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Montana Field Guides

Rhesus Skipper - Polites rhesus


Global Rank: G4
State Rank: SNR

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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001] Forewing 1.2-1.3 cm. Small, wing fringes white. Uppersurface dark gray-brown with a few white forewing spots (larger, more prominent in female), white shoulders, male stigma slender and not obvious. Undersurface of hindwing with scattered patches of chocolate brown and yellow-green, white postbasal mark and postmedian band (chevron), the band extending outward along veins.

Phenology
One flight; mostly May, late May to mid-June at high elevation (Scott 1986). Mainly May to mid-June, as late as mid-July at some localities (Glassberg 2001). May and June in Canada (Layberry et al. 1998). Early May to mid-June in the Rocky Mountain states (Ferris and Brown 1981). Late April to late June in Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978), mid-May to mid-June in western Nebraska (Johnson and Nixon 1967), mid-May to early July in North Dakota (McCabe and Post 1976).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by a combination of small size, white wing fringes, white shoulders, dark uppersurfae with a few white forewing spots; undersurface of hindwing with scattered patches of chocolate-brown and yellow-green, white postbasal mark and postmedian band (chevron) with white outward extensions along veins.

Species Range
Montana Range

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Range Comments
Southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan, south in high plains and foothills through Rocky Mountain region to New Mexico, northern Arizona, northern Mexico to Durango, east to western North Dakota, western South Dakota, western Nebraska, western Kansas, northern Texas (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001); 1158 m to 2835 m elevation in the Rocky Mountain states (Ferris and Brown 1981), 1311 m to 2743 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978), to 3048 m elevation in Mexico (Burns 1994). In Montana, not reported through 1993 (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993), since reported from at least 11 counties, mostly in the western 1/2 of the state east of the Continental Divide as far east as Hill County in the north, Gallatin County in the south, but also in Carter County adjacent to Harding County, South Dakota (FLMNH Lepidopterists' Society database; Butterflies and Moths of North America database), to at least 1792 m elevation. Mainly rare, but common in some locations and years (Glassberg 2001).

Migration
Non-migratory.

Habitat
Short-grass and mixed-grass prairie, foothill prairie, badlands, urban areas (Johnson and Nixon 1967; McCabe and Post 1976; Scott 1986; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001). Habitat in Montana not described but probably similar.

Food Habits
Larval food plants are grasses, in particular Bouteloua gracilis (Scott and Scott 1978; Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986, 1992, 2006). Adults feed on flower nectar, including Allium, Astragalus, Erigeron, Erysimum, Hymenoxys, Musineon, Opuntia, Oxytropis, Penstemon, Phlox, Scutellaria, Senecio, Syringa, Taraxacum, and Vicea (Johnson and Nixon 1967; Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Limited information. Females lay eggs singly on host plant leaves, usually low to the ground (3 cm). Larvae probably feed on host plant leaves, live in silk tube nests in the lower leaves and in the ground, pupate after growing to L5 instar, overwinter (diapause) as L5 instar (Scott 1986, 1992). Males perch throughout the day on low mesa tops (2 m rises), flats, awaiting passing females (Scott 1975b, 1986).

References
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Citation for data on this website:
Rhesus Skipper — Polites rhesus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from