A small butterfly with a darting flight, widespread in England and Wales. Bright orange-brown wings held with forewings angled above hind wings. Males have thin black line through centre of forewing, parallel to leading edge. Small Skipper is similar but lacks black tips to antenna (best viewed head on) and has longer scent brand, angled to edge of forewing.

Essex Skipper butterflies closely resemble and are often found in company with Small Skippers. Because of the similarities, the Essex Skipper has been overlooked both in terms of recording and ecological study, and it was the last British resident species to be described (in 1889).

The distribution of the Essex Skipper in Britain has more than doubled in the last few decades.

Size and Family

  • Family: Skippers
  • Size: Small 
  • Wing Span Range (male to female) - 27-30mm

Conservation Status

  • Butterfly Conservation priority: Low
  • Low European Status: Not threatened

Caterpillar Foodplants

The main species used is Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata), although the butterfly may use several other grasses including Creeping Soft-grass (Holcus mollis), Common Couch (Elytrigia repens), Timothy (Phleum pratense), Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), and Tor-grass (B. pinnatum). It rarely uses Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus), the preferred foodplant of the Small Skipper.



Found in tall, dry grasslands in open sunny situations, especially roadside verges, woodland rides and acid grasslands as well as coastal marshes.


  • Countries: England and Wales
  • Widespread in southern and central England, but not in far south-west
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = Britain: +46%

Essex Skipper (male/upperwing) by David Dennis

Essex Skipper (male/upperwing)

Essex Skipper (underwing) by Keith Warmington

Essex Skipper (underwing)

Essex Skipper (female/upperwing) by Peter Eeles

Essex Skipper (female/upperwing)