Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Butterfly of the Week: Tawny-edged Skipper

Tawny-Edged Skipper

Polites themistocles (Latrielle [1824])
Status: Common breeding resident. 

Flight: Essentially flies continuously from mid May through September. Probably three overlapping broods: adults are more frequently encountered from late May to early June, from late June to mid July, and from early August to early September. 

Distinguishing Features: This small brown skipper is very similar to the Crossline Skipper (Polites Origenes). It differs by having a small, sharp, sinuous sigma on the upper fore wing in males and an orange patch along the upper fore wing costa in females. Females also lack faint light spots on the upper hind wing. Adults of both sexes tend to be smaller than Crossline Skipper adults. Wingspan: about 2.8 cm. 

Distribution and Habitat: Map 184. Abundant throughout the state in a wide variety of native and human-modified open habitats. Although commonly found in native prairies, it is also often seen in old fields and city parks. 

Natural History: Larvae probably use panic grasses as their Iowa food plants, although other hosts have been reported from other states.

Questions: How far do adults travel from their site of emergence? Does this species avoid competition with other panic grass-eating skippers by feeding at different locations on the plant or at different times of the year? 

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