Family Hesperiidae - Skippers

Skippers have long been regarded as rather distant relatives of "true" butterflies, but recent research indicates that Papilionoidea including the Hesperiidae is a monophyletic clade, with the Papilionidae being the least strongly embedded family.

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Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae (Linnaeus, 1758)

Pyrgus malvae
  • Over, Cambridgeshire, TL381688, 19 May 2012.
  • Checklist: 57.002
  • Feeds on a variety of plants from the Rosaceae family, mainly Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans) and Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca).
  • Once (up to 1980s) widespread in southern Britain but has now contracted into a scattered distribution. A UK BAP Priority Species.
  • NBN Atlas

Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris (Poda, 1761)

Thymelicus sylvestris Thymelicus sylvestris
  • Cambridge, old St Ives Railway TL463614, 14-19 Jul 2002.
  • Checklist: 57.006
  • Similar to Essex Skipper T. lineola, in this species the under-forewings have buff tips while the Essex is entirely orange. However the antennae tips and the longer male scent brand are better diagnostics.
  • Larvae feed on grasses - Yorkshire fog, creeping soft-grass and wood false brome. Eggs hatch in autumn and caterpillars hibernate.
  • Adults on various flowers, here common ragwort Jacobaea vulgaris.
  • NBN Atlas

Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola (Ochsenheimer, 1808)

Thymelicus lineola
  • Cambridge, Coldhams Common TL475583, 1 Jul 2014.
  • Checklist: 57.005
  • Very similar to T. sylvestris (above). On the male the dark scent band is short, straight, and parallel to the leading edge of the wing, while in sylvestris it is longer and kinks inwards at the head end. T. sylvestris has orange tipped antennae which should be visible from an angle such as this, whereas lineola has black tips.
  • Larvae feed on grasses - cock's foot, creeping soft-grass, timothy and wood false brome. Eggs do not hatch until spring.
  • NBN Atlas

Large Skipper Ochlodes sylvanus (Esper, 1777)

Ochlodes sylvanus
  • Cambridge, old St Ives Railway TL462615, 11 Jul 2002.
  • Checklist: 57.009
  • A male, with dark patch of scent scales on the forewings
  • Larvae live on grass blades pulled into tubes with silk.
  • The correct species name was laid down by ICZN decision 1944 in 2000. Strictly the originally proposed name Papilio sylvanus Esper, 1777 was invalid as the same name had already been given by Drury to an African Lycaenid (now known as Anthene sylvanus). The decision conserves Esper's name in the current combination Ochlodes sylvanus. Further confusion has been caused by the possibility that the European Large Skipper is conspecific with Asian form Ochlodes venatus, but it appears that the prevailing current view is that they are distinct species.
  • NBN Atlas

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