Family: Hesperiidae

Family:HesperiidaeLatreille, 1809
Type Genus:HesperiaFabricius, 1793


Family: Hesperiidae

On a worldwide basis, approximately 3,500 of the 18,000 species of butterfly belong to this family, which is often referred to as the skippers since adults are characterised by their rapid and darting flight. In some species the adults rest with the forewings and hindwings in different planes, a characteristic never found in other families. The key characteristic of this family, however, is that all of the veins on the forewing run unbranched from the cell to the wing margin, as shown in the illustration below.

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Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)
Photo © Timothy Freed, whose original drawing is shown in Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 7, Issue 1 (Emmet & Heath, 1989)

In addition, the antennae have a relatively-wide separation at their base and the antennal club is hooked. The head is at least as wide as the thorax. The labial palpi are short, ascending and comprised of dense hairs, and are particularly striking as a result. Each eye is smooth (there are no bristles projecting from the eye) and has a distinct eyelash; a tuft of hairs that project over the eye. The antennae extend to about half the length of the forewing.

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Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)
Photo © Peter Eeles

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)
Photo © William Langdon

All legs are fully developed and functional in both sexes. The foreleg tibia usually contains no spurs, the midleg tibia one pair of spurs, and the hindleg two pairs of spurs.

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Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)
Showing spurs on legs

Photo © Vince Massimo

The upperside of the male forewing often contains androconial scales, either in a costal fold (as in the Pyrginae subfamily) or in a sex brand (as in the Hesperiinae subfamily). On the forewing veins 1b and 1c are coincident, and on the hindwing veins 1b and 1c are also coincident, and vein 5 is absent.

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Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages)
Showing costal fold

Photo © Peter Eeles

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)
Showing sex brand

Photo © Peter Eeles

Eggs are variable in terms of their shape and may be rounded or oval, and smooth or ribbed. The sparsely-haired larva has a wide head and is tapered at both ends. The first thoracic segment (the prothoracic segment) often exhibits a pigmented "plate" and is narrow, forming a neck. The larva feeds within a shelter formed from leaves of the foodplant spun together with silk. The pupa is long and tapering, formed within a cocoon of leaves and grass.


This family is represented by the following subfamilies:


This family is represented by the species shown below.

Dingy-Skipper- 5D32042. Lincs, May 2015.

Dingy Skipper
Erynnis tages
Photo © IainLeach

Mallow Skipper - Alpes-Maritimes - 5 September 2013

Mallow Skipper
Carcharodus alceae
Photo © CFB

Grizzled-Skipper- 5D30035. Lincs, April 2015

Grizzled Skipper
Pyrgus malvae
Photo © IainLeach

Oberthur's Grizzled Skipper female - Var, France 12-May-2012

Oberthür's Grizzled Skipper
Pyrgus armoricanus
Photo © Roger Gibbons

Large Chequered Skipper - imago - Comunanza, Italy - 19-Jun-08 (2)

Large Chequered Skipper
Heteropterus morpheus
Photo © Pete Eeles

Chequered-Skipper- 5D38346 Lochaber 27 May 2012

Chequered Skipper
Carterocephalus palaemon
Photo © IainLeach

Essex Skipper Male - Chaldon, Surrey 6-July-10

Essex Skipper
Thymelicus lineola
Photo © Vince Massimo

Small-Skipper- 5D32233 Notts, July 2015

Small Skipper
Thymelicus sylvestris
Photo © IainLeach

Lulworth Skipper - imago - Durlston Country Park - 21-Jul-06 (0490)

Lulworth Skipper
Thymelicus acteon
Photo © Pete Eeles

Fiery Skipper - imago - Cayo Coco, Cuba - 19-Oct-06 (4)

Fiery Skipper
Hylephila phyleus
Photo © Pete Eeles

Silver Spotted Skipper Male - Colley Hill, Reigate, Surrey 28-July-11

Silver-spotted Skipper
Hesperia comma
Photo © Vince Massimo

Shy Saliana (ovipositing female) - Osa Penisnula, Costa Rica 29-March-2011 [Rudy Dodero]

Shy Saliana
Saliana longirostris
Photo © Rudy Dodero

Large Skipper male - Sand Point, Somerset 1-June-2014 [Damian Pinguey]

Large Skipper
Ochlodes sylvanus
Photo © Damian Pinguey