Grizzled Skipper

Pyrgus malvae (PEER-guss MAL-vee)

Grizzled-Skipper- 5D30293. Lincs, April 2015
Photo © IainLeach

23 - 29mm

Checklist Number

Family:Hesperiidae (Latreille, 1809)
Subfamily:Pyrginae (Burmeister, 1878)
Genus:Pyrgus (Hübner, 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

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Conservation Status

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

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Priority Species
Click here to access the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for this species.

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 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. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Abbots Wood, Aldbury Nowers, Alner's Gorse, Ardley Quarry, Arundel Park, Aston Rowant NNR, Aston Upthorpe Downs, Badbury Rings, Banstead Downs, Banstead Woods, Beckley Woods, Bernwood Meadows, Bingham Linear Park, Bishops Itchington, Bison Hill, Black Rock, Blue Lagoon, Bonchurch Down, Botley Wood, Bowdown Woods, Brackett's Coppice, Braunton Burrows, Brigstock, Brown's Folly, Buckland Wood, Carymoor Environmental Centre, Cerne Hill Giant, Chambers Farm Wood, Chawridge Bank, Clubmen's Down, Cotley Hill, Cribb's Meadow, Crook Peak, Dancersend, Dean Hill (West), Denbies Hillside, Dolebury Warren, Dolgoch Quarry, Draycott Sleights, Duchie's Piece, Duncliffe Woods, Dungeness, Dunsford Meadow, Durlston Country Park, Durlston NNR, Earl's Hill, East Poldens Reserves, Ewyas Harold Common, Eyarth Rocks, Farley Mount Country Park, Fifehead Wood, Finemere Wood, Fontmell Down, Foulden Common, Frog Firle Farm, Garston Wood, Goblin Combe, Grangelands, Green Lane Wood, Greenham Common, Gurney Slade, Haldon Butterfly Walk, Hambledon Hill, Hartslock, Heyshott Escarpment, Higher Hyde, Hod Hill, Hog Cliff Bottom, Holtspur Valley Reserves, Homefield Wood, Howe Park Wood, Hutchinsons Bank, Jerry's Hole, Kemsing Downs, Ketton Quarry, Kingcombe Meadows, Kingcombe Redholm, Kingcombe Stones, Lankham Bottom, Laughton Common Wood, Levin Down, Llanymynech Rocks, Loggerheads Country Park, Lydford Old Railway, Lydlinch Common, Magdalen Hill Down, Malling Down, Martin Down, Mere Down, Merthyr Mawr, Middleton Down, Mill Hill, Miners Rest, Monk's Wood, Mount Fancy Reserve, Nagshead, Narborough Reserve, Nupend Wood, Old Winchester Hill, Orlestone Forest, Over Cutting, Park Corner Heath, Penhale Sands, Piddles Wood, Polhill Bank, Powerstock Common, Prestwood Picnic Site, Rowland Wood, Ryton Woods Meadows, Salcey Forest, Saltbox Hill, Sovell Down, Springhead, Stockbridge Down, Stoke Camp, Stubhampton Bottom, Tadnoll, Thurlbear Quarrylands, Tickenham Ridge, Torr Works, Trench Wood, Tring Park, Trosley Country Park, Tucking Mill, Twyford Wood, Twywell Hills and Dales, Ubley Warren, Upton Heath, Walton Common, Warburg Reserve, Watlington Hill, Whipsnade, White Hill Reserve, White Sheet Hill, Whitecross Green Wood, Whitehawk Hill, Whiteley Pastures, Wolfhamcote, Woodside, Yoesden Bank

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).

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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

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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 - 25-Jun-11 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles

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

Photo © Pete Eeles

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

Photo © Pete Eeles

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

Photo © Reg Fry

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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

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Description to be completed.

This section shows those aberrations for which there is a corresponding image. Click here to see the descriptions of other aberrations for this species.

Unclassified Aberrations

Grizzled Skipper Female (Aberration) - Chaldon, Surrey 24-April-10

Photo © Vince Massimo

Grizzled Skipper ab - Cissbury Ring, Sussex. May 2013 [Debbie Edlin]

Photo © Debbie Edlin

Grizzled Skipper Ab. - Martin Down - 18-05-2014

Photo © Gary.N

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ab. intermedia [b] (Oberthür.(nom.preoc.Schilde)

The white markings of the upperside intermediate between the type and ab. taras. The white spots above the inner margin of the forewings are united into an oblong blotch and the discoidal spot is united with the next spot into another oblong blotch. Hindwings with a row of white marginal spots and one spot in the middle of the wing.

Grizzled Skipper ab. intermedia, Beckley Woods, 8 May 2008

Photo © Neil Hulme

Grizzled Skipper ab.intermedia, Langdon Hills,Essex,26 May 2013.

Photo © essexbuzzard

Grizzled Skipper ab. intermedia Willow Park, Essex - May 16th 2012

Photo © Trev Sawyer

Grizzled Skipper. ab. intermedia. 25/5/2015. Ringmer. East Sussex.

Photo © badgerbob

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ab. taras (Bergsträ

= althaeae Esper.Eur.Schmett.178l.1.p.4 and p.149.
= fritillum Fabricius.Mantissa.Ina.1787.2.p.91.
= lavaterao Haworth.Lep.Brit.1803.p.52.
= alveolus Hü

On the upper and underside the white spots of the forewings are confluent, forming a large white central area. Hindwings with the white spots reduced to a single one in the centre of the wing and a row of small white marginal spots.

Grizzled Skipper (ab.taras) - Sussex 7-May-2010

Photo © Neil Hulme

Grizzled Skipper (ab. taras) - undisclosed site 12-June-2015

Photo © Allan.W.

Grizzled Skipper (ab. taras) - Rowland Wood, Sussex 2-June-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme

Grizzled Skipper ab. taras - Willow Park, Essex - May 29th 2012

Photo © Trev Sawyer

Photo Album ...

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:

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.
Hübner (1819) Hübner, J. (1819) Verzeichniss bekannter Schmettlinge.
Latreille (1809) Latreille, P.A. (1809) Genera crustaceorum et insectorum secundum ordinem naturalem in familias disposita, iconibus exemplisque plurimis explicata.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.