Hesperopsis gracielae

MacNeill's Saltbush Sootywing

Hesperopsis gracielae is a small skipper of the Colorado River environs, from the Nevada/Arizona border south into Mexico. It flies in two broods - April-May and again July-October - using Atriplex lentiformis. This skipper is uncommon, and the Xerces Society lists it as "Vulnerable". California Fish and Wildlife lists it in its Natural Diversity Database of rare plants and animals. An obvious issue with this species' prospects is the long-term viability of the large stands of Atriplex lentiformis growing wildly that sustain it.

Hesperopsis gracielae - MacNeill's Saltbush Sootywing
This little skipper had been on my list for several years before I finally made the long drive to Blythe hoping to photograph one. I headed to the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, which is along the California side of the Colorado River near Interstate 10. To my relief, I did see three of them in stands of their host saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis. The three shots here are of the same individual, the only one who would pose for me. October 4, 2019.
Hesperopsis gracielae - MacNeill's Saltbush Sootywing
Same one, showing a bit of the ventral side of the wing.
Hesperopsis gracielae - MacNeill's Saltbush Sootywing
It was nectaring in a great spot I found, which was near water from canals in a lush area on the edge of the woods, teeming with insects. In the desert heat, a well-watered place with flowers, thick grass, and mud is going to be good. I intend to return to this reserve in the spring, when I would expect it to be even better, butterfly-wise.
Original taxonomic description of Hesperopsis gracielae - MacNeill's Saltbush Sootywing
Here is MacNeill's original description of this butterfly from 1970. It was published in Vol. 81, No. 87 of the Entomological News, pp. 171ff. It was moved from genus Pholisora ca. 1981 and placed in Hesperopsis.

©Dennis Walker