Small Skipper

Trevor Patterson

Grantham, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Small Skipper
A small butterfly with a darting flight, widespread England and Wales. Bright orange-brown wings held with forewings angled above hind wings. Males have thin black line through centre of fore-wing. Essex Skipper is similar but has black tips to antenna (best viewed head on) and shorter scent brand which runs parallel to forewing edge rather than angled.

  • Latin name: Thymelicus sylvestris
  • Family group: Skippers
  • Countries: England, Scotland, Wales
  • Size: Small


Range expanding.

Small Skippers are insects of high summer. Although they spend much of their time basking or resting among vegetation, they are marvellous flyers, manoeuvring expertly through tall grass stems. It is these darting flights, wings glinting golden-brown in the sunlight, that normally alert an observer to their presence. Closer examination will reveal many more individuals nectaring or basking with their wings held in the half-open posture distinctive of skipper butterflies.

The butterfly is widespread in southern Britain and its range has expanded northwards in recent years.
Conservation status

  • UK BAP status: not listed
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: low
  • European threat status: not threatened

European/world range

Much of Europe, as far north as the Baltic States and Denmark and east to the Urals. Also in North Africa and the Middle East. Its distribution in Europe is generally stable with some northward expansion.

The Small Skipper almost exclusively uses Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus), although several other grasses have been recorded as foodplants, for example Timothy (Phleum pratense), Creeping Soft-grass (H. mollis), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), and Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata).

Small Skipper colonies are found where grasses are allowed to grow tall. Typical habitats are unimproved rough grassland, downs, verges, sunny rides, and woodland clearings. Colonies can occur on small patches of suitable habitat such as roadside verges and field margins.

Artwork Comments

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