Heliopetes ericetorum

Northern White Skipper

The Northern White Skipper can be common in rural southern California, seemingly anywhere mallow-family plants such as Sphaeralcea ambigua (Apricot Mallow) thrive. Males are nearly white; females much more darkly patterned. Females oviposit on young mallow leaves, which is where the larvae feed and create protective nests by rolling up the leaves. They fly much of the year (March to November in some places), but seem especially common in the fall.

This is another "gold rush" butterfly named by Boisduval in 1852 from those collected by Pierre Lorquin. According to Emmel, Emmel, and Mattoon (Systematics, p.20), Lorquin likely collected this butterfly in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills. The type locality was therefore restricted to "the vicinity of Sawmill Creek at Griffin Gulch, rim of West Branch Feather River, 2 air miles E. of Magalia, Butte County, California."

Heliopetes ericetorum - Northern White-Skipper
A male Northern White Skipper on Frazier Park Road. September 22, 2019.
Heliopetes ericetorum - Northern White-Skipper
Also flying along Frazier Park Road on the same hike as above was this male, which had blacker markings.
Heliopetes ericetorum - Northern White-Skipper
Another male. This one was at Icehouse Canyon near Mt. Baldy, May 31, 2008.
Heliopetes ericetorum - Northern White-Skipper
A female Heliopetes ericetorum from Joshua Tree National Park. August 27, 2019.
Heliopetes ericetorum - Northern White-Skipper
I saw this female Northern White Skipper on the Cougar Crest Trail at Big Bear, May 26, 2006.
Heliopetes ericetorum - Northern White-Skipper
Ventral view. From Big Rock Creek on the north side of the San Gabriels, May 13, 2007.
Original description by Boisduval of Heliopetes ericetorum - Northern White-Skipper, from California
Here is Boisduval's original description, from "Lepidoptères de la Californie," in the French journal Annales de la Société Entomologique de France, published in 1852.
Original illustration by Oberthur of Heliopetes ericetorum - Northern White-Skipper, from California
Charles Oberthür was first to publish an illustration of the skipper Boisduval had described. This was in the 1912 edition of Études de Lépidoptérologie Comparée, plate 137 (male only).

©Dennis Walker