Plants and Animals

Hesperia metea Cobweb skipper

species photo
Jeffrey Pippen
species photo
Jeffrey Pippen

Key Characteristics

This skipper has a wingspan of 2.9 to 3.5 cm (Opler and Malikul 1998). The female is slightly larger than the male and has one generation in Michigan. The underside of the hindwing has white scaling along the veins, giving the distinctive chevron or cobweb pattern. The caterpillar is light brown with a green dorsal stripe along its body and a black head.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: S4 - Apparently secure

Occurrences

CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Kalkaska 1 2018
Newaygo 1 2020
Oceana 1 2020

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.

Habitat

The cobweb skipper is rare or uncommon where host plants are abundant in savannas, barrens, glades, and old fields (Nielsen 1999, Belth 2013). Host plants include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and broom-sedge (A. virginicus), the latter of which has increased its range in Michigan in recent years (Scott 1986, Opler and Malikul 1998, Nielsen 1999, Belth 2013). This species is sometimes associated with the dusted skipper (Nielsen 1999).

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Prescribed fire provides habitat needed for this species host plants. Populations are negatively impacted by habitat destruction through industrial, residential, agricultural, and recreational development; use of pesticides and herbicides; and diseases, pathogens, and parasites. Invasive species, non-consumptive recreation (e.g., ORV use), and decline in nectar sources may also be a problem in some areas. Reduction of ORV traffic by road closure also is recommended in or near known extant sites. Additionally, surveys are needed to determine this species' status, abundance, and distribution in the state.

Active Period

Flight from first week of May to first week of July

Survey Methods

This species may be difficult to observe and photograph because of its flight pattern. This skipper flies close to the ground and dives into the dead material of host plants (Nielsen 1999). Males perch near the host plants. The best way to survey for this species is by conducting visual meander surveys, which consist of checking near larval food plants, on adult nectar sources, and in mud puddles.

Visual meander surveys

Survey Period: From first week of May to fourth week of June

Time of Day: Daytime
Humidity: Humid
Cloud Cover: Overcast
Air Temperature: Above 60 degrees
Wind: No Wind
Survey Method Comment: Here we present ideal conditions, however surveys can be conducted during other conditions as well.

References

Survey References

  • Klots, A.B. 1951. Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Butterflies. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 349pp.
  • Martin, J.E.H. 1977. The Insects and Arachnids of Canada (Part 1): Collecting, preparing, and preserving insects, mites, and spiders. Publication 1643. Biosystematics Research Institute, Ottawa.

Technical References

  • Belth, J.E. 2013. Butterflies of Indiana: A Field Guide. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN. 323pp.
  • Nielsen, M.C. 1999. Michigan butterflies and skippers: A field guide and reference. Michigan State University Extension Bulletin E-2675, East Lansing. 248pp.
  • Opler P.A., and V. Malikul. 1998. Eastern Butterflies. Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company. New York.
  • Shapiro, A.M. 1965. Ecological and behavioral notes on Hesperia metea and Atrytonopsis hianna (Hesperiidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 19:215-221.