The Essex Skipper is a butterfly seen in many kinds of rough grassland including roadside verges, railway and motorway embankments and chalk downland.
This little butterfly is similar in appearance to the Small Skipper. The Essex Skipper has abruptly-differentated black (never grey or brown) tips to its antennae, the sharp change in colour being visible from the underside as well as from above.
In Britain this darting butterfly is now distributed quite widely over southern England and Wales; it is also recorded in Ireland.
Elsewhere, the Essex Skipper is found throughout most of central and southern Europe and in the northern countries of Africa. Its range extends eastwards into parts of Asia.
The larval foodplants of the Essex Skipper include various coarse grasses including Couch Grass, Tor-grass and Cocksfoot.
Essex Skippers produce a single brood. They lay their eggs inside grass sheathes during July and August. The caterpillars emerge and then go into hibernation until winter is over.
In spring the caterpillars begin feeding on grass, and when fully developed in early June they pupate in the bases of grass tussocks. The adults can be seen in flight between late May and late August, depending on location.
Essex Skipper butterflies take nectar from many kinds of wildflowers including the various knapweeds (Knautia spp) and many other thistles.
This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Betty and Tony Rackham.
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