Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Essex Skipper:
Essex Skipper
Thymelicus lineola (Ochsenheimer, 1888)

Essex Skipper egg.
  Essex Skipper caterpillar.
  Essex Skipper chrysalis
Essex Skipper
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Hesperiidae: Subfamily Hesperiinae : Genus Thymelicus: Species lineola:
The Essex Skipper and Small Skipper are almost identical in appearance which often makes identification in the field extremely difficult even for the experienced lepidopterist as they are often found living in the same habitats and on the wing at similar times. This similarity explains why it was not until 1888 that the Essex Skipper was recognised as a separate species.

One key difference between the Essex Skipper and the
Small Skipper is that the Essex Skipper has a distinctive glossy black tip to its antennae while the Small Skipper has dull brown/orange tips. Small Skippers are also slightly more orange in appearance while the Essex Skipper tends to be more of a dull brown/tan colour.

The adult butterflies spend much of their time basking or resting on grass stems in typical 'golden skipper' style and can be seen from early June until late August although numbers have decreased dramatically by mid August.

The eggs of the Essex Skipper do not hatch until the following spring although the larvae are fully formed within the egg shell. They feed within a shelter constructed by spinning the edges of grass blades together with fine silk threads to make a narrow feeding tube which also protects the caterpillar from predators. They will however emerge and feed in the open at night and as they become larger tend to spend more time feeding in the open... even during the day. The caterpillar is green in colour with a pale yellow line running along the length of each side of its body and a dark line along its back. The head is brown.

Pupation takes place during early summer at the base of the larval food plant within a silken cocoon spun between grass blades. The pupae are pale green in colour. The adult Essex Skipper butterflies tend to emerge about three weeks after pupation with peak numbers seen during July. By September very few adults are on the wing.
The Essex Skipper is found in tall dry grasslands in open sunny locations. It is commonly found on disused railways and roadside verges where the larval foodplant grows.
The Essex Skipper can be found throughout South-East England as far west as Somerset/Dorset and as far north as South Lincolnshire and the Midlands. Its range has extended dramatically over the last 10 years.
Where to see the Essex Skipper in the British Isles
Other notes
Very difficult to distinguish from the Small Skipper in the field although experience of behavior and slight variation in wing shape and colour help to separate the two.
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Essex Skipper in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Least Concern Least Concern

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata) is the primary laval foodplant of the Essex Skipper. It rarely uses Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus).
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 insuficient data
UK Population trend 1976-2004 insuficient data

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status not listed (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Essex Skipper except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Essex Skipper on the NBN Gateway web site.
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For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Essex Skipper can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Essex Skipper can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Essex Skipper
Image ID BB1811 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1811 ©
Image ID BB1810 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1810 ©
Image ID BB1809 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1809 ©
Image ID BB1808 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1808 ©
Image ID BB1807 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1807 ©
Image ID BB1806 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1806 ©
Image ID BB1805 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1805 ©
Image ID BB1804 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1804 ©
Image ID BB1803 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1803 ©
Image ID BB1276 - Essex Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Essex Skipper male (imago)
BB1276 ©
There are 13 photographs of the Essex Skipper in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Essex Skipper as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 5 named aberrant forms of the Essex Skipper currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. brunnea - Tutt 1906
ab. clara - Tutt 1906
ab. fulva - Lempke 1953
ab. sinelinea - Lempke 1953
ab. suffusa - Tutt 1906