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Tawny-edged Skipper

Common Name: Tawny-edged Skipper.

Scientific Name: Polites Themistocles.

What to look for?  Small brownish-orange “butterfly.” The Tawny-edged Skipper has a dull brown hindwing, which contrasts with the orange markings on the leading edge of forewing.  The caterpillar is brown and has a black head with white spots and streaks.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Tawny-edged Skipper may be found during the summer on some of the wildflowers that grow around or near Carillon Stonegate Pond.

How big are they? The Tawny-edged Skipper has a wingspan of approximately one (1) inch.

What are their flight patterns? As fliers, Tawny-edged Skipper will fly from perch to perch as they seek a mate or wildflower to wildflower as they feed but are not known for their distance flying.

How else do they behave? The male Tawny-edged Skipper perches in grassy areas as it waits for a female. The male uses scent from their forewing stigma (patch of scent scales) to attract females during courtship.

What’s for dinner? Butterflies and moths have a different diet during their larval caterpillar phase than they do as winged adults. Adult Tawny-edged Skippers take nectar from many flower species, including red clover, dogbane, purple coneflower, thistles, and chicory. They are also attracted to mud puddles. The larval host plants include various members of the grass family, including lawn grasses and native tallgrass prairie grasses.

Where do they take up residence? The Tawny-edged Skipper is found from southern Canada, south through much of the eastern United States. This skipper is found in a wide variety of habitats, including prairies, meadows, pastures, lawns, roadsides, and woodland clearings.

When and where do they breed and nest? Remember the life cycle of a moth or butterfly: (1) eggs, (2) larval state as caterpillar, (3) pupa state in chrysalis or cocoon, and (4) butterfly. With an average lifespan of several weeks, Tawny-edged Skipper continuously mate such that there are several broods from spring until fall. Male has a sinuous forewing stigma - patch of scent scales found on males that are used during courtship. Females lay eggs singly on or near the host plant - grasses eaten by caterpillars. Caterpillars feed on leaves and reside in shelters of tied leaves – leaf nests. Chrysalids overwinter.

Where do they migrate? No. Larvae overwinter until they pupate into adult form in summer.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Tawny-edged Skipper:

  • There are several differences between moths, butterflies, and skippers. One difference is in the antennae. Butterflies have thread-like antennae that are thickened or knobbed at the end. Skippers have thread-like, knobbed antennae as well, but the knobs are tipped with distinct hooks. Moth antennae may be thread-like, feathery or spindle shaped, but never have knobs. Another difference is that most moths fly at night, while butterflies and skippers tend to be day fliers.

  • While Tawny-edged Skippers flit around quickly, their many predators readily catch and eat them.

  • The genus name, ‘Polites’, has origins in Greek mythology where Polites - a fleet-footed Trojan prince - was one of the people who accepted the famous Trojan Horse, constructed by Greek warriors.

For more information on the Tawny-edged Skipper and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Butterflies and Moths of North America, Massachusetts Audubon, New Hampshire PBS Wildlife Journal Junior, and NABA / North New Jersey Butterfly Club.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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