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About Applegater. (Jacksonville, OR) 2008-current | View Entire Issue (July 1, 2022)
Applegater Summer 2022
Skipper of the summer
BY LINDA KAPPEN
The Sonora Skipper (Polites Sonora) is
a grass skipper of the family Hesperiidae.
Its wingspan can be up to 1.25 inches.
The dorsal hind wing (DHW) is a rusty
brown with light spots and a darkened
border. On the ventral hind wing (VHW)
a closely curved semicircle is made up of
creamy yellow bars with a single marking
in the center toward the base of the wing.
The VHW is tan with some slightly
Being grass skippers, Sonora Skippers
will use various grasses, including Idaho
fescue as a host plant.
They produce a single generation with
the larvae overwintering in the fourth
instar (the phase between moltings).
The adult can be seen in flight from
late May to late August.
Some nectar plants for the Sonora
are goldenrod, asters, legumes,
thistles, cinquefoils, and other
summer wildflowers. Sonoras live in
habitats of forest openings, fields, moist
mountain meadows, and stream sides, to
name a few.
This butterfly has a spotty distribution
in most mountain ranges of the Pacific
Northwest. In Oregon, it ranges from
the Willamette Valley coastal areas to the
inland mountains, with the Siskiyous
and Cascades supporting the Sonora
On June 27, 2021, one of the hottest
days of that summer, our Siskiyou Field
Institute course found us traveling
mountain roads near Little Hyatt Dam,
where elevations are around 5,000 feet. We
headed toward Vesper Meadow and met
Jeanine Moy, Vesper Meadow Education
Program director, to check in for a quick
visit to one of the upland meadows.
Jeanine and I started the baseline butterfly
list for Vesper Meadow in 2018, so adding
to the list is an ongoing project.
We arrived at an upland meadow and
walked through an open field of cinquefoil
with a forest on one side, a stream on the
other, and moist areas through the middle.
The riparian area was alive with plants and
flowers. Here I observed a joined pair of
Sonora Skippers, who patiently allowed
me to photograph the fine details of their
closed wings. Even though they were
cooperative, it was still a challenge to get to
eye level with my lightweight point-and-
shoot, pocket-size camera. For such a hot
day we still observed a few other insects
on this upland meadow spot. I was happy
the Sonora Skippers were next to the moist
riparian area where the stream was still
moving with cool water.
Linda Kappen is a southern Oregon naturalist
specializing in lepidoptera.
A joined pair of Sonora Skippers. Photo: Linda Kappen.
Areas like Vesper Meadow provide excellent habitat for Sonora Skippers. Photo: Linda Kappen.
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