Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 - 1½ inches (2.5 - 3.5 cm). The uppersides of the wings are brown with orange patches on the male forewing and smaller, orange patches on the female. The upperside of the forewing in the male also has a black stigma that is broken into two-parts (hence the name, “broken-dash”) with a squarish, coppery-brown patch separating them.  The underside of the male hindwing is rusty-red to rusty-orange with a band of pale spots forming a “3”, or a vertical curved semi-circle “) “. The female is similarly colored but darker. The male antennae are orange and black.

Egg:  Females lay eggs singly on or near the host plants (grasses). Females lay their eggs singly on or near the host plants (grasses).

Caterpillar: Speckled brown. Black head, with or without a pair of vertical stripes on upper half of head.  Pale yellow collar located immediately behind head.

Chrysalis: Various shades of brown.  Often formed within folded, dead leaf.

During early morning hours, males may be seen perching on low vegetation as they await passing females. Little else is known about the behavior of this skipper.

The caterpillars cut round pieces of grass blades to use in building a shelter retreat  which they bind together with silk.  When it ventures out to eat, it carries a piece of leaf over itself in order to camouflage itself and to hide from would-be predators. In the fall, partially grown caterpillars overwinter in a tube that it constructs from a grass blade.

The Southern Broken-Dash is normally distributed from the southeastern United States west to Texas and southward through Mexico, Central America, and into Argentina.  It also is found on the West Indies. Under favorable conditions, it may stray as far north as Delaware, Kentucky and Kansas. In Alabama, this species is found all across the state.

Taxonomic Notes: The Southern Broken-Dash and the Northern Broken-Dash were long considered to be subspecies.  However, they have been documented as occurring together at the same locality where they do not interbreed with one another.  Therefore, it became obvious to taxonomists that they were really two distinct species in spite of their similar features. The Southern Broken-Dash is more common than the Northern Broken-Dash.



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, Butler, Chambers, Chilton, Choctaw, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Crenshaw, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lawrence, Lee, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington, Wilcox

  • 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):

  • 35 - Bibb - 8/27/2020
  • 13 - Bibb - 5/22/2016
  • 12 - Bibb - 5/22/2022
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 1 3 2 2 12 20 29 82 8 1 1 6 11 11 7 28 15 45 13 101 27 26 18 18 5 22 3 7 1


The Southern Broken-Dash is found in openings near woodland streams, marshes and swamps.   


Host and Nectar Plants

In Alabama, host plants have not yet been documented.

Elsewhere, larvae of the Southern Broken-Dash feed on grasses that include crab grasses (Digitaria spp.), Cultivated Rice (Oryza sativa), crown grasses (Paspalum spp.), and St. Augustine Grass (Stenotaphum secundatum).

Southern Broken-Dashes nectar from a variety of flowers.


Landscaping Ideas

Provide a variety of garden worthy, nectar-rich flowers to attract butterflies like the Southern Broken-Dash. 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 Southern Broken-Dashes.