This is probably one of my favorite group of butterflies (skippers actually). Members of the genus Hesperia are native prairie specialists. Finding any of them today is to rediscover habitat roughly unchanged from what white settlers first encountered when entering our area in the early 1800s. They are the insect equivalents of the American Bison. There are three subspecies of Hesperia leonardus. The nominate subspecies (leonardus) is found in the eastern United States and has a distinct band on the ventral hindwing. Subspecies montana is largely restricted to the Rocky Mountain populations. Subspecies pawnee was described by Dodge in 1874 with the type locality (see Jan 2 post for a type locality discussion) being “Glencoe, Nebraska, upon high rolling prairie (Dodge County)”. While the ventral hindwing of subspecies pawnee is immaculate (largely unicolored and devoid of markings) specimens intermediate with leonardus, with a small degree of maculation, are not uncommon in Nebraska. The species is strongly dimorphic with males displaying a distinct black stigma and females lacking that and being more mottled. The type specimens are thought to be held at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass & Ohio State University.
This skipper inhabits native prairies and flies in a single brood from late August into early September. Larvae feed on various prairie grasses including bluestem and gramma grasses. Windlass Hill at Ash Hollow State Historical Park is a great location to find this skipper as well as Hesperia colorado, another prairie specialist. Traveling eastward this skipper becomes much rarer as prairie habitats degrade/disappear.