Butterflies of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance

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Once on a species account page, clicking on the "View PDF" link will show the flight data for that species, for each of the three regions of the state.
Other information, such as high counts and earliest/latest dates, can also been seen on the PDF page.

Related Species in HESPERIIDAE:
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Common NameRare Skipper by Jeff Pippen => male, Brunswick Co., NC 13 Aug 2006
[View PDF]
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[Google Images]     BoA [Images ]
Scientific NameProblema bulenta
Link to BAMONA species account.
MapClick on a county for list of all database records for the species in that county.
DistributionDISTRIBUTION: This is a coastal marsh species throughout its range. At the present time, it has been found only near Wilmington in Brunswick and New Hanover counties. It has been looked for in many other marshes in other coastal counties, with no success; it might truly be limited in NC to just the Cape Fear River estuary and its tributaries.
AbundanceABUNDANCE: Rare to uncommon in the extensive fresh to slightly brackish marshes near Wilmington; not known elsewhere in the state.
FlightFLIGHT PERIOD: Two broods, with a seemingly small gap between flight periods. Apparently early June to late June, and mid- or late July to early September. More data are needed.
HabitatHABITAT: This skipper has one of the most restricted habitats of any species in the eastern United States. It is found only amid tall vegetation of coastal tidal marshes, where fresh to brackish. In NC, these are only the tidal fresh to slightly brackish marshes along the Cape Fear River near Wilmington. Characteristic marsh species are cattails (Typha spp.), Big Cordgrass (Spartina cynosuroides), and Common Reed (Phragmites australis). It does forage in adjacent uplands, such as formerly along the dikes at Eagle Island.
See also Habitat Account for Coastal Freshwater and Low-Salinity Marshes
PlantsFOOD AND NECTAR PLANTS: The foodplants are very tall grasses, thought to be mostly Big Cordgrass in NJ, and Southern Wild-rice (Zizaniopsis miliacea) in GA. In NC, Annual Wild-rice (Zizania aquatica) is suspected to be the primary foodplant; it is present in marshes around Wilmington but is scarce in other coastal marshes. Within the overall range, adults nectar mostly on Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata); in NC, we have seen them nectaring on tall vervains (Verbena spp.) at Eagle Island and on Pickerelweed and arrowheads (Sagittaria spp.) at a nearby site.
CommentsCOMMENTS: This is one of the genuinely scarce butterflies in the eastern United States because of its restricted habitat. I suspect that Zizania is a foodplant in the Wilmington area. I have checked extensive stands of Big Cordgrass along the mainland shore of Pamlico Sound of Hyde and Dare counties, and in the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge area, with no success. After these dismal failures, I truly doubt that Big Cordgrass is a foodplant in NC. In fact, Swamp Milkweed was blooming profusely at Mackay Island; yet there were no Rare Skippers on them.

Portions of the habitat most easily accessible on foot are under considerable threats. Construction work on the dikes at Eagle Island has removed most of the Verbena used as a nectar source. Common Reed has been increasing near highways and other disturbances along marsh margins. A boat may be necessary to best survey for Rare Skippers now, as most of the marshes are difficult to reach on foot. A second option is wading, which is the method Jeff Pippen and John Dole used in 2006 to "re-discover" the species after a five-year lapse in records for NC. Another group of observers, including me, tallied six Rare Skippers at this site in 2007. Sadly, few people make the effort anymore to look for this highly localized and scarce species in NC. Thankfully, observers in SC have been finding a few new coastal sites in that state in recent years, some of which are much more accessible than are the NC sites.
State RankS1
State StatusSR
Global RankG3
Federal Status
SynonymAtrytone bulenta
Other Name


Links to other butterfly galleries: [Cook] [Lynch] [Pippen] [Pugh]
Photo by: W. Cook
Comment: female. New Hanover Co.; 12-Aug-2007
Rare Skipper - Click to enlarge
Photo by: W. Cook
Comment: Male, New Hanover Co.; 12-Aug-2007
Rare Skipper - Click to enlarge