Chequered Skipper

Carterocephalus palaemon (car-tur-oh-SEFF-a-luss pal-EE-mon)

Chequered-Skipper- 5D38346 Lochaber 27 May 2012
Photo © IainLeach
 

Wingspan
Male: 29mm
Female: 31mm

Checklist Number
57.004

Family:HesperiidaeLatreille, 1809
Subfamily:HeteropterinaeAurivillius, 1925
Tribe:  
Genus:CarterocephalusLederer, 1852
Subgenus:  
Species:palaemon(Pallas, 1771)

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Introduction

This colourful skipper is distinguished from all other skippers by the numerous yellowish spots found on its upperside - resulting in a chequered appearance that gives this butterfly its name. Like most skippers, this is a fast-flying butterfly, and its chequered markings make it very difficult to track when in flight. This butterfly does not exist in discrete colonies; populations are generally spread over wide areas of habitat. The Chequered Skipper is confined to north-west Scotland where it was first discovered in 1939 at Loch Lochy in West Inverness-shire, where its distribution is centred on Fort William and where the larval foodplant is Purple Moor-grass.

This species formerly occurred in England, inhabiting larger oak woods of central and east England, where False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) was used as the larval foodplant. The butterfly was sadly declared extinct in England in 1976, with its last sites in north-east Northamptonshire. Mackworth-Praed (1945) considers the Scottish specimens to be visibly distinct from the extinct English specimens: "It [the Scottish race] is, at least biologically, a distinct race from that of the eastern counties of England, and appears to be distinct in coloration. Its appearance on May 10th in 1942, and on May 28th in the cold, wet season of 1943, is a month earlier than is normal with the English race. Its coloration is cleaner and harder, with no yellow wash on the underside".

Carterocephalus palaemon Historic Specimens

This species was first defined in Pallas (1771) as shown here (type locality: Russia).

Chequered-Skipper- 5D35798 Lochaber 9 June 2012

Male
Photo © IainLeach

Chequered-Skipper- 5D36291 Lochaber 27 May 2012

Male Underside
Photo © IainLeach

Chequered Skipper female - Glasdrum, Scotland 25-May-2012

Female
Photo © Neil Hulme

Chequered Skipper Female - Glen Loy - June 2014

Female Underside
Photo © PhiliB

Photo Album ...


History

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.

YearNameReference
1803Chequered SkipperHaworth (1803)
1819Scarce SkipperSamouelle (1819)
1853Spotted SkipperMorris (1853)

Conservation Status

The status of the Chequered Skipper in the British Isles is relatively stable, although the long-term fortunes of this species depend on the protection of its remaining sites, 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.
Decrease-44
Insufficient Data
Increase+18
Insufficient Data

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).

Habitat

The butterfly favours south-facing, sheltered areas where the larval foodplant, Purple Moor-grass, and nectar sources grow in damp grassland. Sheltered sites are often on the edge of woodland, where the foodplant flourishes in richer soils. Sites are also often situated beside a loch or river. The habitat also typically contains tall shrubs that provide perches for males defending their territory.

Distribution

 

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

There is a single generation each year, and the flight season is typically from the third week of May through to the third week of June, although this may vary if the year is considered "early" or "late".

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.

Imago

Good weather is required to see this species, which is often difficult to find during the flight period in north-west Scotland! In inclement weather, the adults shelter deep within grass tussocks. The males are the most-frequently encountered of the two sexes and are territorial. They take up position on a suitable perch from which they fly out to investigate any passing object and competing males are soon seen off. Females are less conspicuous than males, and fly low amongst the vegetation when egg-laying. Both sexes take a lot of nectar, favouring blue species such as Bluebell, Bugle and Ground Ivy.

Adults feed primarily on Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans) and Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea).

Carterocephalus palaemon Historic Specimens

Chequered Skipper - imago - Glasdrum Wood - 04-Jun-06 (0215)

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Jun-2006

Chequered Skipper female -  Glasdrum, Scotland 25-May-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme
25-May-2012

Chequered Skipper and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - imago - Glasdrum Wood - 27-May-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-May-2014

Chequered-Skipper- 5D38346 Lochaber 27 May 2012

Photo © IainLeach

Chequered Skipper - female - Glasdrum Wood - 27-May-14-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-May-2014

Chequered Skipper Female - Glen Loy - June 2011

Photo © PhiliB
09-Jun-2011

Chequered Skipper female - Glasdrum, Scotland 25-May-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme
25-May-2012

Chequered Skipper - female - Glasdrum Wood - 23-May-16-1-2-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-May-2016

Chequered-Skipper- 5D33494 Lochaber 27 May 2012

Photo © IainLeach

Chequered Skipper pair - Glasdrum, Scotland 25-May-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme
25-May-2012

Chequered Skipper - female - Glasdrum Wood - 22-May-16-1

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - female - Glasdrum Wood - 23-May-16-1-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-May-2016

Chequered Skippers - Glen Loy - June 2011

Photo © PhiliB
09-Jun-2011

Chequered-Skipper- 5D35795 Lochaber 9 June 2012

Photo © IainLeach

Chequered Skipper - imago - Glasdrum Wood - 02-Jun-09(4) [Mark Pike]

Photo © Mark Pike
02-Jun-2009

Chequered Skipper (female on right) 20.5.13 Glasdrum. Downland boy

Photo © downland boy
20-May-2013

Chequered Skipper - imago - Glasdrum Wood - 27-May-14-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-May-2014

Chequered Skipper - imago - Glasdrum Wood - 28-May-12-9

Photo © Pete Eeles

Chequered Skipper Female - Glen Loy - June 2014

Photo © PhiliB

Chequered Skipper - imago - Glasdrum Wood - 02-Jun-06 (0199)

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jun-2006

Photo Album (71 photos) ...


Ovum

The large, pale, spherical eggs are laid singly on the underside of a tall blade of grass.

Chequered Skipper3 [Martin Warren]

Photo © Martin Warren

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 13-Jun-14-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2014

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 13-Jun-14-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2014

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 13-Jun-14-11

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2014

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 13-Jun-14-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2014

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 15-Jun-15-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Jun-2015

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 15-Jun-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Jun-2015

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 22-Jun-15-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Jun-2015

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 22-Jun-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Jun-2015

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 27-May-16-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 27-May-16-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 27-May-16-9

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 27-May-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 28-Jun-15-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jun-2015

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 11-Jun-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-Jun-2016

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 28-Jun-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jun-2015

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 30-May-16-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 30-May-16-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 30-May-16-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - ovum - Glasdrum Wood - 30-May-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-May-2016

Photo Album (20 photos) ...


Larva

The larva emerges from the egg after about 10 days, depending on the weather, and forms a tube in which to live by drawing the margins of the leaf together with silk. It leaves this tube to feed, making characteristic notches in the blade of grass both above and below the tube. The larva moves to a new leaf when the current leaf, excluding the midrib and tube, has been eaten. The fully-grown larva changes from green to a straw colour before overwintering in a hibernaculum, which it prepares by binding together 3 or 4 dead grass blades with silk.

The primary larval foodplant is Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea).

Chequered Skipper5 [Martin Warren]

Photo © Martin Warren
Larval feeding damage

Chequered Skipper - larval feeding damage - Glasdrum Wood, Scotland - 01-Sep-14-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2014

Chequered Skipper - larval feeding damage - Glasdrum Wood, Scotland - 01-Sep-14-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2014

Chequered Skipper - larval feeding damage - Glasdrum Wood, Scotland - 01-Sep-14-7

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2014

Chequered Skipper - larval feeding damage - Glasdrum Wood, Scotland - 01-Sep-14-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2014

Chequered Skipper - larval feeding damage - Glasdrum Wood, Scotland - 01-Sep-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2014

Photo Album (6 photos) ...


1st Instar

Description to be completed.

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 02-Jul-15-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 02-Jul-15-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 02-Jul-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 11-Jun-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-Jun-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 13-Jun-16-28

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 13-Jun-16-36

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 13-Jun-16-42

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 13-Jun-16-46

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 21-Jun-16-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 22-Jun-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Jun-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 24-Jun-15-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Jun-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 24-Jun-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Jun-2015

Photo Album (12 photos) ...


2nd Instar

Description to be completed.

Chequered Skipper - larva (2nd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 02-Jul-15-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (2nd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 02-Jul-15-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (2nd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 02-Jul-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jul-2015

Photo Album (3 photos) ...


3rd Instar

Description to be completed.

Chequered Skipper - larva (3rd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 04-Jul-16-30

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Jul-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (3rd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 04-Jul-16-37

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Jul-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (3rd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 04-Jul-16-47

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Jul-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (3rd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 04-Jul-16-53

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Jul-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (3rd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 18-Jul-15-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
18-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (3rd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 18-Jul-15-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
18-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (3rd instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 18-Jul-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
18-Jul-2015

Photo Album (7 photos) ...


4th Instar

Description to be completed.

Chequered Skipper [Tony Millard]

Photo © Tony Millard

Chequered Skipper - larva (4th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 23-Jul-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (4th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 23-Jul-16-12

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (4th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 23-Jul-16-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (4th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 23-Jul-16-19

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (4th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 23-Jul-16-20

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (4th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 28-Jul-15-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (4th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 28-Jul-15-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jul-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (4th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 28-Jul-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jul-2015

Photo Album (9 photos) ...


5th Instar

Description to be completed.

Chequered Skipper [Tom Prescott]

Photo © Tom Prescott

Chequered Skipper - larva - Glasdrum Wood, Scotland - 01-Sep-14-7

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2014

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 03-Apr-16-12

Photo © Pete Eeles
03-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 21-Aug-15-12

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Aug-2015

Chequered Skipper3 [Tony Millard]

Photo © Tony Millard

Chequered Skipper3 [BC Scotland]

Photo © BC Scotland

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 26-Aug-15-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
26-Aug-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 05-Sep-15-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
05-Sep-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 10-Apr-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 29-Aug-15-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Aug-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva - Glasdrum Wood, Scotland - 01-Sep-14-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2014

Chequered Skipper - larva - Glasdrum Wood, Scotland - 18-Sep-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
18-Sep-2014

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 21-Mar-16-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Mar-2016

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 21-Aug-15-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Aug-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 26-Aug-15-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
26-Aug-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 12-Nov-15-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Nov-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 28-Oct-15-2-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Oct-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 12-Nov-15-7

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Nov-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 21-Aug-15-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Aug-2015

Chequered Skipper - larva (5th instar) - Glasdrum Wood - 12-Nov-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Nov-2015

Photo Album (54 photos) ...


Pupa

On emerging from the hibernaculum in April, the larva rests for several days without feeding. It then spins several blades of dead grass together, forming a shelter within which it pupates, the pupa resembling a piece of withered grass. This stage lasts approximately 6 weeks.

palaemon ppe [Wolfgang Wagner]

Photo © Wolfgang Wagner
www.pyrgus.de

palaemon ppeschl [Wolfgang Wagner]

Photo © Wolfgang Wagner
www.pyrgus.de. Pupa prior to emergence.

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 07-Apr-16-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 07-Apr-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 10-Apr-16-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 10-Apr-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 12-May-16-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 12-May-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 14-Apr-16-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
14-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 14-Apr-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
14-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 18-May-16-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
18-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 18-May-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
18-May-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 22-Apr-16-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 22-Apr-16-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 22-Apr-16-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Apr-2016

Chequered Skipper - pupa - Glasdrum Wood - 22-Apr-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Apr-2016

Photo Album (16 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

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

Similar Species

No similar species found.

Videos


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Aurivillius (1925) Aurivillius, C. (1925) In Seitz: Die Großschmetterlinge der Erde.
Haworth (1803) Haworth, A.H. (1803) Lepidoptera Britannica.
Latreille (1809) Latreille, P.A. (1809) Genera crustaceorum et insectorum secundum ordinem naturalem in familias disposita, iconibus exemplisque plurimis explicata.
Lederer (1852) Lederer, J. (1852) Verhandlungen der Zoologisch-Botanischen Vereins in Wien.
Mackworth-Praed (1945) Mackworth-Praed, C.W. (1945) Three Seasons in the Western Highlands. Entomologist's Monthly Magazine.
Morris (1853) Morris, Rev.F.O. (1853) A History of British Butterflies.
Pallas (1771) Pallas, P.S. (1771) Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des russischen Reichs.
Samouelle (1819) Samouelle, G. (1819) The Entomologist's Useful Compendium.