Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Given the decline and the possibility the range is not nearly as continuous as previously, if it ever really was continuous, its true extent is unclear. This taxon may be somewhat widespread still in lower Michigan and central Wisconsin, but probably not elsewhere. Occurred in a narrow band from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and formerly Maine then extending south formerly through New Jersey and at least formerly into Virginia. Possibly farther down the mountains. Very often erroneously reported with a few false state records. Known to have occurred in all New England states except Vermont, and in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, northern Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and in extreme southern Ontario. Handfield (1999) was unable to verify the species for Quebec. An old Maryland record was false based on the date. Historic in much of this range. Published records except from Burns (1964), Iftner et al. (1992), Iftner and Wright (1996), and Layberry et al.(1998) should generally be ignored unless it is specifically stated that male genitalia were examined. Burns (1964) was not available for this range description and might add a few more states. This subspecies probably occurred wherever the Karner Blue did and extended a bit farther south originally.
Requires a specimen, usually a male, for positive identification, except in purely hypothetical situations where it is certain that neither E. baptisiae or E. lucilius could be present. Records based on photographs should be treated as dubious and those based on sightings ignored. The raised curved hair like forewing scales are sometimes distinctive enough, at least on males, to permit identification with a good hand lens but only by an expert who has learned this character from specimens of both E. persius and E. baptisiae. Most can be identified with this character using a stereo microscope. Both species have some long flat white scales, which may be confusing, and some have virtually none of the hair like scales (possibly from wear). Therefore a check of male genitalia is recommended if the identifier is inexperienced with these species or if wing hairs are sparse. No illustration of this wing hair character is known. The drawings in Forbes (1960) are highly recommended for genitalia. Rough sorting, but not confirmation, of males in the field is possible. Assuming sufficient expertise to separate the "easy" species like E. brizo, icelus, juvenalis, E. horatius or E. martialis, duskywings can be narrowed to baptisiae-lucilius-persius in the field, or in many places one of these is not a possibility. Among such individuals watch for males that do not defend perches or return to them, that tend to fly along paths and land on sand or pebbles or dead leaves (not projecting twigs), that do not have the discal part of the forewing distinctly brownish, that look frosted, are blacker than most, that have the apical spots linear, or that are smallish. Collect a few such males and examine the spread specimens under a dissecting microscope. Genitalia can be examined if necessary by carefully removing scales and hairs from the tip of the abdomen. In most parts of the range most or all individuals that look like E. persius will be E. baptisiae, and in most sites with E. persius both will be flying together. A conspicuously brownish forewing discal area above or perching/territorial behavior on twigs etc. is probably diagnostic for one of the other two species, so photographs can very often be used to eliminate E. perisus, and an experienced observer can eliminate most in the field. Also E. p. persius has no summer brood. Larvae are said to be identifiable but reliable characters are not well known. The illustration in Glassberg (1999) could be correct since it was taken at a known persius site and shows no definitive baptisiae characters. Known correct illustrations of eastern E. perisus include those in Iftner et al. (1993), Klots (1951), and probably Layberry et al. (1998) although Figure 19 is a close match for a Connecticut baptisiae in Schweitzer's collection.
Comments: The habitats include jack pine barrens, pitch pine-scrub oak barrens, oak savannas, scrubby ridgetops, or powerlines within such settings. A key feature is usually a lot of lupine or Baptisia and it has also been found around these plants on powerlines in sandy or gravelly wooded areas. East of Michigan seemingly suitable habitats almost always lack this skipper. There have been collections away from any obvious habitats or foodplants, sometimes near boggy places, and perhaps some of the older claims of this occurring in wetlands were correct. It is at least equally possible such collections were of adults that entered wet areas to sip moisture from soil, as duskywings commonly do, or were in search of nectar. Occasionally has turned up in seemingly unexceptional patches of foodplant not in pristine natural communities.
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Comments: Larval foodplants include Lupinus perennis at most recently verified sites from New Hampshire to Wisconsin and Baptisia tinctoria at some others in at least southern New England and Pennsylvania. However some collections do not seem to be associated with either genus, although these often seem to be singletons. There is apparently some other foodplant, perhaps willows and small aspens as older literature claimed but more likely another legume. Note that no recent worker has been able to verify Salicaceae as foodplants for this entire species and rangewide the species uses several genera of legumes (see for example discussions in Layberry et al. (1998) and Guppy and Shepard (2001). Records of willows and aspens are repeated in the literature for more than a century but seem to date back to Scudder in the late 1800s. Schweitzer has read his accounts, lived and collected in the Boston area, and suspects (based in part on some June dates) that Scudder confused females of the common Erynnis icelus with those of E. persius. The females are much more similar than the males and American skipper taxonomy was in its infancy in Scudder's time. It is unclear whether this taxon forms distinct lupine and Baptisia feeding ecotypes in its eastern range like the co-occurring Callophrys irus or whether both plants are used if available. At present only one population (in Centre County, Pennsylvania) is known to occupy a habitat with both plants. The species certainly had easy access to both in many habitats in early 20th century New Jersey but there is no clue which was used and the skipper is now extirpated and lupine in severe decline there. However since E. icelus uses both Salicaceae and a legumious tree (Robinia) and larvae of the legume feeding E. zarucco will accept willow (Marc Minno), use of small willows and aspens by E. persius cannot be ruled out.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 6 - 80
Comments: No real data. Many, if not most, reports in the past are misidentifications. There appear to be about five occurrences remaining in New England, perhaps as many in New York, about three in Pennsylvania, probably one in Ohio and probably more in Michigan and Wisconsin. There was a recent credible report from Vriginia but it is not believed still extant.
1000 - 10,000 individuals
Comments: There are no data for any site, except limited survey data from Wisconsin which is of questionable reliability due to likelihood of observations being in part other virtually indistinguishable species. Furthermore daily turnover is completely unknown so only mark-release-recapture over a season could really give a population estimate. Generally one does not see large numbers on a given day, 20 would be quite high. A best guess is most demes or isolated colonies are under a hundred adults most years.
Life History and Behavior
Comments: There is one brood mostly in May. Possibly rare individuals eclose out of season like for example E. juvenalis but no populations are bivoltine--an easy field separation for related species in summer. However first broods of all sympatric duskywings overlap the flight season of E. persius. Larvae are mature in about July and hibernate fully grown, pupating in early spring.
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NX - Presumed Extirpated
Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: T2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Severe decline in at least eastern parts of range and Ontario (apparently extirpated). Fewer than 20 extant populations and far fewer metapopulations known and most obvious large potential habitats have been checked. However, it is turning up at atypical sites (no lupine) in Pennsylvania and rarely New England. Considered threatened in Michigan which is probably its global stronghold. May be less rare in Wisconsin than farther east but most reports from there are unreliable (not based on microscopically examined specimen). Imperiled, extirpated or historic in all states and provinces rage-wide. Generally deteriorating habitat and massive rangewide decline of preferred foodplant (Lupinus perennis); serious threats from gypsy moth spraying, habitat fragmentation, deer, and possibly prescribed burning and herbiciding. West of Pennsylvania found mostly with, but rarer than, the Federally Endangered Karner Blue. This subspecies is at least very rare and is probably imperiled rangewide but it is exceptionally difficult to determine the exact number of occurrences.
Environmental Specificity: Narrow to moderate.
Comments: At least a fooodplant specialist and the fact it is absent from nearly all populations of its foodplants suggests other narrow requirements.
Other Considerations: Note that prior to about the 1950s, spring specimens from southeastern New England seem to have been almost equally split between E. persius and E. baptisiae. Since then except for Myles Standish State Forest they are almost all baptisiae. The fact that this species cannot be reliably identified macroscopically makes sight records and photographs unreliable. E. baptisiae also share both known foodplant. It is difficult to assess the original status of this species except in New England because of inadequate collecting and inability of collectors to identify the species.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Comments: Has apparently disappeared from almost all eastern sites since about 1950s. Since about 1980 there may have been little change other than final extirpation from Canada and apparently some recovery in Connecticut. Uncertain if still extant in New Hampshire.
Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 50-90%
Comments: Extent of decline is not clear but certainly has been substantial at least eastward. Based on actual specimens it is very obvious this was a lot less rare in New England before the 1950s than since. It appears to have been comparable in abundance to the spring broods of E. baptisiae in and before the 1940s. In both New England and New Jersey the species was clearly much less rare before the massive DDT spraying of its habitats in the late 1950s and 1960s. Perhaps the most convincing evidence of how rare this species has become is the complete failure of the 1980s version of the Massachusetts butterfly atlas project to find any new sites. This atlas project was done right, voucher specimens were taken, and several participants made a special effort to look for E. persius in appropriate habitats. Ten or twenty apparent specimens were collected and, but like most specimens that look like persius and come from suitable looking habitats, all proved to be E. baptisiae when wing hairs and in most cases genitalia were examined by Dale Schweitzer. Note also comments of Forbes (1960) regarding the frequency of this species in southeastern New England and compare to current New England status (two or three known occurrences). In sharp contrast the 1995-199 Connecticut Atlas Project verified this species from several places. This species has apparently disappeared from New Jersey and there are no credible post 1980 records for New York. Farther west and in Pennsylvania any trends are less clear. Extirpation in Ontario resulted from a combination of large scale habitat loss and excessive herbivory by severely out of control deer. It is not clear that this species still persists in New Hampshire.
Degree of Threat: Very high - medium
Comments: Habitat loss, out of control white tailed deer, broadcast herbiciding of powerlines, and ill conceived prescribed burning are among current threats. This species is becoming increasingly dependent on right of ways, leaving it vulnerable to changes in management. Much of the massive eastern decline seems to have coincided with the 12,000,000 acre late 1950s DDT applications aimed at gypsy moth. Modern spray programs would probably eradicate occurrernces if they were in a Dimilin spray block. This species would probably also be affected by Btk applications aimed at gypsy moth since they are typically made about when there would be many first instars and with few exceptions first and second instar caterpillars are sensitive (e.g. Peacock et al., 1998). Young duskywing larvae might gain substantial protection if they feed within their shelters--which older ones do not do, and some larvae would probably hatch after lethal residue disappeared form their foodplant. The decline of Lupinus perennis, a major hostplant, and all other threats affecting the Federally Endangered Karner Blue have undoubtedly affected the apparently rarer E. persius persius as well. Also since it is univoltine E. persius probably cannot recover as quickly from fires or other disturbances as the Karner Blue can.
Several states have listed this species as endangered or threatened. While such listings may or may not benefit the species with needed habitat protections and management, the resultant regulations can also add a direct threat to any unknown populations. Listing in most states precludes discovery (or at least reporting) of new occurrences by anyone who does not have collecting permits since it is virtually impossible to reliably identify E. p. persius without collecting specimens. Such "taking" is generally illegal with listed species. Inability to locate and verify new occurrences could lead to their loss. This could happen even on nominally protected sites where Karner Blues are not present due to inappropriate management. In some states unknown populations are at high risk from gypsy moth spraying. Normal collecting practices are not a threat to this or other duskywings, but collectors should practice restraint where collecting is legal and should report new occurrences based on a positively verified specimen or even such specimens from known sites that have not been verified for several years to Natural Heritage Programs and where appropriate to other managing agencies such as the US Forest Service.
Management Requirements: Do not allow spraying for gypsy moth control. Do not allow entire EO in a three year period. If habitat can not be divided into more than one burn unit, fire should not be used. Fall mowing is reccommended to help maintain habitat. April - July mowing of foodplant is not reccommended.
Biological Research Needs: Need to determine more precise habitat needs and document foodplant in places where it is not lupine (e.g. most Pennsylvania sites). A major need is clearly to determine actual foodplants at various localities since protecting these are among the keys to managing the species.
Global Protection: None to few (0-3) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Comments: There are some "protected" habitats but it is not clear that management will protect this species. It is expected to gain substantial protection in the Midwest along with the Federally Endangered (an probably less rare) Karner Blue.
Needs: In general management for the more abundant Federally Endangered Karner Blue should protect this species in the Great Lakes region. This will seldom or never be the case eastward. See also threats.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Stewardship Overview: Where this occurs with the Karner Blue management for that federally endangered species should suffice, although that species probably recovers faster after fires. Main needs are to maintain habitats and metapopulation function, to use fire conservatively with refugia, and to protect from even a single severe incident of herbivory by deer. and to prevent gypsy moth spraying of habitats. In right of ways broadcast herbiciding should be avoided.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: As used here Erynnis persius persius refers to all populations of the species in the eastern United States and extreme southern Ontario. It is the only subspecies of E. persius found in the United States east of the Great Plains. These populations are widely disjunct from the rest of the range and are definitely what the name persius (Type Locality "New England") was based on. Many modern experts including W.T. M. Forbes, John Burns, Dale Schweitzer to name a few, have examined and verified this Type. The Type Locality was probably around Boston. The combination of characters of the species (male genitalia and unique wing hairs) plus the range are sufficient to identify this subspecies. This usage is completely consistent with Layberry et al. (1998).