Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes) (Fabricius, 1793)

Diagnosis: The Crossline Skipper is very similar to the Tawny-edged Skipper (P. themistocles). It is larger (wingspan: 23 to 30 mm) and has a narrow line of dark scaling extending from the end of the stigma. The small medial patches are more extensive than in themistocles and are very pale orange or cream-coloured in males, almost white in females. There is sometimes a trace of pale patches above and beneath on the hindwing, but usually the hindwing is unmarked.

Subspecies: Two, but only the nominate subspecies is found in Canada.

Range: Polites origenes is found throughout the eastern U.S., except Florida, and in Canada from the Eastern Townships of Quebec and southern Ontario, northwest to Spanish River, Sudbury District, Ontario.

Similar Species: Polites origenes is best distinguished from Tawny-edged Skipper (P. themistocles) by its larger size. The difference in wingspans between the two species is much greater than it appears from the measurements, as females of both average 4 to 5 mm larger than males. The Two-spotted Skipper (Euphyes bimacula) has the hindwing unmarked, above and below, but the stigma in bimacula is much narrower than in origenes. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is dark brown with pale grey mottling, a darker dorsal stripe, and a black head. Foodplants are grasses, including Redtop Grass (Tridens flavus) and Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius).

Abundance: The Crossline Skipper is local and uncommon in most of its range.

Flight Season: This skipper flies later than most other Polites, from late June into mid-August, with one generation per year in Canada, two in the U.S. It hibernates as a mature larva.

Habits: Although often seen in dry, flowery meadows, forest margins, and rocky or sandy clearings, origenes also flies in sedge areas with the much more habitat-restricted sedge-feeding species (e.g., Broad-winged Skipper (Poanes viator), Dion Skipper (Euphyes dion), and Two-spotted Skipper (E.bimacula). The larvae have never been recorded as feeding on sedges, but this possibility should be checked.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.