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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.
Essex Skipper Male - Chaldon, Surrey 6-July-10
Wingspan
26 - 30mm
Photo © Vince Massimo
Essex Skipper

Thymelicus lineola
thy-ME-lee-kuss
lin-ee-OH-luh
Number: 57.005
B&F No.: 1527
Family:Hesperiidae (Latreille, 1809)
Subfamily:Hesperiinae (Latreille, 1809)
Tribe: 
Genus:Thymelicus (Hübner, 1819)
Subgenus: 
Species:lineola (Ochsenheimer, 1808)
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  Introduction  

The Essex Skipper forms discrete colonies that vary from a small number of individuals to several thousand. Where it occurs it can therefore be very common. This species is very similar in appearance to the Small Skipper and, because of this similarity, was not recognised as a separate species until 1889. The male is distinguished from the female by the sex brand on its forewings, which is a short line of specialised scent scales. Despite its name, the Essex Skipper is now found over much of the southern half of England and it was first recorded in Wales in 2000 and in Wexford in south-east Ireland in 2006. On the British mainland it is to generally be found south of a line between Dorset and North Lincolnshire. It is believed that the increase in distribution is being assisted by the steep and grass-covered embankments that are often found on motorways and major trunk roads which acted as corridors – allowing this species to reach new locations more easily.

Thymelicus lineola

This species was first defined in Ochsenheimer (1808) as shown here (type locality: Germany).


Essex Skipper - Larkhill - 16-07-2013
Male
Photo © Wurzel
Essex Skipper. 16/7/2013. Alfriston, East Sussex.
Male Underside
Photo © badgerbob
Essex-skipper- 03C6249 Nottingham 24 July 2010
Female
Photo © IainLeach
Essex Skipper Female - Coulsdon, Surrey 15-July-07
Female Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

  Phenology  

There is a single generation each year with adults first emerging at the end of June, and flying throughout July and August.


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 species is found in rough grassland, including road verges, woodland rides, chalk grassland and embankments.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplant is Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata). Common Couch (Elytrigia repens), Creeping Soft-grass (Holcus mollis), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), Timothy (Phleum pratense) and Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) are also used.

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.). Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Heather (Calluna vulgaris / Erica spp.), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) and White Clover (Trifolium repens) are also used.

  Imago  

The male is the more active of the two sexes, and is territorial, unlike the female which is more sedentary. When egg-laying, females exhibit the same behaviour as the Small Skipper. Specifically, the female will alight on a dead stem of Cock's-foot, and then move backwards down the stem, probing the sheath as she moves. When a suitable opening in the furled sheath is found, she will lay several eggs inside. The female of the Essex Skipper selects tighter leaf sheaths in which to lay eggs than the Small Skipper, which may explain a difference in primary foodplant. The loose sheaths of Yorkshire–fog are avoided, the female preferring other grasses, such as Cock’s-foot or Creeping Soft-grass, whose sheaths are tighter. Both sexes are nectar-loving, and can be found visiting flowers such as Thistles and Red Clover.


Essex Skipper Female - Coulsdon, Surrey 15-July-07
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Jul-2007
Essex Skipper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 12-Jul-09 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009
Essex Skipper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 12-Jul-09 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009
Essex Skipper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 12-Jul-09 (5)
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009
Essex Skipper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 12-Jul-09 (6)
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009
Essex Skipper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 31-Jul-07 [Mike Duffy]
Photo © Mike Duffy
Essex Skipper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 20-Jul-10 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2010
Essex Skipper Female - Kenley, Surrey 20-June-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
20-Jul-2010
Essex Skipper Male - Crawley, Sussex 6-July-05
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Jul-2005
Essex Skipper Male - Chaldon, Surrey 6-July-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Jul-2010
Essex Skipper Male - Chaldon, Surrey 6-July-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Jul-2010
Essex Skipper - Penwood - 3 July 2011 (1)
Photo © Clive
03-Jul-2011
Essex Skipper Peek-a-Boo pair - MRC 19th July 2011
Photo © NickB
19-Jul-2011
Essex Skipper pair 11 MRC 19th July 2011
Photo © NickB
19-Jul-2011
Essex-Skipper- 03C5347 Nottingham 24 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Essex-Skipper- 03C5381 Nottingham 24 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Essex-Skipper- 03C5453 Nottingham 24 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Essex-skipper- 03C6249 Nottingham 24 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Essex-Skipper- 03C6999 Nottingham 24 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Essex-Skipper- 03C7798 Nottingham 21 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Essex Skipper (male), Alder Platt Meadow, West Sussex (15 July 2012)
Photo © Mark Colvin
15-Jul-2012
Essex Skipper male - Chaldon, Surrey 30-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
30-Jul-2012
Essex Skipper male - Friston, Sussex 10-Aug-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
09-Aug-2012
Essex Skipper male - Friston, Sussex 10-Aug-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
09-Aug-2012
Essex Skipper - Larkhill - 16-07-2013
Photo © Wurzel
16-Jul-2013
Essex Skipper. 16/7/2013. Alfriston, East Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
16-Jul-2013
Essex Skipper male - Castle Hills Solihull 20.07.2013
Photo © nfreem
20-Jul-2013
Essex Skipper - male - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jul-14-3
Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jul-2014
Essex Skipper - male - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jul-14-4
Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jul-2014
Essex Skipper - male - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jul-14
Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jul-2014

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

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

Unclassified Aberrations


Essex Skipper at Knowlton Church, Dorset - 15-Jul-14 [Peter Klein]
Photo © Peter Klein
15-Jul-2014

  Ovum  

Eggs are pale when first laid, gradually deepening to yellow-cream after a few days. After 3 weeks, the egg turns white, the head of the larva becoming visible as a dark spot through the transparent shell. The fully-developed larva overwinters within in the egg.

  Larva  

The larva emerges in the spring and, without eating the eggshell, starts to feed on the foodplant. After a few days, the larva forms a tube, by spinning together the edges of a leaf blade, from which it emerges to feed. There are 4 moults in total.


Essex Skipper - larva - Kent - 22-Jun-07 [Marc Heath]
Photo © Marc Heath

  Pupa  

When fully-grown, the larva spins a tent of leaves at the base of the foodplant in which it pupates, attached to a grass blade by a silk girdle and the cremaster. The pupal stage lasts about 3 weeks.

  Similar Species  

Large Skipper

Description to be completed.

Lulworth Skipper

Description to be completed.

Small Skipper

Essex Skipper and Small Skipper can be distinguished by the colour of the underside of the tips of the antennae. In the Essex Skipper, this area is black and in the Small Skipper it is brown. This holds true for both sexes.


Essex Skipper (left) and Small Skipper (right)

Males can also be distinguished by the sex brand found on the upperside of their forewings. The sex brand of a male Essex Skipper is relatively-short when compared with that of the male Small Skipper. The sex brand of a male Essex Skipper also runs parallel with the leading edge of the forewing, but at an angle in the male Small Skipper.


Male Essex Skipper (left) and Male Small Skipper (right)
  Videos  

Video © John Chapple
Essex 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
Arlington Reservoir, Aspal Close, Banstead Woods, Beachy Head, Bedfont Lakes Country Park LNR, Carymoor Environmental Centre, Durlston NNR, Fleam Dyke, Hockley Woods, Horsenden Hill, Hounslow Heath LNR, Latton Woods, Malling Down, Marks Hall Estate, Millenium Arboretum, Moors Valley Country Park, Old Winchester Hill, Pamber Forest, Pulborough Brooks (RSPB), Rookery, Ryton Woods Meadows, Stockbridge Down, Warnham LNR, Windover Hill, Winsdon Hill

  Conservation Status  

The Essex Skipper is one of the few species whose distribution is expanding rapidly, particularly in northern areas. It is not, therefore, a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Not ListedStable+8Large Decrease-67

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).


  Links  

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

  References  

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Ochsenheimer (1808) Ochsenheimer, F.: Die Schmetterlinge von Europa. 1808.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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