Friday, August 10, 2012

Sachem Skipper

Grass skippers are told by the way they usually hold their wings--the forewings up and the hind wings further down. This "jet plane position" is unique to the group (Kaufman).
Species identification is more problematic. Bugguide says success depends upon your being a wizard!  Nonetheless, identification here in Minnesota is not too difficult. These photos, taken in Erika's garden in early August 2012, are Sachems. The male's black stigma visible as a black splotch on the top of the upper wing in the second photo is diagnostic among Minnesota grass skippers. Wisconsinbutterflies says that the male Sachem is unmistakable. 
Females, like that in the third photo, are dusky below, not as bright as other species. A diagnostic field mark is that black square on the lower part of the underside of the hind wing. You can see that mark in the photograph.
Sachems are found in most of the United States and Mexico. The species does not breed in the far north, but spread north, even into southern Canada, during warm summers. They do not survive most Minnesota winters, thus, every year, they have to repopulate our area. They are common in gardens, parks, lawns and roadsides, in fact in almost any open area. Adults flit about, males often chasing females, and feeding on fall flowers; the larvae feed on grasses.

Sachem is an Algonquin word for leader. Sachems, unlike chiefs, were hereditary and ruled by consensus. New York City's Tammany Hall called its local leaders Sachems. Sachem came to mean a boss (

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