Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 - 1½ inches (2.5 - 3.5 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Brown with tawny forewing edge. Male has two-part black stigma with several orange marks behind it. Female has several light forewing spots. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Rusty or rusty brown ground color; pale, backward "3" on hindwing. Wing fringes do not match; forewing gray, hindwing rusty or buffy.  

Egg: White; partial sphere.

Caterpillar: Speckled brown with orange washes; very faint dark lines on sides and back. Black head. Collar black and white. First three pairs of legs (thoracic) are dark. Partially grown caterpillars overwinter.

Chrysalis: Slender. Various shades of brown. Head and thorax darker.  Lighter rings on abdomen.

Southern and Northern Broken-Dashes have caused taxonomic controversies for decades.  Originally defined as two species, they were lumped together in the late 1800's, sometimes considered a single variable species, at other times, as subspecies.  By the 1950's, enough evidence had accumulated to define them once again as two similar but separate species.  Southern Broken-Dashes are slightly larger, brighter, and their fore and hindwing fringes are different colors (Northern's is uniform).  For specific information about how to identify Southern Broken-Dashes, click the "Get Identification Help" link above.

Southern Broken-Dashes are meadow skippers, usually found in open, sunny sites.  Males perch on low vegetation to wait for potential mates. Females deposit their smooth white eggs on grass blades.  Caterpillars initially roll small portions of the blades and attach them to form small tubular shelters.  As initial structures are outgrown, the larvae cut leaves so that dangling shelters are attached to portions of the blade. Finally, these shelters are freed from the plant and lie on the ground.  In a remarkable adaption, the caterpillar drags its shelter from one likely eating spot to another, seldom actually leaving its pocket-shaped shelter. The caterpillar achieves these relocations by grasping the shelter with its hind end and reaching out with the upper half of its body. It then pulls its hind end forward, inching the shelter along until it reaches a suitable eating spot. It cuts grass blades and pulls them into the shelter to consume them. Little time is spent out of the shelter. Chrysalides are formed within one of these shelters, which is silked in place.  Larvae from the year's final brood overwinter within a shelter, completing development in the spring.

Southern Broken-Dash populations are based in the southeastern Coastal Plain.  They push north with warm weather, but seldom range farther than Maryland.  In Alabama, they are widespread and probably more common than records indicate.



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, Bullock, 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 4 2 14 21 30 92 8 1 1 6 14 15 7 29 16 45 15 101 33 35 19 20 5 22 3 7 1


Many open, sunny, somewhat damp habitats including open woodland clearings, swamp and lake edges, bottomlands, pocosins, prairies, savannas, and gardens.  


Southern Broken-Dash
Southern Broken-Dash (Polites otho)
© Sara Bright
Woodland stream
Southern Broken-Dash
Southern Broken-Dash (Polites otho)
© Paulette Haywood Ogard
Wetland edge
Southern Broken-Dash
Southern Broken-Dash (Polites otho)
© Sara Bright

Host and Nectar Plants

Reports from nearby states list crown grasses (Paspalum spp.), crab grasses (Digitaria spp.), and St. Augustine Grass (Stenotaphum secundatum).

In Alabama, host plants have not yet been documented.



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.