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Butterfly taxonomy (classification) The skippers The swallowtails The whites The hairstreaks, coppers and blues. Includes the Duke of Burgundy. The nymphalids, fritillaries and browns. Includes the Monarch.
Silver Spotted Skipper Male - Colley Hill, Reigate, Surrey 28-July-11
Wingspan
Male: 29 - 34mm
Female: 32 - 37mm
Photo © Vince Massimo
Silver-spotted Skipper

Hesperia comma
Number: 57.008
B&F No.: 1529
Family:Hesperiidae (Latreille, 1809)
Subfamily:Hesperiinae (Latreille, 1809)
Tribe: 
Genus:Hesperia (Fabricius, 1793)
Subgenus: 
Species:comma (Linnaeus, 1758)
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  Introduction  

This warmth-loving skipper is relatively-local, but is fairly easy to identify, since it is the only skipper found in the British Isles that has the distinctive white spots on the underside of the hindwings, which give the butterfly its name. Like other “golden” skippers, the male is distinguished from the female by the sex brand on its forewings, which is a line of specialised scent scales. This butterfly is restricted to closely-grazed chalk downland sites in southern England. Its former range extended from South Somerset in the west to isolated colonies in the north as far as Westmorland and North-east Yorkshire. Its range contracted in the 20th century due to a reduction in grazing stock as well as the onset of myxomatosis which severely affected rabbit populations. Recent years have been more promising and this is one of the few species that is increasing its range. This species is not found in the Channel Islands.

Hesperia comma

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Europe).


Silver-spotted Skipper male -  Chantry Hill, Sussex 7-Aug-2013
Male
Photo © Neil Hulme
Silver-spotted Skipper male - Chantry Hill, Sussex 2-Aug-2013
Male Underside
Photo © Neil Hulme
Silver Spotted Skipper female,Lydden Temple Ewell, East Kent,27 August 2012.
Female
Photo © essexbuzzard
Silver-spotted-Skipper- 5D34135 Aston Rowant Aug 2013
Female Underside
Photo © IainLeach

  Phenology  

This is one of the latest butterflies to emerge, not appearing until late July or early August, and it is then on the wing until early September. There is one generation each year.


The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.


  Habitat  

This butterfly is found on chalk grassland that contains short, sparse, turf. This warmth-loving species is typically found on south facing slopes on which its sole foodplant, Sheep's-fescue, grows.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplant is Sheep's-fescue (Festuca ovina).

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris) and Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.).

  Imago  

Like most skippers, this is a fast-flying species that flies close to the ground, and can be difficult to follow when in flight. The male of this species is more-frequently encountered than the female. Both sexes spend the majority of their time either basking or feeding, and a wide variety of nectar sources is used, including various species of Thistle. The butterfly will find the warmest patches of ground on which to bask, enjoying the warmth of paths, rabbit scrapes and other patches of bare earth which have been baked by the sun. This species is inactive in overcast conditions.

The male rests on a suitable sunlit perch, and investigates any passing butterfly, in the hope of finding a mate. If a virgin female is encountered, the pair exhibits a tumbling courtship, with the male eventually forcing the female to the ground where mating takes place. An egg-laying female locates a suitable patch of bare ground, such as a rabbit scrape, and then walks to the edge of the patch looking for a suitable location on which to lay a single egg.


Silver Spotted Skipper - Colley Hill, Reigate, Surrey 15-Aug-08
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Aug-2008
Silver-Spotted Skipper - imago - Old Winchester Hill - 21-Aug-04 (7)
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Aug-2004
Silver-spotted Skipper (mating) 13.8.13 East Sussex. Downland boy
Photo © downland boy
13-Aug-2013
Silver-Spotted Skipper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-09 (4)
Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2009
Silver-spotted Skipper - Stockbridge Down - 1 Aug 2010
Photo © Clive
01-Aug-2010
Silver-spotted Skipper - imago - Aston Rowant - 19-Jul-10 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jul-2010
Silver-spotted Skipper (male), Surrey (30 July 2013)
Photo © Mark Colvin
Silver-spotted Skipper (male), Surrey (30 July 2013)
Photo © Mark Colvin
Silver Spotted Skipper Male - Colley Hill, Reigate, Surrey 28-July-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Jul-2011
Silver-spotted Skipper (female), Chantry Hill, West Sussex (22 August 2011)
Photo © Mark Colvin
22-Aug-2011
Silver-spotted Skipper ovipositing  Box Hill Surrey 7th August 2010
Photo © millerd
07-Aug-2010
Silver-spotted Skipper (female), West Sussex (22 August 2011)
Photo © Mark Colvin
22-Aug-2011
Silver-spotted-Skipper- 03C0411 Aston Rowant 31 July 2011
Photo © IainLeach
Silver-spotted-Skipper- 03C0694 Aston Rowant 31 July 2011
Photo © IainLeach
Silver-spotted-Skipper- 03C1115 Aston Rowant 31 July 2011
Photo © IainLeach
Silver-spotted-Skipper- 03C8444 Aston Rowant 31 July 2011
Photo © IainLeach
Silver-spotted Skipper (m) Aston Rowant 28th July 2012
Photo © millerd
28-Jul-2012
Silver-spotted Skipper, male, Oxenbourne Down 6/8/2012
Photo © Pauline
06-Aug-2012
Silver spotted skipper, male, Oxenbourne Down, 6/08/2012
Photo © Pauline
Silver Spotted Skipper female,Lydden Temple Ewell, East Kent,27 August 2012.
Photo © essexbuzzard
27-Aug-2012
Silver Spotted Skipper female - Chantry Hill, Sussex 15-Aug-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
15-Aug-2012
Silver-spotted Skipper female - Chantry Hill, Sussex 2-Aug-3013
Photo © Neil Hulme
02-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper male - Chantry Hill, Sussex 2-Aug-2013
Photo © Neil Hulme
02-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper female - Aston Rowant 02.08.2013
Photo © nfreem
02-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper male -  Chantry Hill, Sussex 7-Aug-2013
Photo © Neil Hulme
07-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper pair - females - Aston Rowant - 6 - Aug - 2013
Photo © Maximus
06-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - mating pair - Aston Rowant - 6 - Aug - 2013
Photo © Maximus
06-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - male - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-13-2
Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2013
Ovipositing Silver-spotted Skipper with egg: Aston Rowant  23rd August 2013
Photo © millerd
23-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted-Skipper- 5D31696 Aston Rowant Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Silver-spotted-Skipper- 5D33636 Aston Rowant Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Silver-spotted-Skipper- 5D33838 Aston Rowant Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Silver-spotted-Skipper- 5D34135 Aston Rowant Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Silver-spotted Skipper - Newtimber Hill, Sussex, 13/7/14
Photo © MarkIvan
13-Jul-2014

  Aberrations  

Aberration in this species is usually expressed in either the upperside ground colour (particularly in the female), and the shape and size of the silver spots on the underside. Aberration is generally rare in this species, although different individuals do often vary in the shade of the underside ground colour. In recent years the aberration juncta (Tutt) has been seen on a number of occasions at a site in Hampshire. This aberration is probably caused by a simple recessive gene. In hot summers, specimens with particularly dark upperside ground colour (see ab. suffusa below) have been known to occur with frequency on some sites, giving rise to speculation that this variation in colouration could be environmentally triggered. There are 13 named aberrations known to occur in Britain.

Click here to see a full list of aberrations for this species.

ab. juncta (Tutt.Brit.Lep.1906.8.p.156.)

= faunula Oberthur.Lep.Comp.l910.4.p.361 (fig.Etudes 20.pl.6.f.85.)

On the underside of the hindwings the white spots are united into one large blotch so that only a pale shade remains in the centre. Tutt and Oberthur described the same specimen. Oberthur's figure shows all the white spots joined together to form a complete circle, the centre being pale brownish.


Silver-spotted Skipper ab. juncta Malling Down, Lewes, East Sussex 23 August 2010
Photo © Crispin
23-Aug-2010
Silver-spotted Skipper ab. juncta Malling Down, Lewes, East Sussex 23 August 2010
Photo © Crispin
23-Aug-2010

  Ovum  

The conspicuous pale eggs are laid singly on small tufts of the foodplant, or on adjacent plants, where they overwinter. Eggs are often laid close to bare ground, such as rabbit scrapes or animal tracks.


Silver-Spotted Skipper - ovum - Thatcham - 12-Mar-10 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Mar-2010
Silver-Spotted Skipper - ovum - Unknown location - Unknown date (2) [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Silver-Spotted Skipper - ovum - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Silver-Spotted Skipper - ovum - Thatcham - 21-Oct-09 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Oct-2009
Silver-spotted Skipper ovum  Box Hill Surrey 7th August 2010
Photo © millerd
12.8.2012  Denbies 019 silver-spotted  skipper`s egg
Photo © hideandseek
12-Aug-2012
18.8.2012  Denbies 032 silver-spotted skipper, egg after one week
Photo © hideandseek
18-Aug-2012
Silver-spotted Skipper - ovum - Broughton Down - 14-Aug-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Silver-spotted Skipper ovum Aston Rownant 8-Sept-2013
Photo © Tony Moore
08-Sep-2013

  Larva  

The larva emerges in March, but does not feed on the eggshell. It forms a tent by spinning several leaf blades together from which it feeds, creating a new tent as it grows, and as the surrounding foodplant is eaten. The larva will often wander a considerable distance in order to find a dense tussock in which to pupate.


Silver-Spotted Skipper - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date (2) [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Silver-Spotted Skipper - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Silver-spotted Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 11-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
Silver-spotted Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 24-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Jun-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 16-Jul-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 16-Jul-13 (2) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 16-Jul-13 (3) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 16-Jul-13 (4) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 16-Jul-13 (5) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2013

  Pupa  

Before pupation, the larva spins a cocoon very close to the ground, in a grass tussock. This stage lasts around 2 weeks.


Silver-Spotted Skipper - pupa - Unknown location - Uknown date (2) [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Silver-Spotted Skipper - pupa - Unknown location - Uknown date [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Silver-spotted Skipper - pupa - Thatcham - 04-Aug-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - pupa - Thatcham - 04-Aug-13 (2) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - pupa - Thatcham - 04-Aug-13 (3) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Aug-2013
Silver-spotted Skipper - pupa - Thatcham - 13-Aug-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Aug-2013

  Similar Species  

Large Skipper

Description to be completed.

  Videos  

Video © John Chapple
Silver-spotted Skipper.

  Sites  

Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Aston Rowant NNR, Aston Upthorpe Downs, Beachy Head, Beacon Hill, Box Hill, Broughton Down, Burham Down, Butser Hill, Buttler's Hangings, Butts Brow, Denbies Hillside, Fontmell Down, Frog Firle Farm, Grangelands, Lullington Heath, Lydden Down, Malling Down, Martin Down, Old Winchester Hill, Seven Sisters Country Park, Stockbridge Down, Watlington Hill, Windover Hill

  Conservation Status  

This butterfly is one of the few species whose fortunes have greatly improved as a result of improvements to the management of chalk grassland sites. However, this is still a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusDistribution TrendPopulation Trend
Species of Conservation ConcernIncreaseDecrease

From The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


  Links  

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

  References  

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C.: Systema Naturae. Edn.10. 1758.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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