Lulworth Skipper

Thymelicus acteon (thy-ME-lee-kuss AK-tee-on)

Lulworth Skipper - imago - Durlston Country Park - 21-Jul-06 (0490)
Photo © Pete Eeles

Male: 24 - 27mm
Female: 25 - 28mm

Checklist Number

Family:HesperiidaeLatreille, 1809
Subfamily:HesperiinaeLatreille, 1809
Genus:ThymelicusHübner, [1819]
Species:acteon(Rottemburg, 1775)

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The Lulworth Skipper was first discovered in 1832 on a stretch of coast around the village of Lulworth in Dorset. This species forms discrete colonies, some of which can be very large, containing many thousands of individuals. The female is quite recognisable from the pale orange crescent on her forewings, which is either lacking or very feint in the male. The male is darker in colour, and has a sex brand on each forewing made up of a very fine line of scent scales. As its name suggests, this distribution of this species is centred around Lulworth in Dorset, between Weymouth and the Isle of Purbeck. It is absent from the Channel Islands. In Britain, this species is at the northern limit of its range, and is rarely found more than 5 miles from the coast. However, this is not a maritime species, except in Britain.

Thymelicus acteon

This species was first defined in Rottemburg (1775) as shown here (type locality: Germany).

Lulworth Skipper male - Bowleaze Cove Weymouth 01.07.2014

Photo © Neil Freeman

Lulworth Skipper, Lulworth Cove, Male, 22/06/2014

Male Underside
Photo © Pauline

Lulworth Skipper female - Lulworth Cove, Dorset 14-Aug-2013

Photo © Neil Hulme

Lulworth Skipper Female - Bindon Hill - 17.06.12

Female Underside
Photo © PhiliB

Photo Album ...

Conservation Status

Although the status of this butterfly is relatively stable in the British Isles, it is considered a priority species for conservation efforts due to the losses being seen in continental Europe.

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

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).


Most colonies are found on south-facing, sheltered slopes, where the tall patches of the foodplant, Tor-grass, suitable for egg-laying females, grow. Colonies are most-often encountered on chalk or limestone grassland where Tor-grass is abundant.



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 one generation each year with an extremely protracted flight period that extends from the end of May through to early September and is very site-dependent. Earliest sightings are typically from the Lulworth Cove colony. This is a species that has responded dramatically to climate change, with many books showing flight periods that no longer apply.

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 rapid flight of this butterfly makes it difficult to track when darting between flowers, favourite nectar sources including Thistles and Marjoram. Sunny conditions are needed to see this butterfly, since the species is inactive in dull weather. When egg-laying, the female will alight on a stem of flowering Tor-grass, and then move backwards down the stem, probing the sheath as she moves. There is a preference for taller plants. When a suitable opening in the furled sheath is found, she will lay up to 15 eggs inside, with 5 or 6 being typical.

Description of nectar sources to be completed.

Photo Album ...


The egg stage lasts approximately 3 weeks.

Lulworth Skipper - ova - Durlston Country Park - 30-Jul-11 [Kathryn Jones]

Photo © Kathryn Jones

Lulworth Skipper - larva (1st instar) - Ballard Down, Dorset - 15-Aug-14

Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album ...


On hatching, the larva immediately spins a cocoon on the site of the remains of the eggshell, within the grass sheath, in which it overwinters. In April, the larva emerges from the sheath and moves to a grass blade, where it forms a protective tube by spinning the edges of the leaf blade together. The larva feeds at night, eating the leaf both above and below the tube. The larva moves to new leaf blades, forming new tubes, as needed. There are 5 instars in total.

The primary larval foodplant is Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum).

Thymelicus acteon - Larva (eastern Swabian Alb, Southern Germany) [Wolfgang Wagner]

Photo © Wolfgang Wagner

Photo Album ...


The fully-grown larva forms a loose tent of grass blades, drawn together with silk at the base of the foodplant, within which it pupates. The pupa is secured by a silk girdle and the cremaster. The pupal stage lasts approximately 2 weeks.

Thymelicus acteon - Pupa [Wolfgang Wagner]

Photo © Wolfgang Wagner

Photo Album ...


Description to be completed.

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

Similar Species

Essex Skipper

Description to be completed.

Small Skipper

Description to be completed.


Watch Video

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.


The species description provided here references the following publications:

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.
Rottemburg (1775) von Rottemburg, S.A. (1775) Der Naturforscher.