Grizzled Skipper

Pyrgus malvae (PEER-guss MAL-vee)

Grizzled-Skipper- 5D30035. Lincs, April 2015
Photo © IainLeach

23 - 29mm

Checklist Number

Family:HesperiidaeLatreille, 1809
Subfamily:PyrginaeBurmeister, 1878
Genus:PyrgusHübner, [1819]
Species:malvae(Linnaeus, 1758)

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Like most skippers, the Grizzled Skipper is extremely difficult to follow when in flight, but will stop to feed from various nectar sources. Once settled, the black and white pattern on the wings, from which this species gets its name, is unmistakable. The butterfly occurs in small colonies of less than 100 adults. A well-known aberration of this species, ab. taras, has all of the white spots on the forewings joined, forming a large white blotch. This butterfly is found in England south of a line extended from West Gloucestershire in the west to North Lincolnshire in the east, with strongholds in central and southern England. There are scattered colonies further north and in Wales. This species is absent from Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Pyrgus malvae

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

Grizzled Skipper male - Chantry Hill, Sussex 16-April-2014

Photo © Neil Hulme

Grizzled Skipper Male - Chaldon, Surrey 19-April-10

Male Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

Grizzled Skipper female, Rewell Wood, Sussex 30-April-2014

Photo © Neil Hulme

Grizzled-Skipper- 5D30226. Lincs, April 2015

Female Underside
Photo © IainLeach

Photo Album ...


The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

1699Our Marsh FritillaryPetiver (1695-1703)
1704Mr. Dandridge's March FritillaryPetiver (1702-1706)
1749Grizzled ButterflyWilkes (1749)
1766GrizzleHarris (1766)
1769Brown March FritillaryBerkenhout (1769)
1795Spotted SkipperLewin (1795)
1813MallowDonovan (1813)
1819Mallow SkipperSamouelle (1819)
1824Grizzled SkipperJermyn (1824)

Conservation Status

The Grizzled Skipper is in decline and it is therefore a priority species for conservation efforts.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Priority Species
Click here to access the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for this species.
Large Decrease-53

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


This species occurs in different habitats that are all characterised by warmth, shelter, and sparse vegetation, such as chalk downland, woodland edges, woodland clearings, large woodland rides, unimproved grassland, hillsides, valleys and occasionally heathland.



Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

The butterfly emerges in late April and flies until the end of June. There is one generation each year, although there may be a small second brood in some years, when weather conditions are favourable.

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.


This is a warmth-loving butterfly, and both sexes bask in the sun for long periods, typically on a stone, leaf or bare earth. This is an active butterfly which will fly at most times the day, and even into the evening, if conditions are warm enough. The butterfly uses several nectar sources, favourites being Bird's-foot Trefoil and Buttercup. The male is somewhat territorial and will chase any butterfly, irrespective of size, from its area. Females entering the territory are courted for a short period and, if the female is receptive, pairing occurs. The butterfly can be found roosting on heads of flowers and grasses during cool weather and at night.

Adults feed primarily on Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.) and Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi).

Pyrgus malvae

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 25 April 2011 03C5681

Photo © IainLeach

Grizzled Skipper - Larkhill - 14-05-2014

Photo © Wurzel

Grizzled Skipper male -  Mill Hill, Sussex 2-May-2013

Photo © Neil Hulme

Grizzled Skipper Pair (Male top, Female below) - Chaldon, Surrey 26-April-09

Photo © Vince Massimo

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 28 April 2010 I9T9299

Photo © IainLeach

Grizzled Skipper female underside - Harbury Spoilbank, Warwickshire,  20.05.2012

Photo © Neil Freeman

Grizzled Skipper - imago - Greenham Common - 25-May-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - imago - Greenham Common - 13-May-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - imago - Greenham Common - 04-May-15

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper Male - Chaldon, Surrey 23-April-10

Photo © Vince Massimo

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 28 April 2010 I9T8288

Photo © IainLeach

Grizzled Skipper -  Mill Hill, Sussex 3-April-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme

Grizzled Skipper,Mill Hill. 24 April 2014.

Photo © essexbuzzard

Grizzled Skipper - imago - Nr Stockbridge Down - 12-May-06 (0101)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper Pair - Chaldon, Surrey 20-April-11

Photo © Vince Massimo

Grizzled Skipper - imago - Greenham Common - 25-May-12-1

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skippers - Monks Wood, 11.05.2012

Photo © PhiliB

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 30 April 2010 I9T0494

Photo © IainLeach

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 25 April 2011 03C5473

Photo © IainLeach

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 28 April 2010 I9T7886

Photo © IainLeach

Photo Album (59 photos) ...


Eggs are laid singly on the underside of a leaf. Foodplants growing in warm positions, next to bare ground or short vegetation, are favoured. This stage lasts around 10 days.

"On May 23rd, 1910, the author captured a female at Hockley, Essex, which laid a few eggs on June 1st on both surfaces of the leaves of wild strawberry (F. vesca); these hatched on June 11th, remaining ten days in the egg state. On June 3rd, 1910, captured three females at rest on grass-heads in the same locality; they deposited many eggs during the following week on wild strawberry. By June 25th most of them had hatched. Again on May 17th, 1911, of thirteen specimens observed at Hockley, twelve were males; the only female captured laid about seventy eggs during the following ten days. All were laid on the under side of wild strawberry leaves, nearly all close to the margins of the leaves. Also again on May 29th, 1911, captured several females at rest on grass-heads at Hockley; four of these were placed on plants of wild strawberry the following morning. Several eggs were deposited that day (May 30th), which hatched on June 7th, 1911, being only eight days in the egg state. The egg is dome-shaped and measures 0.60 mm. wide and 0.50 mm. high; the micropyle is slightly sunken and finely reticulated with a network pattern. There are from eighteen to twenty very fine irregular white glassy keels from the crown to the base, where they disappear, and are prominent on the summit; some start just below the summit, and sometimes two or three make their appearance on nearing the base. Those starting at the top form a very irregular rim surrounding the micropyle. The surface between the keels is very finely transversely ribbed; the base is smooth, the entire surface is extremely finely granulated. The colour when first laid, and for a few days, is a clear, rather light green, which gradually becomes paler, but before hatching is greyer and more opaque. The egg is laid singly." - Frohawk (1924)

Grizzled Skipper - ovum - Nr Stockbridge Down - 12-May06 (0263)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - ovum - Nr Stockbridge Down - 12-May06 (0264)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - ovum - Magdalen Hill Down - 21-May-11

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper Egg -The  Gallops, Friston Forest, Sussex 11-June-2016

Photo © Gary.N

Grizzled Skipper Ovum - Thurlbear Quarrylands - 21/05/16

Photo © William

Photo Album (5 photos) ...


The larva eats the crown of the egg on hatching, and immediately moves to the upperside of the leaf, where it spins a web of silk across the midrib. The larva feeds on the leaf surface at first, leaving the leaf structurally intact. The larva moves to a new leaf, creating a new web, as necessary. In the 3rd instar, the larva creates a larger shelter by either spinning the edges of a leaf together, or by spinning two leaves together. The larva feeds primarily in early morning and evening, and spends a great deal of time resting, rather than feeding. Development is therefore relatively-slow, lasting around 2 months.

The primary larval foodplants are Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans) and Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca). Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis), Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Dog-rose (Rosa canina), Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor), Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) and Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) are also used.

Grizzled Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 12-Jun-11 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 21-Aug-11 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album (2 photos) ...

1st Instar

"Directly after emergence the larva measures 1.2 mm. long. The head is large, black and shining, and sprinkled with white hairs; the segmental divisions are clearly defined, the segments are sub-divided into four or five transverse wrinkles. There are six longitudinal rows (three on each side above the spiracles) of roughened white glassy bifid hairs, shaped like a double fish-hook (T), three on each segment, placed in a triangle, first dorsal, second sub-dorsal and third super-spiracular; these have whitish bulbous bases; below the spiracle are two simple, sharply pointed white hairs, and two others on each clasper; on the first and last segments all the hairs are simple. The surface is minutely pitted, producing a rough granular texture. The colour is a very pale greyish-ochreous, which changes to light greenish-ochreous soon after feeding. Very soon after emergence the young larva selects the midrib of a leaf and spins a little covering of silken threads over itself, under which it lives, usually resting in the form of the figure 6. It generally crawls to about its own length from its resting place to feed on the upper cuticle of the leaf, and after a brief meal returns to its retreat; if it breaks away any of the silk threads while feeding it renews them." - Frohawk (1924)

2nd Instar

"The first moult, July 5th, 1910. Eight days after the first moult it measures 3.2 mm. long. The head is black, granular, and sprinkled with tiny white hairs of various lengths; on the first segment is a chitinous, black transverse dorsal collar, also bearing similar hairs to those on the head. The segments have five sub-divisions. The ground colour is citrine-yellow, checkered with olive-brown and speckled with whitish; from the centre of each whitish spot rises a minute white, cleft, knobbed hair; below the spiracles the hairs are simple. On the first sub-division of the segments is a sub-dorsal lenticle. The larva lives and feeds in a similar manner to that in the first stage, and is of slow growth." - Frohawk (1924)

Grizzled Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 25-Jun-11 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 25-Jun-11 (2) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album (2 photos) ...

3rd Instar

"After the second moult, measuring 6.3 mm. long, it is similar to the previous stage, excepting the hairs are longer. The larvae during this stage draw the edges of the leaves together and live concealed in the folds." - Frohawk (1924)

4th Instar

"After the third moult, 12.7 mm. long, the surface is rough and granular, the head and body more densely covered with hairs, each rising from a pale greenish-white spot on a dark olive-brown ground colour. The largest white spots are so arranged that they form sub-dorsal and lateral longitudinal wavy lines. A medio-dorsal line of dark brown, bordered on either side by whitish spots; the spiracles are yellow-ochreous, the last pair being large and conspicuous; the anal segments are paler than the rest. The other details are similar to those of the previous stage." - Frohawk (1924)

5th Instar

"The fourth and last moult occurred on August 10th, 1910. After the fourth moult, fully grown, about sixty days old, it measures 16 mm. long while resting and 19 mm. extended crawling. The head is black and covered with rough raised reticulations, forming a cellular surface, and clothed with pale ochreous, short, simple pointed hairs, and a few much longer ones. The first segment is proportionately very small; the body gradually tapers to the middle where it is stoutest; it then tapers of to the anal segment. The surface is finely granular and densely sprinkled with white tubercles, each bearing a white hair with a cleft tip. The ground colour is a pale green, with an olive-brown medio-dorsal stripe, and double dark olive and pale flesh-coloured stripes alternating; the sides are also faintly mottled with pinkish-drab and olive, which colours prevail over the dorsal surface. The first pair of legs are black, the second pair brown and the third pair pale ochreous; the claspers ochreous-green. It has no white waxy substance like other species. The anal comb consists of about twenty tines, and is fan-shaped, the central tines being the longest. During the last stage it still lives under the shelter of rolled-up leaves, generally formed of half a leaf folded up. The first one pupated August 20th, in an open loose network cocoon spun among the basal stems of a wild strawberry plant." - Frohawk (1924)

Grizzled Skipper - larva - Unknown location - Uknown date [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

Grizzled Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 21-Aug-11 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - larva - Thatcham - 21-Aug-11 (3) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album (3 photos) ...


When fully-grown, the larva constructs a loose cocoon at the base of the vegetation, often among stems of the foodplant. The pupa is formed within the cocoon, secured by protrusions on the body and the cremaster, where it overwinters, this stage lasting around 9 months.

"The pupa measures 12.7 mm. in length. Lateral view: Head bluntly conical, thorax slightly swollen, meta-thorax rather sunken, abdomen almost straight dorsally, terminating in a long cremaster, provided with a bunch of long, curving, stalked hooks variously directed, resembling springs coiled at the ends. The ventral surface of the abdomen and wings forms a continuous curve to the head. Dorsal view: Head rounded, eyes rather prominent, slightly nipped round the middle, abdomen tapering. The surface is roughly granular; the wings and limbs are striated transversely, of a pale pearly-olive colouring, more or less densely covered with a white powdery substance, which is densest over the limbs and basal portion of the wings, and especially surrounding the prominent black thoracic spiracle. The head and thorax have the ground colour pale brown, and the abdomen light reddish-brown, blotched and speckled with black; the glazed eye-collar is black, the rest of the eye, head, thorax and abdomen are all densely clothed with amber-coloured, simple, sharply pointed bristles. The tongue only extends to the apex of wings, the spiracles are brown and the cremaster and hooks sienna-red; the latter are anchored to a mass of silk spun for the purpose in the loose network cocoon enclosing the pupa, which is always spun among the basal stems of the food plant. There is no cincture round the body; the abundance of bristles on the pupa retains it in position in the cocoon." - Frohawk (1924)

Grizzled Skipper - pupa - Unknown location - Uknown date [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

Grizzled Skipper - pupa - Thatcham - 22-Sep-11 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - pupa - Thatcham - 22-Sep-11 (2) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - pupa - Thatcham - 22-Sep-11 (3) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album (4 photos) ...


Description to be completed.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.


The species description provided here references the following publications:

Berkenhout (1769) Berkenhout, J. (1769) Outlines of the Natural History of Great Britain and Ireland (Vol.1 Animal Kingdom).
Burmeister (1878) Burmeister, H., Daireaux, E. and Maupas, E. (1878) Description physique de la République Argentine: d'après des observations personnelles et étrangères par H. Burmeister ; traduit de l'allemant par E. Maupas.
Donovan (1813) Donovan, E. (1813) The Natural History of British Insects (Vol.16).
Frohawk (1924) Frohawk, F.W. (1924) The Natural History of British Butterflies.
Hübner (1819) Hübner, J. (1819) Verzeichniss bekannter Schmettlinge.
Harris (1766) Harris, M. (1766) The Aurelian. Edition 1.
Jermyn (1824) Jermyn, L. (1824) The Butterfly Collector's Vade Mecum: or a Synoptical Table of English Butterflies.
Latreille (1809) Latreille, P.A. (1809) Genera crustaceorum et insectorum secundum ordinem naturalem in familias disposita, iconibus exemplisque plurimis explicata.
Lewin (1795) Lewin, W. (1795) The Papilios of Great Britain.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Petiver (1695-1703) Petiver, J. (1695-1703) Musei Petiveriani centuria prima-decima, rariora naturae continens.
Petiver (1702-1706) Petiver, J. (1702-1706) Gazophylacii naturae et artis decas prima.
Samouelle (1819) Samouelle, G. (1819) The Entomologist's Useful Compendium.
Wilkes (1749) Wilkes, B. (1749) The English moths and butterflies: together with the plants, flowers and fruits whereon they feed, and are usually found.