Large Skipper

Ochlodes sylvanus (okk-LOH-deez sil-VAY-nuss)

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

Male: 29 - 34mm
Female: 31 - 36mm

Checklist Number

Family:HesperiidaeLatreille, 1809
Subfamily:HesperiinaeLatreille, 1809
Genus:OchlodesScudder, 1872
Species:sylvanus(Esper, 1779)

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This is one of the largest of our "golden" skippers and, like these other skippers, the male has a distinctive sex brand on its forewings containing specialised scent scales. Although this species forms discrete colonies, it is widespread and can be found in England and Wales as far north as Ayrshire in the west and North Northumberland in the east. This species is not found in Ireland or the Isle of Man, and is restricted to Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Taxonomy Notes

Verity (1919) considered the north European individuals, including those from the British Isles, to be a separate race due to the level of melanism exhibited. He named this race septentrionalis.

Ochlodes sylvanus

This species was first defined in Esper (1779) as shown here and as shown in this plate (type locality: Germany).

Large Skipper male, Crymlyn Burrows, Swansea, 10.06.2013

Photo © David M

Male Large Skipper. 16/6/2014. Arlington, East Sussex.

Male Underside
Photo © badgerbob

Large Skipper Female - Chaldon, Surrey 12-June-10

Photo © Vince Massimo

Large Skipper (female), (Ochlodes faunus), West Sussex (19 June 2012)

Female Underside
Photo © Mark Colvin

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Conservation Status

This status of this butterfly is considered stable and this species is not currently of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Not Listed

The table above shows the distribution and population trends of species regularly found in the British Isles. The distribution trend represents a comparison between data for the periods 1995-1999 and 2005-2009. The information provided is taken from the Butterfly Conservation report The State of the UK's Butterflies 2011. The UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


This species is found in sheltered areas of grassland, where grasses grow tall. Typical sites include meadows, hedgerows, roadside verges, woodland rides and woodland clearings. It can also be found in urban areas, such as parks and churchyards.



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 is on the wing in June and July, with some individuals being seen in August. 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.


Like many other skippers, the male of this species alternates between perching, patrolling, basking and feeding. Patrolling behaviour is normally exhibited late-morning, with perching behaviour the norm in the early morning and afternoon. When perching, the males will defend their territory vigorously, and see off any butterfly that intrudes. Typical perches are sunlit leaves at a height of around a metre from the ground. Both sexes take nectar, and are particularly fond of Bramble and Thistle. Egg-laying is normally performed during the early afternoon. An egg-laying female makes a short flight in between laying one egg and the next on the underside of a blade of grass.

Adults feed primarily on Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis), Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.), Privet (Ligustrum vulgare), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.), Vetches (Vicia spp.) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

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Egg-laying sites are normally sheltered spots in sunlight, where the grass grows fairly tall, up to at least 30cm in height. Eggs are white when first laid, gradually becoming orange and then a pearly white just prior to hatching. This stage lasts around 2 weeks.

Large Skipper Ovum (one day before hatching) - Somerset - 29/07/14

Photo © William

Large Skipper - ovum - Pamber Forest - 23-Jul-15

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Skipper ovum - Oxfordshire 23rd-July- 2014

Photo © Maximus

Large Skipper - ovum - Pamber Forest - 12-Jul-15

Photo © Pete Eeles

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The larva eats its eggshell on hatching, before forming a protective tube by spinning together the edges of a leaf blade. In the early instars, the larva feeds on the leaf above the tube. In later instars, several leaves may be spun together when forming a tube and the larva may travel further to seek food. The larva creates new tubes as required, either as a result of the lack of food in the immediate vicinity, or its increasing size. After the 4th moult, the larva forms a stout tube in which to hibernate. In spring, the larvae resume feeding and the larval stage may last a lengthy 330 days in total.

The primary larval foodplant is Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata). False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea), Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) and Wood Small-reed (Calamagrostis epigejoss) are also used.

Large Skipper Larva - Somerset - 09/08/15

Photo © William

Ochlodes sylvanus - Larva (Memmingen, S-Germany, May 2013) [Wolfgang Wagner]

Photo © Wolfgang Wagner

Large Skipper Larva (eating eggshell) - Somerset - 29/07/14

Photo © William

Large Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Pamber Forest - 23-Jul-14

Photo © Pete Eeles

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The larva moults once more before pupating within a tent that is constructed from several grass blades. The pupal stage lasts approximately 3 weeks.

Large Skipper - pupa - Unknown location - Uknown date (2) [Ben Smart]

Photo © Ben Smart

Large Skipper - pupa - Unknown location - Uknown date [Ben Smart]

Photo © Ben Smart

Ochlodes sylvanus - Puppe (e.l. Memmingen 2013) [Wolfgang Wagner]

Photo © Wolfgang Wagner

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Description to be completed.

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

Similar Species

Essex Skipper

Description to be completed.

Silver-spotted Skipper

Description to be completed.

Small Skipper

Description to be completed.


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.


The species description provided here references the following publications:

Esper (1779) Esper, E.J.C. (1779) Die Schmetterlinge in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen.
Latreille (1809) Latreille, P.A. (1809) Genera crustaceorum et insectorum secundum ordinem naturalem in familias disposita, iconibus exemplisque plurimis explicata.
Scudder (1872) Scudder, S.H. (1872) Annual Report of the Trustees of the Peabody Academy of Science.
Verity (1919) Verity, R. (1919) Seasonal Polymorphism and Races of some European Grypocera. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation.