Draco Skipper (Polites draco) (W.H. Edwards, 1871)

Diagnosis: The male is dark brown above with a tawny-coloured costal patch and medial hindwing spot band; the stigma is black and S-shaped with a black patch beside it. Females are similar except that the stigma is lacking. In both sexes the pale spot near the middle of the spot band on the hindwing, above and below, is much longer than the other spots. The undersides of both wings are darker than in other similar species. Wingspan: 21 to 30 mm.

Range: Polites draco occurs throughout the Rocky Mountain states from Arizona to the Canadian border. In Canada the range is disjunct; it occurs in the Cypress Hills and southwestern Alberta north to Cadomin, and in relict prairie habitat in extreme northwestern British Columbia and southeastern Yukon.

Similar Species: The Sandhill Skipper (P. sabuleti). The S-shaped stigma and the elongated middle spot on the hindwing distinguish Polites draco from Hesperia species. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is undescribed; it feeds on grasses.

Abundance: This skipper is local but fairly common.

Flight Season: The Draco Skipper flies from late June to early August.

Habits: In the U.S. and southern Alberta, draco is usually reported from grassy meadows at high elevations, but in the Cypress Hills males were found sipping moisture from mud along forest streams. In northernmost British Columbia and Yukon they are found on dry grassy hillsides.

Remarks: Polites draco is one of a number of prairie and high-elevation steppe insects that are disjunct in relict steppe areas of southern Yukon and northernmost British Columbia. Suitable habitatis lacking in most of northern Alberta and British Columbia. Curiously, draco has not been found in the Peace River area, which appears to have suitable habitat.

© 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.