Polites mystic (Edwards, 1863)
NatureServe Global Rank: G5
Virginia State Rank: S3
VA DGIF Tier: IV
Federal Legal Status: None
Virginia Legal Status: None
Description: The Long Dash displays a somewhat typical skipper sexual dimorphism. The males have a large orange patch bisected by a black stigma (continued as a black line) on the dorsal front wing. The female is mostly dark brown with an outer line of orange markings but contains a higher degree of orange markings toward the basal half of the wing than in most female skippers. These markings are similar to the appearance of the dorsal male. Both sexes have lined up 'block' markings on the dorsal hind wing, very similar to the ventral. The markings on the ventral hind wing is similar for both sexes with a rounded line of yellow 'block' marking near the margin and a small group of 'blocks' or spots near the base of the wing. The male has an orange base color surrounding these markings, while the female has a darker reddish-brown coloration with yellow markings giving it a more contrasting appearance.
Similar species: The Long Dash can be similar to a few different species in the area, depending solely on the dorsal surfaces. The ventral surface is better for differentiating species and is more readily viewed in the field. The Sachem (Atalopedes campestris) is distantly similar on the ventral hind wing, but the pattern is not as clean cut or as contrasting between the markings and the base color. The dorsal surface of both sexes is very dissimilar. What may be a closer match on the ventral side is the Indian Skipper (Hesperia sassacus) which has the two middle 'blocks' displaced towards the outer wing margin. Those of the Long Dash are more evenly lined up to the contour of the outside of the wing. The Indian Skipper is also readily differentiated based upon the dorsal surface.
North American Range: These skippers can be found from Maine south to Virginia. They have been seen in Central Canada as well.
VA Observations by Locality: Giles | Highland | Montgomery | Roanoke | Carroll | Giles | Highland | Frederick | Highland
Flight season and broods: The Long Dash (Polites mystic) produces one brood that occurs in early May to early August.
Habitat and Food Plants: As they are grass skippers, the Long Dash prefers open grassland, prairie, and upland field habitats, often wet meadows or wetter environments. Preference is shown towards members of the Bluegrass (Poa) species. This grass tends to occupy their choice of habitat.
Behavior and Ecology: The Long Dash can be hard to approach even while taking nectar. Individuals quickly fly from flower to flower and do not return if agitated. They often display around nectar sources. Caterpillars are able to overwinter during their 2nd and 3rd instar. Adults take nectar from Tickseed (Bidens), Mountain Laurel (Kalmia, and Milkweed (Aesclepias) and various other flowers.
Population trend and potential threats: The population is thought to be globally secure at the moment. Certain areas that have isolated or small populations could be at risk if habitat is lost.
Management practices: There are no prescribed management practices for this species at this time.
References: Allen, T. J. 1997. The Butterflies of West Virginia and their Caterpillars. University of Pittsburg Press. 388pp.
Cech, R. and G. Tudor. 2005. Butterflies of the East Coast. Pg. 277. Princeton University Press.
Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1999. Eastern Butterflies. Pg. 287. Houghton Mifflin Company.
Pyle, R. M. 1981. Field Guide to North American Butterflies. National Audubon Society.
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, 600 E. Main St., 24th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219
This atlas was compiled
by the VA Natural Heritage Program with funds provided by the VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries through a state wildlife grant
from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Last Modified: Tuesday, 24 January 2017, 10:12:03 PM