2014 Scottish Chequered Skipper Survey


The good news, particularly for those that missed out on the survey in 2012 and 2013, is that we are repeating the survey again in 2014!

Background to the survey

Current records suggest that the Chequered Skipper butterfly is restricted to within a 30 mile radius of Fort William.  However, recent research shows that the current distribution of the butterfly may be underestimated by around 20% at a 10km square resolution and possibly by as much as 80% at a 1km scale!  In 2012 and 2013 we therefore encouraged volunteers to survey the top 100 1km squares predicted by computer modelling to be the most suitable for the butterfly, but where it has not previously been seen.

2012 Results

Over 50 volunteers signed up to take part, resulting in visits to 49 squares, which included repeat visits by different surveyors to some squares.

  • Chequered Skipper was recorded in just over 40% of all visits.
  • 36 different squares, out of the 100 targeted, were surveyed with the butterfly being found in 15 of these, but not in 21.
  • Chequered Skipper was also recorded in an additional 15 new 1km squares, although these squares were not part of the targeted 100 squares.

2013 Results

There was similar interest in the survey however, visits were made to only 18 squares.

  • Chequered Skipper was recorded on 41% of all visits.
  • The butterfly was recorded in just six squares, although it had previously been seen in one of these in 2012. Of the remaining five, four were visited in 2012 and Chequered Skipper not found, with the fifth being a square that was not visited in 2012.
  • Amazingly the butterfly was also found in an additional 33 new squares that were not part of the top 100!

2012 and 2013 Combined Results

Over the two seasons Chequered Skipper was recorded in 68 different new 1km squares!  This has increased the occurrence of the butterfly by around 27% at a 1km resolution, a fantastic result.

2014 Plans

The aim and methodology remain the same, to target recording at the top 100 1km squares that were predicted, through computer modelling, to be the most suitable for the butterfly in Scotland, but where it has not previously been recorded.  However, the priorities have slightly changed after two years of survey effort. Over those two years 42 of the top one hundred squares have been visited with the butterfly being seen in 20 of them but not in 22, thus leaving 58 squares that have never been surveyed. The priority for 2014 is to survey these 58 squares along with the 22 which have previously been visited but where the butterfly was not recorded.


The top 100 1km squares are distributed from Sutherland in the north, to Cowal in the south, from Mull in the west to Spean Bridge in the east.  Further details of these squares can be found in the survey table which lists the squares by location, with links to 13 regional maps and priorities for 2014 .

What to do

The survey requires a visit of at least one hour to one of the selected 1km squares during the flight period of the butterfly, usually mid-May to the end of June.  Full instructions are given on the 2014 Chequered Skipper survey form. (This link downloads the form as a word document).


Anytime during the flight period of the butterfly, (mid May to the end of June), although preferably during the peak of its flight period, (usually the last week of May and first ten days of June).  You will need a sunny day or at least one with a few sunny spells.

How to find Chequered Skipper

In Scotland the Chequered Skipper is usually found in sunny glades or along the edges of damp woodland and along tracksides and under powerlines.  The butterfly requires areas of lush purple moor-grass (the caterpillar's foodplant) and this is often found growing near bog myrtle.  The adult butterflies can be found in or near this habitat particularly where there are suitable nectar plants e.g. bugle, bluebell, marsh thistle and orchids, growing nearby in sunny, sheltered locations.

In warm and sunny weather the adults are extremely active and fly with a swift, darting, almost moth-like manner that is difficult to follow as they 'skip' just above the vegetation. The males guard their territories from favourite perches - often scrub, bracken or bog myrtle -flying out to inspect passing insects with the aim of pursuing rival males and intercepting females. Females tend to be encountered in more open areas searching for suitable breeding sites. The butterfly could be mistaken for a small day-flying moth and is thus easily overlooked.

For more information

See our Chequered Skipper leaflet for more information about the butterfly.
Or please contact Tom Prescott for details of the survey tprescott@butterfly-conservation.org