Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 - 1¼ inches (2.5 - 3.2 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Male has dark brown ground color with extensive orange "shoulder;" long, straight, black stigma crosses forewing. Female has olive brown ground color; forewing with two or more prominent spots; wrist bracelet at tip; sometimes has orange edge. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Ground color ranges from olive brown to orange brown; forewing edge more orange than hindwing; small spot band near tip; crescent band of light spots, often in open-V pattern.

Egg: Partial hemisphere. Whitish.

Caterpillar: Brown. Head black. Dark heart line. Two tiny black dots on posterior end. Collar with white and black rings. First three pairs of legs (thoracic) dark. Partially grown caterpillars overwinter.

Chrysalis: Medium/dark brown. Wing cases gray.  Abdomen lighter with dark rings.

Crossline Skipper is named for the straight black stigma that crosses its forewing diagonally rather than running lengthwise. (Stigmas are a dark line of scales on male butterflies that release pheromones during courtship). In spite of this distinctive field mark, trying to distinguish some individuals from the similar Tawny-edged Skipper can deal even seasoned lepidopterists fits. Many field guides indicate that habitat can help to make the distinction: Crosslines prefer dry areas while Tawnies choose wet ones. Unfortunately, evidence does not fully support this, with many field reports listing both species in the same area.  In Alabama, Crosslines have repeatedly been reported from Splinter Hill Bog as well as Coleman and Payne Lakes. Habitat distinctions are not absolute. For specific information about to identify Crossline Skippers click the "Get Identification Help" link above.

Crossline Skippers have a low, rapid flight. Males perch on low vegetation, short grass, or bare soil. They sips moisture and nutrients from damp areas along dirt roads or other open areas.  Females deposit single eggs on blades of host grasses.  Caterpillars use silk to tie blades together to form tubular shelters.  They eat the upper part of the blades until eventually, a new shelter is required. Pupation occurs at the base of the plant in a shelter constructed from duff and grass stems. The caterpillar seals it with a thick plug of wax flakes (made by special abdominal wax glands) and silk. The chrysalis is formed within the shelter. Partially grown caterpillars from the year's last brood plug their shelter and spend the winter within it, completing development in the spring.  

These skippers range across most of the eastern and central United States. Due to identification issues, they are undoubtably under-reported in Alabama.

 

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 albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Baldwin, Bibb, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Cleburne, Colbert, Dallas, DeKalb, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lee, Marshall, Perry, Shelby, Tallapoosa, 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):

  • 25 - Chilton - 9/12/2022
  • 8 - DeKalb - 8/29/2011
  • 6 - Chilton - 5/26/2021
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
1 1 2 17 10 44 10 8 1 1 3 2 3 3 6 24 5 26 8 11

Habitat

Dry open areas near forest edges, clearings within woodlands, meadows, pastures, and utility right-of-ways. Also, pitcher plant bogs, lake edges, and wet meadows.

Crossline Skipper
Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes)
County
© Sara Bright
Dry woodland
Crossline Skipper
Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Disturbed area
Crossline Skipper
Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes)
County
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Wet meadow
Crossline Skipper
Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes)
County
© Sara Bright
Grassy lake edge
Crossline Skipper
Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes)
County
© Sara Bright
Pitcher plant bog
Crossline Skipper
Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes)
County
© Paulette Ogard
Utility right-of-way

Host and Nectar Plants

 

Reports from nearby states list mannagrasses (Glyceria spp.), bluegrasses (Poa spp.), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparius), other bluestems (Andropogon spp.), and Purple Top (Tridens flavus).

Host plants have not yet been documented for Alabama.

Landscaping Ideas

Provide a variety of garden worthy, nectar-rich flowers to attract butterflies like the Crossline 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 Crossline Skippers.