Hesperia leonardus - T. Harris, 1862
Leonard's Skipper
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Hesperia leonardus T. Harris, 1862 (TSN 706620)
French Common Names: hespérie de Léonard
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.118637
Element Code: IILEP65060
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Butterflies and Skippers
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Hesperiidae Hesperia
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Opler, P. A., and A. D. Warren. 2002. Butterflies of North America. 2. Scientific Names List for Butterfly Species of North America, north of Mexico. C.P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. 79 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B02OPL01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Hesperia leonardus
Taxonomic Comments: Three subspecies are generally recognized. Subspecies leonardus occupies most of range. Subspecies pawnee replaces it in the northern prairie regions east to southwest Minnesota. Populations in much of Minnesota and prairie habitats in Wisconsin are intermediate--and cannot really be referred to either subspecies. Subspecies montana is endemic to a small area in Colorado and is Federally Listed.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 01Aug2016
Global Status Last Changed: 01Aug2016
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Another declining grassland/savanna species in the Northeast, but more stable in some parts of the Midwest and Canada, especially in Quebec (S5). This species is of possible long-term concern but for now there are a substantial number of presumably viable occurrences. Subspecies H. l. montana is federally listed as Threatened.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (01Sep1998)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (01Aug2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Arkansas (SU), Colorado (S4), Connecticut (S3), District of Columbia (SH), Georgia (SNR), Illinois (SU), Indiana (S2), Iowa (S3), Kansas (S1S2), Kentucky (S2S3), Maine (S4), Maryland (S2), Massachusetts (S4), Michigan (S4), Minnesota (S3), Missouri (S4?), Montana (S4), Nebraska (S3), New Hampshire (S4?), New Jersey (S3), New York (S5), North Carolina (S3), North Dakota (SNR), Ohio (S4), Oklahoma (S4?), Pennsylvania (S3S4), Rhode Island (S4), South Dakota (SNR), Tennessee (S3?), Vermont (S4), Virginia (S3?), West Virginia (S3S4), Wisconsin (S4), Wyoming (SNR)
Canada Alberta (S1), Manitoba (S2S3), Ontario (S4), Quebec (S4), Saskatchewan (S1S2)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS
Comments on USESA: Subspecies montana of Colorado is listed Threatened by the USFWS.

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Much of the eastern and central USA and southern Canada.

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Population Size: Unknown

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Threats vary from place to place but mostly involve habitat loss. Besides development, succession and probably decline in pasture land are threats eastward. In prairie regions either too much fire or lack of fire (or other disturbance) can be issues. This is another of many declining species of open, dry, grassy habitats in the Northeast. It is probably doing better in the Midwest and Ontario. It is not clear whether habitat changes alone suffice to account for decline.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%

Long-term Trend: Decline of 70-90%

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Accurate information on actual populations is needed in many states. Many records are old and some were merely strays, for example in wetlands and gardens.

Protection Needs: Any good quality occurrences in the Northeast are protection worthy.

Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Much of the eastern and central USA and southern Canada.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AR, CO, CT, DC, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, MB, ON, QC, SK

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AR Miller (05091), Saline (05125)
CO Douglas (08035), Jefferson (08059), Park (08093), Teller (08119)
CT Windham (09015)
IA Audubon (19009)*, Fremont (19071), Harrison (19085), Mills (19129), Monona (19133), Osceola (19143), Plymouth (19149), Pottawattamie (19155), Woodbury (19193)
IN Crawford (18025), Harrison (18061), Jasper (18073), La Porte (18091), Lake (18089), Porter (18127)
MN Anoka (27003), Benton (27009)*, Big Stone (27011), Carver (27019)*, Chisago (27025), Clay (27027), Crow Wing (27035)*, Dakota (27037), Fillmore (27045), Goodhue (27049), Hennepin (27053)*, Houston (27055), Isanti (27059), Lac Qui Parle (27073)*, Le Sueur (27079)*, Lincoln (27081), Mille Lacs (27095)*, Morrison (27097), Murray (27101)*, Norman (27107), Otter Tail (27111), Pine (27115)*, Pipestone (27117), Pope (27121), Rice (27131)*, Roseau (27135), Scott (27139)*, Sherburne (27141), Sibley (27143)*, Stearns (27145)*, Traverse (27155), Wabasha (27157)*, Washington (27163), Winona (27169), Wright (27171)*, Yellow Medicine (27173)*
NJ Atlantic (34001), Cumberland (34011), Middlesex (34023)*, Monmouth (34025)*, Somerset (34035), Sussex (34037)
OK McCurtain (40089)
PA Chester (42029), Dauphin (42043), Delaware (42045)*, Lancaster (42071), Lebanon (42075), Luzerne (42079), McKean (42083), Union (42119), Warren (42123), York (42133)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Shetucket (01100002)+
02 Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+*, Raritan (02030105)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+*, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+, Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna (02050107)+, Lower West Branch Susquehanna (02050206)+, Lower Susquehanna-Swatara (02050305)+, Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+
04 Little Calumet-Galien (04040001)+
05 Upper Allegheny (05010001)+, Blue-Sinking (05140104)+
07 Elk-Nokasippi (07010104)+, Crow Wing (07010106)+, Clearwater-Elk (07010203)+, Twin Cities (07010206)+, Rum (07010207)+, Upper Minnesota (07020001)+, Pomme De Terre (07020002)+, Lac Qui Parle (07020003)+*, Chippewa (07020005)+, Redwood (07020006)+*, Lower Minnesota (07020012)+*, Snake (07030004)+*, Lower St. Croix (07030005)+, Rush-Vermillion (07040001)+, Cannon (07040002)+*, Buffalo-Whitewater (07040003)+, La Crosse-Pine (07040006)+, Root (07040008)+, Kankakee (07120001)+, Chicago (07120003)+
08 Upper Saline (08040203)+
09 Bois De Sioux (09020101)+, Buffalo (09020106)+, Eastern Wild Rice (09020108)+, Lake of the Woods (09030009)+
10 Lower Big Sioux (10170203)+, Rock (10170204)+, Upper South Platte (10190002)+, Blackbird-Soldier (10230001)+, Floyd (10230002)+, Little Sioux (10230003)+, Monona-Harrison Ditch (10230004)+, Big Papillion-Mosquito (10230006)+, Keg-Weeping Water (10240001)+, East Nishnabotna (10240003)+*, Nishnabotna (10240004)+
11 Pecan-Waterhole (11140106)+, Lower Sulphur (11140302)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Habitat Type: Terrestrial
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Grassland/herbaceous, Old field, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: Subspecies H. l. leonardus seems to be fundamentally a species of savannas, open woodlands, and other dry grassy habitats among or near woods, although habitats on the islands off new England have few trees, but are often brushy. Habitats can include very open oak, pine, or mixed woodlands, oak savannas, right of ways in dry oak woods or pine barrens, edges of airport grasslands, grassy rock outcrops, native sand plain grasslands, dry meadows. Colonies are usually on dry sand or rocky situations eastward and not restricted to undisturbed natural grasslands there, but this species is generally is restricted to native grass assemblages often (not always) with little bluestem dominant. In New Jersey D. Schweitzer and J. Patt find that adults frequently enter open oak woodland (not on trails) and often sit on the oaks. in Ontario it was, and may still be, fairly common in remnant oak savannas. Many reports from wetlands and wet meadows eastward probably refer mostly to adults visiting nectar plants in such habitats and many are single adults. Subspecies H. l. montana occurs in open pine woodland. Subspecies H. l. pawnee and intergrades occur in dry, usually sandy, prairie.
Adult Food Habits: Nectarivore
Food Comments: Caterpillar Hosts: Various perennial grasses including little bluestem (Andropogon scoparius), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), and bentgrass (Agrostis). Adult Food: Flower nectar, especially from blazingstar (Liatris punctata), but also thistles, asters, teasel, and others (Lotts and Naberhaus 2017).
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Hesperiinae

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: A location where the species occurs, or has occurred, where there is potential for persistence or regular recurrence. Minimally a suitable habitat with the larval foodplant where at least one adult has been verified by a photograph or preferably a specimen. Photographs must be diagnostic and will probably need to show both wing surfaces, and there will be circumstances where only a specimen will suffice. Specimens are usually much easier to obtain. Sight records are not an acceptable basis for a new occurrence. Note that these Specs should not be applied to temporary seasonal colonies of common migratory species.
Mapping Guidance: Note the suitable habitat distance will not apply often since most habitats today are no more than a few hundred hectares. However, many were once major landscape features. Suitable habitat distances may be used for barrens, savanna, and prairie species across degraded portions of these habitats that still contain some of the foodplant grasses or nectar flowers. Usually habitat boundaries are fairly obvious based on vegetation (e.g. suitable grassland). With metapopulations map the main breeding sites separately within the overall occurrence. Consult the habitat and food comments fields for species-specific information on what constitutes suitable habitat when mapping occurrences for individual species. Note many, if not most, habitat specialists feed one more than one grass genus at many or all occurrences. Note some species readily and some almost never entere wooded areas, so check habitat fields for the species before mapping.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 4 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: When multiple occupied habitats occur within a large community complex or remnants of one such as patchily within a barren, savanna, or prairie remnant use the suitable habitat distance. When occurrences in a region are all small (under 10 hectares) and are widely scattered and there is some actual evidence of persistent patch vacancy, a separation distance of one kilometer may be used instead of two.
Separation Justification: These are mostly potentially strong fliers and the weaker ones like least skipper are often still very good colonizers probably because they fly persistently. Few species fly slower than 20 km per hour but they do not often seem to sustain flight for very long. A few are migratory and move hundreds of kilometers. Even some of the rarest taxa such as ATRYTONE AROGOS AROGOS and HESPERIA ATTALUS SLOSSONAE (both of which have individual Specs) are documented as moving several kilometers and implied to move much farther. HESPERIA LEONARDUS still shows up as singles in gardens and on roadsides ten kilometers or more from at least one of its three remaining large occurrences in New Jersey. Skippers do find and occupy small habitat patches up to a few kilometers from major ones, but are very often absent from small or recently created habitats five kilometers or more from good habitats or even over shorter distances separated by highly unsuitable habitats. Schweitzer notes adults of several species readily fly over forests which obviously would allow them to move between habitats. Most of them will move at least a few hundred meters to find nectar. While exceptions do occur, in general hesperiine skipper colonies occupy nearly all or none of a given suitable habitat or habitat complex. However very often mere presence of the larval foodplant does not mean suitable habitat.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 1 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: In most cases the inferred extent is simply all contiguous or nearly contiguous habitat and usually this will be a few to a few hundred hectares which for almost all species is likely to be fully occupied even if at uneven densities. Use this distance only where the habitat is that extensive, but generally if the taxon is present any habitat patches within a kilometer will be occupied unless the species is excluded for example by extremely high fire frequencies or complete burns or lack of nectar. This figure is based in part on observations for ATRYTONE AROGOS AROGOS in New Jersey where it occurs in clusters of patches up to about a kilometer apart with within cluster patch occupancy nearly 100%, except approaching zero where fire intervals are about two years or less. This is one of the most imperiled skippers in North America and it is highly likely most other taxa are at least as effective colonizers. Another consideration in inferring any extent is that often the exact habitat is not clear and since it cannot be defined on the basis of any particular grass species there may be some doubt. One should not infer across any large distance based on one observation but if the habitat extends that far, a kilometer seems safe and most species can cover that distance in a few tens of seconds.
Date: 14Sep2001
Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Notes: Thes Specs are applied with reservation to AMBLYSCIRTES species.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 15Mar2009
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 07May2001

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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