Pyrgus centaureae

Geographic Range

The species Pyrgus centaureae is a member of the Hesperiidae family. Its common name is known as the grizzled skipper. The grizzled skipper is a Holarctic species with three named subspecies in North America. Subspecies Pygrus centaureae loki occurs in the Rocky Mountains. Subspecies Pyrgus centaureae wyandot occurs in the eastern United States, from Ohio and possibly Michigan to New York and south in the Appalachians to North Carolina. Subspecies Pyrus centaurae freija ranges across northern North America from Alaska to Labrador. This species is also found in Canada, Scandinavia, and eastward across much of arctic Eurasia. It is also known from one location in Minnesota. ("Grizzled Skipper", 2010; "Pyrgus centaureae freija", 2013)


The grizzled skipper is found in a wide variety of habitats. It is found in tundras on Mont-Albert, bogs in northern Quebec, meadows and valley bottoms in the Rocky Mountains, and forest clearings, taiga, and scrubby willow thickets in northern Manitoba. At the one known location in Minnesota, the skipper occurs in a large, old clearing on sandy soils dominated by grasses, with some willow (Salix spp.), alder (Alnus icana), bilberry (Vaccinium cespitosum), and blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium and Vaccinium myrtilloides). ("Grizzled Skipper", 2010; "Pyrgus centaureae freija", 2013)

Physical Description

Pyrgus centaureae is brownish black, with many irregular white patches, which are more dispersed on the hind wings, and black and white fringes on both wings. The underside is checkered in white and greyish-brown spots, and white veins. All Pyrgus males have the basal half of the leading edge of the forewing folded back. Within the fold are hundreds of specialized wing scales called androconia, from which pheromones are disseminated to entice females into copulation. In this species, the female is larger than the male. Wingspan ranges from 22 to 28 mm. ("Grizzled Skipper", 2010)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range wingspan
    22 to 28 mm
    0.87 to 1.10 in


The grizzled skipper goes through complete metamorphosis. Once the eggs have been laid, it takes the caterpillar 10 days to emerge. Development from egg to adult is reported to take two years in the northern part of the grizzled skipper's range, but it is not known whether this is the case in other areas. These caterpillars will overwinter once or twice and emerge again in the spring. Adults may begin to emerge in late May and most die by the end of June. ("Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help", 2013; "Pyrgus centaureae freija", 2013)


Pyrgus centaureae breeds during late spring, from May to June. Males actively patrol and may occasionally perch to wait for receptive females. Once the male has found a receptive female to mate with, he will then fly to the female and open the coastal fold that encloses the scent scales on the forewing to produce pheromones that attract the female. ("Attributes of Pyrgus centaureae", 2013; "Grizzled Skipper", 2010)

There is little known about the reproductive habits of Pyrgus centaureae. After mating, females lay dozens to hundreds of eggs, one by one, on or near the leaves of the host plant. ("Attributes of Pyrgus centaureae", 2013; "Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help", 2013; "Attributes of Pyrgus centaureae", 2013; "Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help", 2013)

  • Breeding season
    Pyrgus centaureae breeds in late spring, usually during the months of May and June.

Females provide provisioning in the eggs, and also lay the eggs on suitable host plants, providing a food source for the caterpillars upon hatching. After the female lays the eggs, there is no further parental care given to the offspring. ("Attributes of Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female


Once Pyrgus centaureae becomes an adult, the average lifespan is between 4 to 6 weeks. Since development from egg to adult can take up to two years in some regions, total lifespan can be significantly longer. ("Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help", 2013)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 2 months


The grizzled skipper has a rapid darting flight, always close to the ground. Males are territorial, using stones or small fallen branches as perches from which they dart up to intercept females or to challenge other males. Males exhibit perching behaviour during cooler temperatures, and switch to patrolling in warmer conditions. These butterflies feed with their wings half open. ("Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

Home Range

Most adults stay within the same general area but dispersal distances of 1.5 km have been recorded. ("Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help", 2013)

Communication and Perception

Pyrgus centaureae communicates mainly through sight and scent. Pheromones are produced by males to attract female mates. ("Grizzled Skipper", 2010)

Food Habits

Grizzled skipper larvae feed on leaves, fruit, and flowers of plants such as wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Canadian cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis), varileaf cinquefoil (P. diversifolia), and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus). Adults feed using a long tube called a proboscis, which allows them to retrieve nectar from flowers of many low-growing plants, such as blueberry, wild strawberry, and Canadian cinquefoil. ("Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • flowers


Pyrgus centaureae caterpillars are camouflaged and often hide during the day. The adult form is difficult for predators to spot due to its speed and ability to vanish during flight. Other than being a fast flyer, the grizzled skipper has no other special defenses. Predators of Pyrgus centaureae include invertebrate predators, such as mantids, as well as birds. ("Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

While feeding on nectar from many species of flower, Pyrgrus centaureae likely aids in the pollination of these flowers. It also serves as prey to a variety of invertebrate predators. ("Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae", 2013)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Pyrgrus centaureae on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Grizzled skippers do not cause any problems for humans.

Conservation Status

The Pyrgus centaureae is listed as a special concern species in Minnesota because it is rare and limited to such a small geographic region. Habitat alteration or destruction, forest fires, application of insecticides, and application of herbicides could all effect the occurrence of the species in Minnesota. Conservation efforts could be necessary to preserve the presence of this butterfly in the region. Otherwise, the grizzled skipper has no special conservation status. ("Pyrgus centaureae freija", 2013; "Pyrgus centaureae", 2012)


Taylor Bohman (author), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Robert Sorensen (editor), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


a period of time when growth or development is suspended in insects and other invertebrates, it can usually only be ended the appropriate environmental stimulus.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


a distribution that more or less circles the Arctic, so occurring in both the Nearctic and Palearctic biogeographic regions.

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Found in northern North America and northern Europe or Asia.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.


uses sight to communicate


2013. "Appalachian Grizzled Skipper" (On-line). Conserve Wildlife. Foundation of New Jersey.. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2013. "Attributes of Pyrgus centaureae" (On-line). Butterflies and Moths of North America. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2013. "Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus centaureae" (On-line). Montana Field Guide. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2010. "Grizzled Skipper" (On-line). Butterflies of Canada. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

Peter Eeles. 2013. "Grizzled Skipper" (On-line). UK Butterflies. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2013. "Grizzled Skippers Need Our Help" (On-line). Butterfly Conservation. Accessed March 25, 2013 at

2013. "Pyrgus centaureae freija" (On-line). Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Accessed March 25, 2013 at

2007. "Pyrgus centaureae wyandot" (On-line). Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Accessed March 26, 2013 at

2012. "Pyrgus centaureae" (On-line). NatureServe Explorer. Accessed March 26, 2013 at