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.
This species was first defined in Rottemburg (1775) as shown here (type locality: Germany).
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.
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.
The primary larval foodplant is Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum).
Description to be completed
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 to be completed. Click here to see a full list of aberrations for this species.
The egg stage lasts approximately 3 weeks.
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 4 moults in total.
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.
Description to be completed.
Description to be completed.
Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.
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.
From The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).
The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.
The species description provided here references the following publications:
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