This species varies geographically and within populations. The upper side of the male's wings is brown or olive brown with the fore wing having bright orange along the costa that ends at the stigma. The stigma is thicker than the male Crossline Skipper's (Polites origenes) and it usually runs more parallel to the costa. The upper side of the female's wings is brown with the fore wing having a less conspicuous orange costa than the male. Near the end of the fore wing cell there are two rectangular pale spots and three pale spots in a row in the subapical area. The underside of the wings vary form light brown to brown to brownish-orange. Sometimes the hind wing will have a crossband like the Crossline Skipper, but it is usually much more faint. The "tawny-edged" fore wing strongly contrasts with the hind wing color. Its wingspan ranges from ¾ to 1 inch.
Similar species in the Tawny-edged Skipper's range include the Crossline Skipper and the Baracoa Skipper (Polites baracoa).
Crossline Skippers are usually larger than Tawny-edged Skippers. The male has a thinner fore wing stigma, and it does not run parallel to the costa. The female has less or no orange along the fore wing costa and has two-three pale fore wing spots with the central one being more squarish. The underside of the both wings is olive-brown to brown with the hind wing having a pale crossband.
The Baracoa Skipper is smaller than the Tawny-edged Skipper. The male has a short and straight stigma. The female has a lost of orange on her fore wing and has dark patches in the same locations as the male. The underside of the wings is very similar to the Tawny-edged Skipper's except the hind wing has a pale crossband.
This species favors a wide range of habitats including alpine bogs, forest glades, grassy habitats, moist meadows, savannas, and stream sides.
Most of the day, males perch on grass blades or stems to await females. Females lay their greenish white eggs on or near the host plant. The larva lives in a nest by tying leaves together with silk. The variable brown larva is indistinguishable from closely related larvae. The overwintering stage is the pupa. The Tawny-edged Skipper has 1 brood per year in the northeast and northwest and 2-3 broods per year in the deep south.
Here is a list of host plants used by the Tawny-edged Skipper:
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