A small butterfly with a low darting flight, restricted to chalk downland in southern England. Upperwings orange with brown margins and pale orange spots. Males have thick black line through centre of forewing. Underings have silver spots.

This rare skipper is restricted to chalk downs in southern England where it can be seen darting low over short turf, stopping frequently to bask on bare ground or feed on flowers such as Dwarf Thistle. It can be distinguished by the numerous silver-white spots on the undersides of the hind wings, which can be seen quite easily when it rests with wings in a characteristic 'half-open' posture. 

The Silver-spotted Skipper has declined rapidly over the last 50 years but has re-expanded partially since 1980.

Size and Family

  • Family: Skippers
  • Size: Small 
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 30-36mm

Conservation Status

  • Butterfly Conservation: Medium  
  • UK BAP status: not listed (formerly Priority)                   
  • Protected under Schedule 5 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act (for sale only)
  • European status: Not threatened

    Caterpillar Foodplant

    Sheep’s-fescue (Festuca ovina) is the sole foodplant and the butterfly breeds only where this grows as small tufts in short or broken turf.

    Lifecycle

    Habitat

    Unimproved open chalk grasslands with short, patchy swards. Prefers warm, south-facing slopes.

    Distribution

    • Countries: England
    • Found on the chalk of Southern England, including the North and South Downs, the Chilterns, Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire.
    • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s in Britain: -12%

    Silver-spotted Skipper (underwing) by Peter Eeles

    Silver-spotted Skipper (underwing)

    Silver-spotted Skipper (upperwing) by Peter Eeles

    Silver-spotted Skipper (upperwing)

    Silver-spotted Skipper (egg) by Peter Eeles

    Silver-spotted Skipper (egg)