Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles) (Latreille, 1824)

Diagnosis: Polites themistocles is a small (wingspan: 19 to 28 mm) dark brown skipper. Males have a black stigma bordering a bright orange costal patch, with one or two pale orange patches beyond the stigma. The female has a very small amount of orange on the costa (sometimes none at all), and the small patches are pale yellowish or white. The hindwing is dark brown and usually unmarked, above and below (some specimens may have a trace of a pale-spot band below).

Range: The Tawny-edged Skipper occurs throughout the U.S. except in the extreme south and most of the west. In Canada it ranges from the Maritimes (except Newfoundland) across southern Canada as far north as Mistassini Post, Quebec, Moosonee, Ontario, The Pas, Manitoba, Meadow Lake Park, Saskatchewan, Redwater, Alberta, and Cuisson Lake Road, British Columbia.

Specimen collection data

Description of this image follows.
Tawny-edged Skippers (Polites themistocles), mating. Port Perry, Ont. J. Kamstra

Similar Species: The Crossline Skipper (P. origenes). [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is various shades of brown with darker dorsal and lateral lines. The head is black with white spots and lines. Foodplants are grasses, including panic grass (Panicum spp.), crab grass (Digitaria spp.), and blue grass (Poa spp.).

Abundance: The Tawny-edged Skipper is common in the east, uncommon in the west.

Flight Season: Polites themistocles flies from early June to mid-July in the east and until the end of July in Manitoba. There is one generation per year in most of Canada and a partial second brood in southern Ontario; there are two in the northern U.S. and more farther south.

Habits: In the east, this species is most common in moist meadows; in the west it occurs in forest clearings, grassy valleys, mountain meadows, and even in dry prairie habitats, though always seeming to prefer lush, moist, grassy areas. It is commonly seen on flowers, especially those of the pea family, and sipping moisture at damp areas along country roads.

© 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.