Is it a moth is it a butterfly? Part 3 – The Large Skipper

The Large Skipper (Ochlodes faunus) see image 1, the final skipper that has been recorded on campus, is again orange, but is much larger than both the Small and Essex Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris and T. lineola) with a wingspan up to 35mm. As with the other Skippers, rough grassland-conservation grassland is perfect, with tall grasses being favoured. The species has extended northwards since the 1960s, probably as a result of climate change and presently, the large skipper has just reached over the border between Scotland and England see NBN.

The Large Skipper has one generation a year, being found from June to July and, depending on the weather, possibly August. With the caterpillar food-plant Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) see image 2 being favored, along with a range of other tall grasses including Purple Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea). The eggs are laid on the underside of the leaf blades, hatching within 2 weeks. Development of the caterpillar continues with 4 moults taking place before it forms a tube to hibernate the winter. In the spring the caterpillar emerges to feed again before pupating. The species forms a tube to feed from by sticking the edge of a leaf blade together with silk, like the other skippers.

The most identifiable features of this species are:

  • Males have a large and thick sex brand, the black line on the wing, made from scent scales see image 4
  • Distinct brown-black scales over the wing veins
  • Thick brown-black edge at the front of the hindwing
  • Distinctive light orange patches on the wings giving a more patterned effect which can be seen from above and below.
  • A black then white wing margin that fades significantly into the main wing

Fact: The larval stage can last up to 330 days!

Sites you may wish to visit are:

Please record any sighting including the date, in the comments section for assessment by subsequent authors.

We thank photographers from UK Butterflies for permission to use their images.  Individual credits are given with each image.

About Justin Anthony Groves

As a student of Ecology and Conservation at Reading University i am very interested many other insect groups, botany and the interaction in nature. Over a number of blogs I hope to pass my knowledge to others but also gain from the many other interesting posts.
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