Butterflies of Mexico, USA & Canada
Draco Skipper
Polites draco  EDWARDS, 1871
subfamily - HESPERIINAE
Polites draco, Castle Junction, Alberta, Canada  Martin Gascoigne-Pees
In the Americas there are 2365 known species of Hesperiidae. These are split into 5 subfamilies i.e. Pyrrhopyginae, Heteropterinae, Megathyminae, Pyrginae and Hesperiinae. The Hesperiines of which there are about 1040 species, are known as Grass Skippers because their larvae feed on grasses, bamboos and other monocotyledons.
There are 18 Polites species, variously distributed from Canada to Argentina. The uppersides vary in ground colour from dark earthy brown to bright fulvous according the species, and most species are marked with suffused fulvous or white spots and streaks. Males have a very prominent black diagonal streak of androconial scales on the forewings.
The undersides are quite variable, e.g. dictynna is plain fulvous-yellow; the underside hindwing of bittiae is pale brown with a broad buff band; in vibex the unh is pale yellow and spotted with brown, and in most of the remaining species the unh is pale brown with white or yellow spots. Another 6 species, i.e. rhesus, carus, subreticulata, norae, sabuleti and draco, have very similar patterns of prominent white spots as shown in the photo above.
Polites draco has a patchy distribution, being found in Yukon and Alberta, and in the Rocky Mountain states of the USA.
This species is found in meadows, pastures and open grassland where there are extensive patches of bare ground. It is often found in the vicinity of small streams.
The egg is pale greenish and is laid singly on the foodplant or on nearby soil or dead vegetation. The larva feeds on unidentified grasses. The larva of the closely related species sabuleti feeds on Distichlis, Cynodon, Poa, Eragrostis, Agrostis and Festuca ( Poaceae ). It lives solitarily in a shelter constructed from grass blades folded and sealed with silk, and constructs a new shelter after each moult. Both species hibernate in the pupal stage within the final leaf shelter.
Adult behaviour
Males perch on stones or bare ground, ready to instantly dart up to intercept and investigate any passing insect. When a female draco is encountered she is chased a short distance until she settles among grasses, and the male buzzes around her, wafting pheromones over her antennae to arouse her prior to copulation. Both sexes nectar at a wide variety of plants, favouring Asteraceae.


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