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Tawny-edged Skipper 
Polites themistocles on Bird’s Foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus

The Summit, Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada
July 16, 2011

Best “viewed larger”, but only if you feel like it!

With thanks to


Polites themistocles is a small (wingspan: 19 to 28 mm) dark brown skipper. Males have a black stigma bordering a bright orange costal patch, with one or two pale orange patches beyond the stigma. The female has a very small amount of orange on the costa (sometimes none at all), and the small patches are pale yellowish or white. The hindwing is dark brown and usually unmarked, above and below (some specimens may have a trace of a pale-spot band below).


The Tawny-edged Skipper occurs throughout the U.S. except in the extreme south and most of the west. In Canada it ranges from the Maritimes (except Newfoundland) across southern Canada as far north as Mistassini Post, Quebec, Moosonee, Ontario, The Pas, Manitoba, Meadow Lake Park, Saskatchewan, Redwater, Alberta, and Cuisson Lake Road, British Columbia.

Early Stages

The larva is various shades of brown with darker dorsal and lateral lines. The head is black with white spots and lines. Foodplants are grasses, including panic grass (Panicum spp.), crab grass (Digitaria spp.), and blue grass (Poa spp.).


The Tawny-edged Skipper is common in the east, uncommon in the west.

Flight Season

Polites themistocles flies from early June to mid-July in the east and until the end of July in Manitoba. There is one generation per year in most of Canada and a partial second brood in southern Ontario; there are two in the northern U.S. and more farther south.


In the east, this species is most common in moist meadows; in the west it occurs in forest clearings, grassy valleys, mountain meadows, and even in dry prairie habitats, though always seeming to prefer lush, moist, grassy areas. It is commonly seen on flowers, especially those of the pea family, and sipping moisture at damp areas along country roads.

With thanks to

Birdsfoot trefoil Lotus corniculatus, is a perennial weed, which has a low mat-forming growth habit. Often termed as Bird’s-foot Trefoil, it is also known in cultivation in North America as Birdfoot Deervetch. This moderate perennial legume has grown worldwide as a forage and animal feed supplement. As ground cover, it provides green cover most of the year and blooms profusely.

The stem of a birdsfoot trefoil plant grows to about 60 cm (2 feet) long. Leaves are smooth and consist of 5 leaflets. It has a well developed, branching, tap-like root with side roots near the soil surface. The bloom is made up of a cluster of bright yellow flowers arranged in a whorl at the end of the flowering stems. Due to its appearance of the seed pods, it got the name of ’bird’s foot.

 Like other forage legumes, birdsfoot trefoil also requires fertile and well-drained soil. It is well suited to low and moderately fertile soils with relatively poor internal drainage. It is typically sprawling at the height of the surrounding grassland.

Birdsfoot trefoil spreads by seed that germinates in the spring, but can also spread by rhizomes and stolons to form dense patches. In USA, it is often confused with large hop clover.

Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 28 to 300 at 280 mm, circular polarizer
iso 100, spot metered, F6.3, 1/320 second


butterflies, skippers, insects, wildflowers, flowers, quebec, nature, summer

In love with Ma Nature! Always have been, always will be. Let’s keep her safe, eh?

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  • Fred Mitchell
    Fred Mitchellabout 3 years ago

    This is not around this area.

  • The Trefoil are very plentiful in these parts, almost forming a solid yellow carpet in some places. Quite nice to see! And, because they’re a fodder crop, they’ve not been designated a “noxious weed” – yet. Thanks, Fred.

    – Mike Oxley

  • Debbie Robbins
    Debbie Robbinsabout 3 years ago

    Superb Capture Mike!!! lovely! :))))

  • Many thanks, Debbie! Greatly appreciate your lovely comment, my friend!

    – Mike Oxley

  • deb cole
    deb coleabout 3 years ago

    Wow!! Nice shot, Mike! Lots of both of these subjects around here, too!

  • Thanks so very much, Deb. I chased this wee skipper around for a bit before it finally settled down. I realized after that it was probably not a very wise thing to do on the top of a mountain. :o)

    – Mike Oxley

  • Leslie van de Ligt
    Leslie van de ...about 3 years ago

    Ummmmm…. just so beautiful mate. I have to go on a search Mike. This is a FAVE! :>)) Leslie

  • Greatly appreciated, Leslie, and many thanks for the “fave”, too! They’re a very common little flower and tend to be in large clusters covering a large area. They’re very prolific now that herbicide use has been banned in Ontario (Yay!)

    – Mike Oxley

  • Sprezzatura
    Sprezzaturaabout 3 years ago

    Ooh, I just love your nature photography, Mike. As always I enjoy the info’ too. Cat:)

  • Thanks so very much, Cat. What a lovely compliment! I like to research my finds to educate myself, but if someone else learns something too, so much the better!

    – Mike Oxley

  • Ray Clarke
    Ray Clarkeabout 3 years ago

  • Thanks, Ray!

    – Mike Oxley

  • EvaAn68
    EvaAn68about 3 years ago

    Would you look a that little darling… just lovely : ))))))))
    The title cracked me up… lol

  • Many, many thanks, Eva! Glad you got a wee smile form the title, too. I try… :o)

    – Mike Oxley

  • mrcoradour
    mrcoradourabout 3 years ago

    Now I would not have seen this beauty in a million years Mike great find

  • Greatly appreciated, Malcolm. Many thanks for your very kind words!

    – Mike Oxley

  • artwhiz47
    artwhiz47about 3 years ago

    Happy Skipper! Well caught on this yellow wonder. This trefoil grows in our front lawn (so called), & Ray carefully mows around a little clump of it. I set the garbage on it by mistake in the dark last Friday, but it wasn’t fazed In The Least. But you didn’t show its little birdy feet. I’ve seen it sneaking up on other unwary plants. Beware!! And skippers abound here, skipping flittily & with pizazz. AND, they are polite.

  • Many thanks, Sheila. They are one tough little plant and are doing very well, both atop The Trembly Mountain and here in Sunny Ontario, particularly since the herbicide ban put in place by Dalton. About the only thing he’s done that I’ve approved of. And the wee skippers are quite prolific in my various haunts, too. It’s a pity I had to go so far to actually photograph a cooperative one. But, then again, Quebec is known for its hospitality.

    – Mike Oxley

  • Elfriede Fulda
    Elfriede Fuldaabout 3 years ago

    A natural beauty, Mike, what a lovely capture :-)

  • Thanks so very much, Elfie! The mountain top was quite the treasure trove of wildflowers. Most of them I already have on file, but it was so lovely to see them all!

    – Mike Oxley

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