Grizzled Skipper

  • Grizzled Skipper (upperwing)
    Grizzled Skipper (upperwing)
  • Grizzled Skipper (underwing)
    Grizzled Skipper (underwing)
  • Grizzled Skipper (egg)
    Grizzled Skipper (egg)
  • Grizzled Skipper (upperwing)
    Grizzled Skipper (upperwing)
  • Grizzled Skipper (underwing)
    Grizzled Skipper (underwing)
  • Grizzled Skipper (egg)
    Grizzled Skipper (egg)

Scientific name: Pyrgus malvae

The Grizzled Skipper is a small, low-flying springtime butterfly with a striking black and white appearance.

It is found throughout England and Wales, but becoming increasingly rare. Its wings are black or dark brown, with a checker-board of white spots.  The Dingy Skipper butterfly is similar in size, but its wings are much duller and some day-flying moths look similar when in flight.

The Grizzled Skipper is a characteristic spring butterfly of southern chalk downland and other sparsely vegetated habitats. Its  rapid, darting style of flight can make it difficult to follow, but it stops regularly either to perch on a prominent twig, bask in the sun on bare ground for long stretches, or to feed on flowers such as Common Bird's-foot-trefoil or Bugle. It can then be identified quite easily by the checkerboard pattern on its wings.

The dome-shaped pale green eggs are laid singly on the undersides of leaves in warm spots near low vegetation or bare ground.

The emerging caterpillars are very small and yellow and can be found by the blotches left on leaves after they have fed. As it grows, its body becomes dark green, striped with brown. It makes a tent to live in by pulling the edges of a leaf over it with silk threads, as it mainly feeds in the early morning and evening, resting inbetween. This stage of its life lasts about two months.

The butterfly occurs across southern England, commonly in small colonies of less than 100. It has declined in several regions.In Wales it is restricted to the south coast and post-industrial sites in the north east.

Size and Family

  • Family: Skippers
  • Size: Small
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 27mm

Conservation status

  • Section 41 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in England
  • Section 42 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in Wales
  • UK BAP: Priority Species    
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: High                         
  • European status: Not threatened                     

Caterpillar Foodplants

A variety of plants from the Rosaceae family is used, mainly Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans) and Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca).
It may also use Barren Strawberry (P. sterilis), Tormentil (P. erecta), Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor), Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Dog-rose (Rosa canina), and Wood Avens (Geum urbanum).

Lifecycle

Habitat

Three main types are used by this butterfly:

  • woodland rides, glades, and clearings
  • unimproved grassland, especially chalk downland but also on other calcareous soils including clays
  • recently abandoned industrial sites such as disused mineral workings, spoil heaps, railway lines and even rubbish tips
  • occasionally it breeds on heathland, damp grassland, and dunes

Distribution

  • Countries: England and Wales
  • Scattered and declining distribution across England and Wales
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = -49%

Factsheets

Similar species