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ESSEX Skipper   <>   Thymelicus  lineola  <>  LÉimneoir Essex

Essex Skipper, Fardystown, Wexford, 2007. Note the diffuse black border. On the Small Skipper this black border is well defined.

Essex Skipper, Fardystown, Wexford, 2007. Note the black tip of the ventral surface of (R) antenna, (L) not seen here. These ventral tips are orange or brown on the Small Skipper.

 Essex Skipper                 ©DHardiman 2007  Essex Skipper          ©DHardiman 2007



Essex  Skipper


The Essex Skipper was discovered in Ireland in Co. Wexford in August 2006. 

Intensive investigation in 2007 revealed additional sites in Co. Wexford and substantial numbers of adults were recorded. 

This butterfly was first reported in Britain from Essex in 1889 and currently is spreading northwards and westwards from its headquarters which some years ago approximated to the area south of a line from the Humber to the Severn. It has recently become established in the southwest of Wales. 
It occurs throughout Europe and in Northern Africa eastward to eastern Asia. 

It is not known as a migrant and how and when it arrived in Ireland is a mystery.


Typical habitat of Essex Skipper includes rough tall grassland, verges, open fields and woodland rides. 
It shares the same habitats as Thymelicus sylvestris (Small Skipper) which it closely resembles.

Larval food plant: It's favoured food plant is Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata). Although other choices may include Creeping Soft Grass (Holcus mollis), Couch Grass (Elymus repens), Timothy-grass (Phleum pratense), Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) and Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum).

Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata)


Flight time: 

July - early August.  


Overwinters as young larva in eggshell (pharate larva) and emerges the following April when it commences to feed and mature on it's food plant.

[pharate `Cloaked': describing a larva or adult when inside the cuticle of the previous developmental stage. ]

Pharate Essex Skipper Larvae     © DHardiman 2009





Life Cycle of Essex Skipper



Eggs are oval with flattened sides, appear smooth and are approx. 0.3mm wide. Pale yellow when first laid deepening to yellow-orange after a few days. After 20-25 days the small larval head becomes visible through the transparent eggshell.

They are laid in a row on the leaf sheaths of grasses.

Essex Skipper Ova  ©DHardiman 2009

Essex Skipper Ova 
© DHardiman 2009


The young larva fully develops in the egg, within which it overwinters. 
It emerges in spring and does not eat its eggshell. 
Initially it begins feeding on the blade of grass but within a few days it spins the edges of a leaf blade to form a tube from which it and subsequent instars emerge to feed on leaf tips until June.

Pharate Larva visible  through shell ©DHardiman 2009
Larva visible  through shell  © DHardiman 2009

 The mature 5th instar larva has a pale green head with brown and white longitudinal bands


Essex Skipper larva



When fully-grown, the larva spins a tent of leaves at the base of the foodplant in which it pupates. It attaches itself  to a blade of  grass by a cremaster and silk girdle. The pupal stage lasts approximately 3 weeks.



Essex Skipper, Fardystown, Wexford, 2007. © D Hardiman

Essex Skipper                          ©DHardiman 2007


Essex Skipper on Yorkshire-fog. Fardystown, Wexford, 2007 © D Hardiman

Essex Skipper                          ©DHardiman 2007


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