Rhesus Skipper (Polites rhesus) (W.H. Edwards, 1878)

Diagnosis: A small, dark brown skipper with pointed wings (wingspan: 25 to 30 mm), rhesus males lack the dark stigma and have several groups of small white flecks on the forewing; these flecks are larger in the female. Both sexes have white veins that contrast with the dark hindwing colour.

Range: Polites rhesus flies in a band of states extending from Texas to North Dakota, and has been taken three times in Saskatchewan and once in Alberta.


Specimen collection data


Similar Species: The Uncas Skipper (Hesperia uncas). [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is undescribed. It feeds on grasses, including Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis) (Scott, 1986).

Abundance: This skipper is uncommon to rare as suitable prairie habitat decreases. It is very rare inCanada.

Flight Season: There is one generation per year, with adults flying in May and June.

Habits: The Rhesus Skipper is restricted to dry native short-grass and mixed-grass prairie, and is probably suffering from the destruction of this habitat.

Remarks: The first Canadian specimen was a fresh female taken by Ronald Hooper in a dry pasture at the top of a south-facing slope in the Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, on 22 May 1971 (Hooper,1973). The second Canadian specimen was found exactly six years later, on 22 May 1977, when Terry Thormin collected a fresh female in open, overgrazed, arid grassland on the south side of the Milk River Valley, 16 km ENE of Aden, Alberta (Thormin et al., 1980). Until recently this species was placed in the genus Yvretta, but this genus has now been combined with Polites (Burns, 1994a).

© 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.