Chequered Skipper

  • Chequered Skipper (upperwing)
    Chequered Skipper (upperwing)
  • Chequered Skipper
    Chequered Skipper
  • Chequered Skipper (underwing)
    Chequered Skipper (underwing)
  • Chequered Skipper
    Chequered Skipper (video)

Scientific name: Carterocephalus palaemon

The Chequered Skipper is a small, fast-flying butterfly, with beautiful gold and brown patterned wings. It is confined to western Scotland.

It became extinct in England in 1976 and re-establishment trials have taken place since 1990. In Scotland, there are thought to be about ten core areas and there have been no obvious recent changes in range.

The males are seen more frequently than females, perching in sheltered positions, either next to wood edges or amongst light scrub or bracken. They dart out to investigate passing objects, defending their territory against other males and other butterfly species, or in the hope of locating a potential mate.

The females are less conspicuous as they have paler markings and fly low among grasses when egg-laying.

The egg is a textured pale white and laid singly on tall blades of grass; Wood False Brome or, more usually, Purple Moor Grass. This stage of its life cycle lasts for around ten days.

Once emerged from the egg, the caterpillar forms a tube from the blade of grass usiing silk cords. It lives in this tube when not feeding and, once the blade of grass is eaten, moves on to another. It moults five times, then hibernates in a grass tent-like structure until spring.

The caterpillar turns into a chrysalis in spring, well camouflaged amongst dead leaf blades until the adult buttterfly emerges in mid-May.

Size and Family

  • Family – Skippers
  • Small Sized 
  • Wing Span Range (male to female) - 29-31mm

Conservation status

  • Protected under the Nature Conservation Act in Scotland
  • UK BAP: Priority Species    
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: High                         
  • European status: Not threatened             
  • Protected In Great Britain for sale only

Caterpillar Foodplant Description

The main foodplant in Scotland is Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea). In England most records were on False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), though a range of grasses may have been used as they are in continental Europe.

Life Cycle 

Habitat

In Scotland, the butterfly breeds on open damp grassland dominated by tall Purple Moor-grass. It prefers sites on the edges of open broad-leaved woodland, as richer soils produce a lusher growth of the foodplant.

Former colonies in England occurred in woodland rides and glades, and occasionally in fens or ungrazed calcareous grassland amongst scrub. It may also have bred formerly in damp coppiced woodland, as it does elsewhere in northern Europe.

Distribution

  • Countries – England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • Restricted to a small area of western Scotland. Formerly occurred in woodlands in eastern England but died out there in 1976.
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = -38%

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