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East Midlands Branch Butterfly Conservation

Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris


The Small Skipper is a common and widespread species found in rough grassland and woodland edges, requiring an abundance of tall grasses and wild flowers. It prefers more open sites than the Large Skipper.


It has unmarked golden-orange wings, although the forewing of the male carries a distinctive dark line or sex brand. It can be easily confused with the Essex Skipper, but the underside of the tips of its antennae are orange whilst they are black in the Essex Skipper.

Flight times

It appears in early June and flies until the beginning of September.

Food plants

Eggs are laid in the sheaths of Yorkshire-fog or Creeping Soft-grass.


Widely distribution throughout the region.

Small Skipper - © Simon Jenkins Small Skipper

Distribution Maps for the East Midlands Region

Small Skipper distribution map 2010
2010 Summary
No of tetrads 164
First sighting 20/05/2010
Last sighting 27/08/2010
Small Skipper distribution map 2011
2011 Summary
No of tetrads 167
First sighting 28/05/2011
Last sighting 27/11/2011
Small Skipper distribution map 2012
2012 Summary
No of tetrads 199
First sighting 05/06/2012
Last sighting 08/09/2012
Small Skipper distribution map 2013
2013 Summary
No of tetrads 287
First sighting 25/06/2013
Last sighting 03/09/2013
Small Skipper distribution map 2014
2014 Summary
No of tetrads 341
First sighting 09/03/2014
Last sighting 13/09/2014
Small Skipper distribution map 2015
2015 Summary
No of tetrads 373
First sighting 09/04/2015
Last sighting 18/09/2015
Small Skipper distribution map 2005-09

Combined records for the five year period 2005-09

Small Skipper distribution map 2010-14

Combined records for the five year period 2010-14


Photo Gallery

Small Skipper

Small Skipper © Simon Jenkins

Small Skipper - Coombs Dale

Small Skipper - Coombs Dale © Christine Maughan

Small Skipper

Small Skipper © Simon Jenkins

Small Skipper - Fermyn Wood

Small Skipper - Fermyn Wood © Christine Maughan

Small Skipper Small Skipper Small Skipper Small Skipper
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Similar or Easily Confused Species and ID Hints

Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola

The Small Skipper is very similar to the Essex Skipper in both looks, habitat and flight times. Though the adult Essex Skipper has a shorter flight time, starting later in June and continuing through until late August.

The most striking difference between the adults is the tips of the antennae: in the Small Skipper these are orange-brown, whereas the Essex Skipper's appear to have been dipped in black ink.

The males also differ in the size and shape of the “sex-brands” on the fore wings. In the Small Skipper these are slightly curved, in the Essex Skipper shorter and straight.

The caterpillars are also similar in body markings, but with the Small Skippers head being green and the Essex Skipper striped with brown.

Comparison of Small Skipper and Essex Skippers antennae
Comparison of Small Skipper and Essex Skipper antennae - © Mick Ball

Large Skipper Ochlodes venata

A larger and more widespread orange skipper, the Large Skipper also flies and feeds in similar habitats and times as the Small Skipper and Essex Skipper. All three skippers rest in a distinctive pose with their fore and hind wings held at different angles. The Large Skipper is distinguished from the others by being slightly larger, and also having brighter undersides and more variegated markings on the upper wings.

Large Skipper at Rest
Large Skipper - © Mark Searle
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