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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Sonoran Skipper - Polites sonora

Native Species

Global Rank: G4
State Rank: S4

Agency Status


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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 1.2-1.3 cm. Fringe grayish-white, uncheckered. Uppersurface reddish-brown to orange, dark areas with orange overscaling, blackish male stigma long and broad, narrow postmedian band of cream spots, pair of postbasal spots; undersurface of hindwing gray-green (subspecies in Montana) to orange-tan to red-brown, with narrow postmedian band of yellow-cream spots and a pair of postbasal spots.

One flight, mostly late June to mid-August, mid-July to mid-August in Colorado (Scott 1986). Late May to August (Glassberg 2001). Mid-July to mid-August in the Rocky Mountain states (Ferris and Brown 1981). Early July to late August in Colorado (Emmel 1964; Scott and Scott 1978), early May to early September in California (Langston 1974), late May to late August in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002; Warren 2005), mid-July to mid-August in British Columbia (Layberry et al. 1998; Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by a combination of upper wing color, blackish male stigma elongate and broad, undersurface of hindwing gray-green for subspecies in Montana, with narrow postmedian band of yellow-cream spots and a pair of postbasal spots.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Southern British Columbia east to southwestern Montana, south to southern California, northern Arizona, southern Colorado; also to northern Baja California (Scott 1986; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Guppy and Shepard 2001); 2195 m to 3200 m elevation in the Rocky Mountain states (Ferris and Brown 1981), 1768 m to 3200 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957; Emmel 1964; Scott and Scott 1978), to near sea level to at least 3048 m elevation in California (Emmel and Emmel 1962; Langston 1974), near sea level to more than 1981 m elevation in Oregon (Warren 2005). In Montana, reported from at least 13 counties in the southwestern 1/4 of the state, east to Carbon County (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993; FLMNH Lepidopterists' database; Butterflies and Moths of North America database), to at least 2134 m elevation. Mainly uncommon to common, rare in southern California (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 1

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)


Moist to wet montane meadows, dry montane meadows, streambanks, forested roadsides, grassy woodland clearings, native grassland, oldfields, urban lawns (Emmel and Emmel 1962; Emmel 1964; Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Layberry et al. 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002; Warren 2005). Habitat in Montana not described but probably similar.

Food Habits
Larval food plants are grasses, but species used in the wild uncertain; in captivity include Festuca idahoensis, Poa pratensis, and Setaria glauca (Newcomer 1966; Scott 1986, 1992, 2006; James and Nunnallee 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Astragalus, Berteroa, Calyptridium, Cirsium, Erigeron, Leontodon, Lotus, Melilotus, Rudbeckia, Taraxacum, Symphyotrichum), dung, and mud (Pyle 2002; Warren 2005; Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females live 3-4 days in captivity, lay as many as 25 eggs, attempt to lay eggs on host plant leaves (eggs do not stick but fall to ground) or at base of host plant clumps (Newcomer 1966; Scott 1992; James and Nunnallee 2011). In captivity, eggs hatch in 7-8 days (depending on temperature), develop to L4 instar in 35 days, overwinter (diapause) as L4 instar, develop to L5 instar and pupae the following spring (Newcomer 1966; James and Nunnallee 2011); develop in lab from egg-laying to adult in 63-77 days (Scott 1992). Larvae feed on host plant leaves, build light silken shelters (L1 instar) and tubular nests of tied grass blades (L2-L5 instars), L4 instar wanders a few days before building strong silken cocoon and overwintering, pupate on or under the ground (Scott 1992; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males perch throughout the day in low spots of meadows at or near gound level to await passing females, perform courtship at flowers (Scott 1975b, 1982, 1986; Warren 2005; James and Nunnallee 2011).

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Citation for data on this website:
Sonoran Skipper — Polites sonora.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from