Sandhill Skipper (Polites sabuleti) (Boisduval, 1852)

Diagnosis: In Canada, this is one of the smallest and palest Polites, yellowish orange above, with wide-lobed, dark brown borders. On the underside of the hindwing, the median pale spots are expanded both along and across the veins. At the wing margins, the veins end in tiny black dots.Wingspan: 17 to 23 mm.

Subspecies: About ten have been named, but only the nominate subspecies is found in Canada.

Range: Polites sabuleti is found in the western U.S. from Baia California to the Canadian border. It is known from only three localities in Canada: Penticton, Osoyoos, and Vernon, in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: The hindwing underside distinguishes it from all other Polites, except possibly the Draco Skipper (P. draco). In this species the dark spot beside the stigma is much larger than in sabuleti, and the pale hindwing underside markings are less expanded; their ranges do not overlap in Canada. [compare images]

Early Stages: Larvae are greyish or greenish with brown patches. They have dark dorsal (and sometimes lateral) lines, and a paler lateral band. The head is black with white markings. Foodplants are grasses, including Desert Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata var. stricta), Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon), and Blue Grass (Poa pratensis) (Scott, 1986).

Abundance: It is common and widespread farther south; in Canada it is very local, but is common where it occurs (John Garland, pers. comm.).

Flight Season: The Sandhill Skipper flies in Canada from May to early July, and again from late August to early September.

Habits: Found in a wide variety of open grassy habitats; at Penticton it is usually seen around developed and inhabited areas where the introduced Diffuse Knapweed (Centaurea diffusa) is available as an abundant nectar source for the second generation (Garland, 1977).

© 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.