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Arctic Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Arctic Skipper

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Image Credit: Kathy G., taken in Round Lake State Park, Sagle, ID
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This well-spotted skipper prefers a cool range and lives in the northern part of the continent.

Updated: 02/15/2023; Authored By ; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The black and orange Arctic Skipper is found in the northern half of the continent. It thrives in states and provinces with colder climates and ranges from Alaska and northern California to Newfoundland and New Jersey. It is also found in Europe as well, and while populations in North America are not under threat, a conservation effort is underway in Europe to protect the species from habitat loss.

It is a small butterfly that is not commonly seen. On top of that, its flight pattern is difficult to follow. The orange spots on the topside of the wings are large and blocky. Dark antennae have orange clubs at the tip. Underneath, the wings are orange with large white spots rimmed in black. Adults drink nectar from flowers like iris and wild geranium. Caterpillars are green with a long cream stripe running the length of the body. They have been seen feeding on grasses like purple reedgrass.

Look for Arctic Skippers in grasslands and near forested areas. They are also found near streams and marshes.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the Arctic-Skipper

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General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Rounded insect body icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Hesperiidae
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          Genus: Carterocephalus
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            Species: palaemon
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Carterocephalus palaemon
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 19mm to 32mm (0.74" to 1.25")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; black; orange; yellow; white
Descriptors: many spots; rounded wings; checkered; chequered;

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 19mm (0.7in) and 32mm (1.3in)
Lo: 19mm
Md: 25.5mm
Hi: 32mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Arctic Skipper may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Arctic Skipper. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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