Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola

Habitat

The Essex Skipper is widespread in SE England, but is extending its range northwards. It is found in tall, dry grassland, roadside verges and woodland rides.

Identification

It is virtually identical to the Small Skipper, but the underside of the tips of the antennae are black in comparison with the orange tips of the Small Skipper. The dark borders on the female sometimes radiate along the veins, and the male has short, straight and finer sex brands.

Flight times

It appears later than the Small Skipper at the end of June and flies until the end of August.

Food plants

Eggs are laid in the sheaths of Cock's-foot, Tor-grass or Creeping Soft-grass.

Distribution

Becoming more widely distribution throughout the region.


Distribution Maps

2005-09
Essex Skipper distribution map 2005-09

Combined records for the five year period 2005-09

2010-14
Essex Skipper distribution map 2010-14

Combined records for the five year period 2010-14

2005-09; 2010-14
Essex Skipper distribution map comparison of 2005-09 & 2010-14

Comparison of years 2005-09 & 2010-14

Distribution has consolidated over this ten year period, with considerable expansion of its range into new areas.

2015
Essex Skipper distribution map 2015
2015 Summary
No of tetrads 157
First sighting 14/06/2015
Last sighting 12/09/2015
2016
Essex Skipper distribution map 2016
2016 Summary
No of tetrads 126
First sighting 09/06/2016
Last sighting 05/10/2016

Photo Gallery


Similar or Easily Confused Species and ID Hints

Small Skipper Thymelicus silvestris

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.

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.

Comparison of Small Skipper and Essex Skipper antennae
Comparison of Small Skipper and Essex Skipper antennae © Mick Ball
image of Large Skipper
Large Skipper - © Mark Searle