Photo © David Miller
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Essex Skipper - Thymelicus lineola
Family - Hesperiidae
Unlike its name, the Essex Skipper can now be found over much of the southern half of England, much of Europe, southern Scandinavia, Asia and North Africa. There is a single generation each year with adults on the wing throughout July and August. A small butterfly with a darting flight, it is a UK resident and is widespread in England and Wales. Bright orange-brown wings held with fore wings angled above hindwings.
Essex Skipper butterflies closely resemble and are often found in company with Small Skippers. Males ♂ have a thin black line through centre of fore-wing, parallel to leading edge. The Small Skipper is very similar but lacks the black tips to its antenna. Because of the similarities, the Essex Skipper has been overlooked both in terms of recording and ecological study. The simplest means of distinguishing between the two species in the field is by examining the undersides of the tips of their club-shaped antennae, they are black in the Essex Skipper and orange or brown in the Small Skipper.
The range of the Essex Skipper is expanding with its distribution in Britain has having more than doubled in the last few decades. Introduced to North America in 1910, where it has spread widely and become a pest of hay crops.
Found in tall, dry grasslands in open sunny situations, roadside verges, woodland rides, and acid grasslands, as well as coastal marshes. The main food plant species of the Essex Skipper is Cock's-foot - Dactylis glomerata, although the butterfly may use several other Grasses including Creeping Soft-grass - Holcus mollis, Couch - Elymus repens, Timothy - Phleum pratense, Meadow Foxtail - Alopecurus pratensis, False Brome - Brachypodium sylvaticum. Rarely uses Yorkshire-fog - B. pinnatum, the preferred food plant of the Small Skipper.
Bradley & Fletcher #1527
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