Long Dash Skipper (Polites mystic) (W.H. Edwards, 1863)

Diagnosis: The male upperside is bright orange brown with a wide dark brown border covering the outer third of each wing. It has a dark patch along the outer edge of the black stigma and another wide rectangular one near the wing tip, which make the stigma appear much longer and wider than it really is, and giving the species its common name. The female upperside is mostly dark brown, with varying amounts of dull orange or straw-coloured shading on the costa. Both sexes have a pale orange medial patch on the hindwing above crossed by the dark veins, and a crescent-shaped band of pale medial spots on the underside, parallel to the outer margin of the wing (unlike Hesperia species). Wingspan: 23 to 29 mm.

Subspecies: Specimens from the Prairies tend to be paler on the underside and have been treated as subspecies dacotah, but we find the difference too slight and too variable and do not recognize any subspecies in Polites mystic.

Range: The Long Dash Skipper is found throughout the northern U.S. and Canada from the Atlantic Coast to eastern British Columbia. In Canada it flies in every province except Newfoundland as far north as Rupert House, Quebec, Ekwan Point, Ontario, Thompson, Manitoba, Fort Vermilion, Alberta, and mile 81 of the Alaska Highway, British Columbia.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: Females resemble females of the Indian Skipper (Hesperia sassacus). Males are distinguished from other Polites species by the apparent greater length and width of the stigma. See also the Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides). [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is brownish green or dark brown with white mottling and a darker dorsal stripe. Foodplants are grasses, including blue grass (Poa spp.), Quack Grass (Agropyron repens), Barnyard Grass (Echinochloa crus-galli), and Timothy Grass (Phleum pratense).

Abundance: Polites mystic is very common and widespread throughout its wide range, and is probably the commonest skipper on the Prairies.

Flight Season: It flies from early June to late July in the east, into mid-August on the Prairies; there is one generation each year throughout its range.

Habits: This species is usually seen in moist meadows and roadside areas, but unlike some other species, it also occurs in heavily disturbed areas, provided that there is a lush cover of grasses and flowers. It is an avid flower visitor, and in eastern Ontario is often seen competing for flowers of CowVetch (Vicia cracca) with overwhelming numbers of European Skippers (Thymelicus lineola).

© 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.