Skippers

A guide to butterfly species commonly found in Dorset

Dingy Skipper

Erynnis tages

Dingy Skippers matingDingy Skipper butterfly looking very small on a dandelion-type flower

 

When to see:

April to Early July.
Peak: End May - End June

Habitat:

Open/rough ground, hillsides

Where to see:

Cashmoor, Clubmens Down, Fontmell Down, Hod Hill, Melbury Down, Ballard Down, Durlston Country Park, Cerne Abbas, Portland Tout, Lankham Bottom, Southfield Hogcliffe

Foodplants:

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Behaviour:

Perch

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Essex Skipper

Thymelicus lineola

Essex Skipper butterfly top view Essex Skipper side view Essex Skipper face on
Comments This is recognisable as an Essex Skipper rather than a Small Skipper by the black tips its antennae, which have clear cut offs which are visible from the underside too. It also has the less important but sometimes useful feature that the underside tips of the forewings are orange, whereas the Small Skipper's underwings are the same colour throughout.
When to see:

July and August.
Peak: End July - Mid-August

Habitat:

Open/rough ground, clearings

Where to see:

Stour Valley, Bere Regis By-pass, Alners Gorse, Hatch Pond

Foodplants:

Grass, Cocksfoot, Creeping Soft

Behaviour:

Patrol

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Grizzled Skipper

Pyrgus malvae

Grizzled Skipper butterfly top view Dingy Skipper side viewGrizzled Skipper
When to see:

April to June.
Peak: Mid-May to early June

Habitat:

Open/rough ground, clearings

Where to see:

Fontmell Down, Hod Hill, Durlston Country Park, Cerne Abbas, Lankham Bottom, Southfield Hogcliffe

Foodplants:

Wild Strawberry, Creeping Cinquefoil

Behaviour:

Perch

Identification hints This is a very small butterfly - the yellow flower it is shown on above is smaller than the average dandelion flower.
Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Large Skipper

Ochlodes venata

Large Skipper butterfly top view Large Skipper side view
When to see:

June to August.
Peak: Mid June to End July

Habitat:

Open/rough ground, clearings

Where to see:

Anywhere

Foodplants:

Grass, Cocksfoot, False Brome

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Lulworth Skipper

Thymelicus acteon

Lulworth Skipper butterfly Lulworth Skipper butterfly

Left is female, right is male

Lulworth SkipperLulworth Skipper

When to see:

In theory, July to Mid September, with a peak in August - this used to be the norm. However, weather changes over the last few years have stretched the flight period in some years from the last week in April  to early September.

Habitat:

South-facing Purbeck hillsides

Where to see:

Durlston Country Park, Bindon Hill.

Foodplants:

Grass, Tor Grass

Behaviour:

Perch

Identification hints:
  • Size is a key point in identification – Lulworth Skippers are smaller than Large Skippers & slightly smaller than Small Skippers, not that this helps much if you are not seeing them together!
  • Lulworth Skippers which are fresh have a light dusting of golder marks in the centre of the forewing, which in the female is a distinctive circle.
  • Lulworths do not have the much paler yellow dots around the edges of the forewings which are key id features for Large Skipper.
  • Old Lulworth Skippers go a rather greenish olive-brown, which distinguishes them from the other Skippers.
  • Lulworths also hold their wings characteristically with the hindwings at a lower angle.
Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Silver-spotted Skipper

Hesperia comma

Silver-spotted Skipperbutterfly femaleSilver-spotted Skipper male

Female on left, male on right

Silver-spotted Skipper female side viw

Female

When to see: Mid July to End September.
Peak: Mid August to Early September
Habitat: South-facing, close grazed downland
Where to see: Fontmell Down
Foodplants: Grass, Sheep’s Fescue
Behaviour: Perch
Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Small Skipper

Thymelicus sylvestris

Small Skipper butterflySmall Skippers mating
When to see:

Early June to Early September

Habitat:

Open/rough ground, clearings

Where to see:

Anywhere

Foodplants:

Grass, Yorkshire Fog

Behaviour:

Patrol

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends