Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Silver-spotted Skipper:
Silver-spotted Skipper
Hesperia comma (Linnaeus, 1758)

Silver-spotted Skipper egg.
ova
  Silver-spotted Skipper caterpillar.
larva
  Silver-spotted Skipper chrysalis
pupa
Silver-spotted Skipper
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Nomenclature
Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Hesperiidae: Subfamily Hesperiinae : Genus Hesperia: Species comma:
Description
Although it is possible to confuse the Silver-spotted Skipper with a Large Skipper in general the golden brown to dark brown upper wings with distinctive spots and golden underside with pure white spots (see photo right) really make the Silver-spotted Skipper unmistakable. The males have a clear sex brand in the form of a dark line running from the base of the upper side of the forewings which in the females is absent.

The adult butterflies of the
Large Skipper and Silver-spotted Skipper are rarely seen at the same time with the Silver-spotted Skipper being the last Skipper to appear in the summer usually in mid August by which time few if any Large Skipper are around.

The Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly is a sun worshipper, spending the majority of its short life basking on bare ground in characteristic 'golden skipper' style. Like all other Skippers, its flight is fast and darting, changing direction and speed in an instant. It feeds on late summer flowers including Knapweed, Scabious and Dwarf Thistle.

Having over wintered as a small white egg, the caterpillars emerge the following spring and spin small fine grass blades together within which they feed. The caterpillar, which is a dull olive-grey colour with a dark brown head is fully grown by late June and pupate within a cocoon near the base of the larval food plant. Adult butterflies start to appear usually in late June after about 10 days as a pupae.
Habitat
The Silver-spotted Skipper can be found on Chalk and Limestone grassland which is grazed by sheep and cattle.

Due to major habitat loss since the 1950's caused by changes in farming practices (EU policies etc) its distribution and numbers has declined dramatically. Small isolated colonies tend to become extinct very quickly so habitat management has to take place on a landscape scale in order for this species to survive.

Due to recent habitat management work in conjunction with landowners the Silver-spotted Skipper has seen recent improvements in its distribution over the last few years but continued work is needed to ensure this species survival.
Distribution
Restricted to chalk and limestone grasslands including central-southern England. Found primarily in the Chilterns, Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, East Sussex and East Kent.
Where to see the Silver-spotted Skipper in the British Isles
Hampshire: Martin Down NNR
Oxfordshire: Aston Rowant NNR
Dorset: Fontmell Down
Other notes
Kent currenty has a Biodiversity Action Plan which specifically targets threatend species such as the Silver-spotted Skipper as a response to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
Lifecycle chart
ovaovaovalarvaelarvaelarvaepupaadultpupaadultadultovaovaovaova
 
Flight chart
JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Silver-spotted 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.
Near Threatened Near Threatened

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

4More information about IUCN categories.
Wingspan
29-37mm
UK status
Resident
Larval foodplants
Sheeps Fescue (Festuca ovina) is the Silver-spotted Skippers sole larval food plant.
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 up by 2%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 up by 1524%

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 priority species (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site jncc.defra.gov.uk.

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map



Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Silver-spotted 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 Silver-spotted Skipper on the NBN Gateway web site.
Powered by NBN Gateway.
References
For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

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

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Photographs of the Silver-spotted Skipper
Image ID BB2359 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper male (imago)
BB2359 ©
Image ID BB2358 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper male (imago)
BB2358 ©
Image ID BB2357 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper male (imago)
BB2357 ©
Image ID BB2356 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper male (imago)
BB2356 ©
Image ID BB2355 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper female (imago)
BB2355 ©
Image ID BB2354 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper female (imago)
BB2354 ©
Image ID BB2353 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper female (imago)
BB2353 ©
Image ID BB2352 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper female (imago)
BB2352 ©
Image ID BB2351 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper female (imago)
BB2351 ©
Image ID BB2350 - Silver-spotted Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Silver-spotted Skipper male (imago)
BB2350 ©
There are 47 photographs of the Silver-spotted Skipper in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Silver-spotted Skipper as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 8 named aberrant forms of the Silver-spotted Skipper currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. albescen - Oberthür 1910
ab. centripunct - Tutt 1906
ab. clara - Tutt 1906
ab. conflua - Tutt 1906
ab. intermedia - Tutt 1906
ab. pallida - Mosley 1896
ab. pallidapuncta - Tutt 1906
ab. suffusa - Tutt 1906