Back in 2001 I was prowling Boone County’s back roads looking for county records. I had already had some success in Nance County along the Loup River south of Fullerton but Boone County was proving to be more difficult. Then I happened upon a marsh on Beaver Valley Road west of Petersburg. It was a butterfly nirvana. Milkweeds blooming along the road were covered with butterflies, mostly skippers. Normally rare Broad-winged Skippers were abundant along with several skippers I did not recognize. I netted one unknown skipper and took it home to pin it up and id it. After passing it around to persons more knowledgeable than myself it was verified as being a Mulberry Wing Skipper, which I then donated to the UNL museum.
The Mulberry Wing Skipper had been mentioned in Barber’s 1894 paper (A List of Nebraska Butterflies, Nebraska Academy of Sciences) as having been found in Dodge County by E. A. Dodge. But no specimen could be located and after having not been found in the state for over 100 years that record was suspect. So it was a pleasant surprise to re-discover it.
I’ve stopped by that Beaver Creek Marsh periodically over the last 20 years, more often than not observing a few in the road ditches. Fast forward to this year when Jonathan Nikkila and I made a side trip on the way to the Niobrara Valley Preserve butterfly count to see if we could find one to pose for a photograph.
We arrived shortly after noon and parked in the shade of the only tree on the road. It was sunny with temps in the upper 80s and the milkweeds were blooming so we thought it shouldn’t be to difficult to find some skippers on flowers if they were there. We were wrong. There was nothing on the milkweeds. Walking the road to check the ditches we got fleeting glimpses of a few Broad-winged and Mulberry Wing Skippers, both flying through rather than over the vegetation, rarely pausing to perch and then only briefly. Clearly this was not going to be as easy as we had hoped. Jonathan donned his knee high boots and waded into the ditch. After about an hour and after stepping into a hole deeper than his boots Jonathan finally got a picture. He was not satisfied with it but looked good to me. So I proudly present to you the first picture of a Mulberry Wing skipper ever taken in Nebraska.
In North America the Mulberry Wing Skipper is found in the northern United States from the Atlantic coast west to the extreme eastern edges of the Dakotas and Nebraska. The Boone County location likely represents the western most population in North America and remains the only known population in Nebraska. As these skippers were found strictly by chance there is a possibility that this skipper might be found at other wetlands in northeastern Nebraska. While exploring marshes in Nebraska in July might not turn out to be a pleasant experience (heat/humidity/biting insects/wet feet) it might be worthwhile checking marshes/wetlands in your area. Mulberry Wings and other endemic marsh species (Broad-winged, Two Spotted, Dion, Black Dash Skippers, Regal Fritillary and Eyed Brown butterflies) can all be found in marsh habitats for the next couple of weeks. If you find any of the aforementioned species or have any other pictures you’d like to share for possible inclusion into our photo gallery let us known at email@example.com.
Thanks for your time and interest! Neil Dankert