North American Butterflies and Moths List

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Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of Illinois

Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles)
JPG -- species photo

Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles [Latreille])

Wing span: 7/8 - 1 7/16 inches (2.2 - 3.6 cm).

Identification: Upperside is dark brown with orange markings; orange along the costal edge of forewing enters the end of the cell. Male has a sinuous forewing stigma. Underside of hindwing is brassy with no markings.

Life history: To await receptive females, males perch all day in grassy valley bottoms and swales. Females lay eggs singly on or near the host plant. Caterpillars feed on leaves and live in shelters of tied leaves. Chrysalids hibernate.

Flight: One brood from June-July in the north, two broods from April-September from New York south, several broods throughout the year in Florida.

Caterpillar hosts: Panic grasses (Panicum), slender crabgrass (Digitaria filiformis), and bluegrass (Poa pratensis).

Adult food: Nectar from flowers including alfalfa, red clover, dogbane, shrub houstonia, purple coneflower, thistles, and chicory.

Habitat: Moist grassy areas including prairie swales, pastures, lawns, roadsides, and vacant lots.

Range: Southern British Columbia east across southern Canada to Nova Scotia; south to northern California, central Arizona, central Texas, the Gulf states, and central Florida.

Conservation: Not usually required.

The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.

Management needs: None reported.


Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains. Johns 
     Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates.

Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson 
     field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, 
     Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of western USA butterflies including 
     adjacent parts of Canada and Mexico. Denver and Fort Collins, CO. 

Author: Jane M. Struttmann

State and Regional References:

Opler, P.A. 1998. A field guide to eastern butterflies, revised format.
     Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.
Sedman, Y. and Hess, D.F.  1985.  The Butterflies of West Central Illionois.
     Series in the Biological Sciences No. 11.  Western Illinois Univ., Macomb, 
     IL.  118 pp.
Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles)
distribution map
map legend

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