Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan is ¾ ths to 1 inch (1.9-2.5 cm). This is a relatively small skipper. The underside of the forewing is brown except for orange along the costal edge; the hindwing is olive to brown without markings. The upperside in males is olive-brown with a distinctive tawny-orange coloration along the costal margin of the forewing.  The upperside of the female is dark brown with an orange costal margin and a band of yellow spots in the outer areas of the forewing. The hindwing is plain brassy to brown. Distinctive orange occurs along the medial half of the antennal end while the lateral half is black. The Tawny-edged Skipper is very similar in coloration and appearance to the Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes).  However, the Tawny-edged Skipper is a much smaller species.

Egg: :  Females usually lay their pale green, dome-shaped eggs singly on flowering plants adjacent to their host grasses. The caterpillar has a black head and a brown body that is speckled with numerous minute white spots.

Caterpillar: The caterpillar has a black head and a brown body that is speckled with numerous minute white spots. The caterpillars eat leaves and live in shelters constructed of leaves tied together with silken strands.

Chrysalis: The chrysalis is dull white, with green wing cases. The species overwinters in the chrysalis stage..

In Alabama, this skipper is relatively rare and has been primarily reported for the upper two-thirds of the state. Elsewhere this skipper is widespread, being found across southern Canada and most of the U. S., but is largely absent from California, Nevada and the Pacific northwest.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Baldwin, Bibb, Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Dallas, DeKalb, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lee, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Perry, Shelby, Sumter, Tuscaloosa

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2 6 1 5 17 7 2 1 2 3 2 1 5 5 10 2 13 12 2 5

Habitat

This skipper prefers open grassy areas that are damp or wet.  It is found in fields and wet meadows, along roadsides, utility right-of-ways, along stream banks, and even in suburban habitats. It may be seen sipping moisture and minerals from wet soil near the edges of streams.

Host and Nectar Plants

In Alabama, the host plants for this skipper have not yet been documented.

The caterpillars feed on grasses including Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis), panic grasses (Panicum spp.), Slender Crabgrass (Digitaria filiformis), and mannagrasses (Glyceria spp.). Panic grasses seem to be a favorite choice.

This skpper sips nectar from blossoms of a wide variety of flowering plants.

Landscaping Ideas

Provide a variety of garden worthy, nectar-rich flowers to attract butterflies like the Tawny-edged Skipper. These include: Butterfly Milkweed and other milkweeds; Purple Coneflower and other coneflowers; black eyed susans; phloxes; mountain mints; Common Buttonbush; Joe Pye weeds; gayfeathers/blazing stars; Mistflower; ironweeds; asters; and goldenrods.

If you have a lawn in your landscape, consider letting it be natural.  The diverse assemblage of native and nonnative flowering plants and grasses typically found in naturalized lawns provides nectar and host sources for many small butterflies including Tawny-edged Skippers.