forewing. Males have a dull brown and orange upperside with dark borders. The stigma is black. Females have a dark brown upperside with pale spots. Their underside is usually dull orange and can be with or without dull spots. The hindwing will possibly bear an arrangement of noticeable white dots. Dotted skipper larvae are olive green and have a dark head.

Image of Range of the dotted skipper in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the dotted skipper in New Jersey.

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT

The dotted skipper is considered rare along their range on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. In New Jersey, North Carolina, and Florida they are considered uncommon, but not rare. They have very isolated and local populations in most of their range.

The habitat of the dotted skipper is quite versatile. They prefer dry, sandy areas. Dotted skippers favor areas where their host grasses grow. In New Jersey, this species can be found around old or active railroad beds, power lines, and airport runways in the Pine Barrens.

DIET

Dotted skipper adults feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as thistle, knapweed, and milkweed. Favored flowers are not often found in their breeding habitat which forces adults to travel several miles looking for food. In New Jersey, larvae are found primarily feeding on switchgrass and fall witchgrass.

LIFE CYCLE

There is little information recorded on the life cycle of the dotted skipper. In New Jersey, the dotted skipper has one brood from June into August. Males perch to watch for receptive females. The female deposits her eggs singly on or near a host plant. Caterpillars will feed on grass leaves and live in silken tubes at the base of grass clumps. They overwinter in shelters that are half buried in the ground.

CURRENT STATUS, THREATS, AND CONSERVATION

The dotted skipper is listed as a species of Special Concern in New Jersey. They are not listed on the federal level. Prescribed fire for forest management seems to be a threat to dotted skipper populations. They are very local and considered rare throughout their range. However, more information on this species needs to be collected. Populations should be managed and conserved where they are found.

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

HOW TO HELP

The Endangered and Nongame Species Program would like for individuals to report their sightings of dotted skippers. Record the date, time, location, and condition of the animal and submit the information by submitting a Sighting Report Form. The information will be entered into the state’s natural heritage program, commonly referred to as Biotics. Biologists map the sighting and the resulting maps “allow state, county, municipal, and private agencies to identify important wildlife habitats and protect them in a variety of ways. This information is used to regulate land-use within the state and assists in preserving endangered and threatened species habitat remaining in New Jersey.”


Text written by Emily Heiser in 2011 and updated by Mike Davenport in 2016.


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Arthropoda
       Class: Insecta
          Order: Lepidoptera
             Family: Hesperiidae
                Genus: Hesperia
                   Species: H. attalus slossonae

Find Related Info: Invertebrates, Special concern

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Download the complete list of New Jersey's Endangered, Threatened, & Special Concern species.