Grizzled Skipper

Pyrgus malvae (PEER-guss MAL-vee)

Grizzled-Skipper- 5D30293. 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 - Larkhill - 14-05-2014

Photo © Wurzel

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 30 April 2010 I9T0026

Photo © IainLeach

Grizzled Skipper - imago - Nr Stockbridge Down - 05-May-05 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 28 April 2010 I9T8288

Photo © IainLeach

Photo © essexbuzzard

Grizzled Skipper - imago - Magdalen Hill Down - 19-Apr-10 (3)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper -  Figsbury Ring - 5 May 2014

Photo © craigbirdphotos

Photo © Neil Hulme

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

Photo © Vince Massimo

Photo © NickB

Photo © Neil Hulme

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

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper, Chantry Hill, Sussex 19April-2015

Photo © Neil Hulme

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

Photo © Neil Hulme

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

Photo © Vince Massimo

Male Grizzled Skipper - Mill Hill, Sussex 17-April-2012 002ab

Photo © essexbuzzard

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

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grizzled Skipper - Ryton Woods May 24th 2012.

Photo © Nigel Kiteley

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 30 April 2010 I9T0494

Photo © IainLeach

Grizzled-Skipper-Dunstable 30 April 2010 I9T7827

Photo © IainLeach

Photo Album (58 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.

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

Description to be completed.

2nd Instar

Description to be completed.

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

Description to be completed.

4th Instar

Description to be completed.

5th Instar

Description to be completed.

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.

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.

Similar Species

No similar species found.


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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).
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.