About two weeks ago I was walking in downtown Salt Lake when I noticed a couple of skippers on the sidewalk. Not having my net or binoculars with me, I couldn’t tell for sure what they were, but they were small tan skippers and might have been Polites sabuletti. The strange thing was that they were on the ground — walking. There were a male and a female in a courtship ritual — walking. In fact, the female actually walked backward when the male approached her. She did the usual wing fluttering, but just backed up away from him. He kept after her, as boys do, and finally after about 5 minutes of backing up she flew a foot or two away. He flew after her and they proceed to do their ground-based ritual again. At this point I had to get on my way, and as I passed both of them took off. So it wasn’t that they couldn’t fly. They just preferred not to, for some reason.
Using the sidewalk as a courting area seemed odd enough, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a butterfly back up before. Maybe they were ants in butterfly suits?
Hi Gail, those likely were sandhill skippers (Polites sabuleti alkaliensis). They feed on Kentucky Blue Grass (Poa pratensis) right in town.
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Good to have my guess confirmed! I was pretty amused at their antics.