Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan: ¾ - 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: Black head.  Brown body speckled with numerous minute white spots. 

Chrysalis: Dull white or light, mottled brown; green wing cases. Proboscis extends beyond wing cases. The overwintering stage.

In Alabama, this skipper  has been primarily reported from 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 High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

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

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

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 10 - Cleburne - 6/7/2014
  • 7 - Bibb - 9/15/2012
  • 6 - Cleburne - 6/5/2015
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 2 3 5 11 7 14 21 23 7 2 2 4 9 10 2 13 4 19 20 9 16 20 4 6 4


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.

Tawny-edged Skipper
Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles)
© PHOgard
Open grassy area

Host and Nectar Plants

Tawny-edged Skipper caterpillars probably feed on a variety grasses: Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis), panic grasses (Panicum spp.), Slender Crabgrass (Digitaria filiformis), and mannagrasses (Glyceria spp.) have been reported from other regions. Females may also lay eggs on other plants that grow near the grasses their caterpillars will feed upon. 

Little Bluestem has been documented in Alabama, but it is likely that other grasses are also used.


For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

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.