E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Pholisora catullus Scudder, 1872
Common Sooty Wing; Sootywings
Family: Hesperiidae (Skippers)
Species account authors: Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard.
Extracted from Butterflies of British Columbia
The Families of Lepidoptera of BC
Introduction to the Butterflies of BC

© Libby & Rick Avis  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #64144)

Click on map to view a larger version of this map.
Distribution of Pholisora catullus in British Columbia.
(Click on the map to view a larger version.)
Details about map content are available here.

Species Information


The ground colour of the wings is black. There are white spots in the median area of the forewing and a submarginal row of very small white spots on both wings. The females have more median spots than the males. This species can be confused with Amblyscirtes vialis, but comparison of the ventral hindwings will show that P. catullus is uniform black with white spots, whereas A. vialis is mottled and overlaid with grey on the outer half.

Immature Stages

Edwards (1885d), Scudder (1889b), and Comstock (1927) all describe the immatures. The egg is white to pale yellow brown with 15-18 ribs. The head of the mature larva is blackish brown with a thin pile of fulvous hairs mixed with black. The body is pale yellow green and is overlaid by small white tubercles with short hairs. There is a pair of faint yellow lateral stripes near the dorsal surface.


None. The type locality of the species is presumably Georgia.

Genus Description

The name Pholisora may be derived from the Greek pholis, meaning lurking in a hole, and ora, meaning season, especially spring (Bird et al. 1995). This may refer to the wings being the dark colour of a hole, and the spring flight period. The common name for the genus was first used by Scudder (1889b).

This genus is structurally similar to Erynnis, Pyrgus, and Heliopetes. The only species in our area has a uniform black ground colour with several groups of small white spots arranged in rows. The genus is Nearctic and centred in the US southwest. There are either two or five species in the genus, depending on whether Hesperopsis Dyar is given generic rank. Regardless of whether Hesperopsis is recognized, the BC species falls in the genus Pholisora. Pholisora larvae feed on Chenopodium (Chenopodiaceae) and Amaranthus (Amaranthaceae). Hesperopsis larvae feed on Atriplex (Chenopodiaceae).


In BC the adults are on the wing from late May to mid-June, and again from mid-July to late August, with two broods per year. Eggs are laid on the upper surface of the leaves (Scudder 1889b). The larvae apparently hibernate in various instars. There is no record of a BC foodplant. Elsewhere the species feeds on Chenopodium and Amaranthus (Edwards 1885d; Scudder 1889b; Comstock 1927).


In BC the Common Sootywing is known only from Lillooet, the lower Thompson River, the Okanagan, and Grand Forks, always in very xeric areas.



Found across the southern fringe of CAN from BC to PQ, and south to MEX.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS3BlueNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2020-04-02 8:39:44 AM]
Disclaimer: The information contained in an E-Fauna BC atlas pages is derived from expert sources as cited (with permission) in each section. This information is scientifically based.  E-Fauna BC also acts as a portal to other sites via deep links.  As always, users should refer to the original sources for complete information.  E-Fauna BC is not responsible for the accuracy or completeness of the original information.

© E-Fauna BC: An initiative of the Spatial Data Lab, Department of Geography, UBC