Thursday, 1 July 2010

BUTTERFLY: Skippers: Large and Small, Lancashire and Cumbria

June 19-30, 2010:
Large Skippers and Small Skippers are superficially of similar appearance. Whilst the Large Skipper is found throughout most of the country almost as far north as central Scotland, the Small Skipper's northern limit (whilst quite similar) is further south, where it reaches south Cumbria on the west side and somewhat further north on the east. Both species occupy grassy areas, such as meadows, waste ground and roadside verges, and utilise various species of grass as their larval food plant. The males of both species possess a prominent dark line of scent scales on the upper side of the fore wing; this is absent in the females. The Large Skipper is best differentiated from its close relative in its possession of small, almost rectangular, contrasting pale markings, best seen on the upper surface of the wings. The Small Skipper is unmarked in this way and sometimes appears paler overall. It emerges about two weeks later than the Large Skipper. Personal observations suggest that the Small Skipper exhibits a lower, more fluttering type of flight, and appears slighty smaller and paler when seen on the wing compared to the Large Skipper.

Top four photos below: Small Skipper. Lowest two photos: Large Skipper. The dark line of the males' scent scales can be seen on the upper surfaces of the forewings. All shown are males except for the top photo and the right-hand butterfly in the second photo (which are both females).

[Small Skipper (four above), Large Skipper (two below)

[Variously photographed at Gait Barrows and Heysham (Lancashire) and Latterbarrow (Cumbria), June 19-30, 2010]

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