Bright orange-brown wings held with forewings angled above hind wings. Males have a thin black line through centre of fore-wing. Essex Skipper is similar but has black tips to antenna (best viewed head on) and shorter scent brand which runs parallel to forewing edge rather than angled.

Small Skippers are insects of high summer. Although they spend much of their time basking or resting among vegetation, they are marvellous flyers, manoeuvring expertly through tall grass stems. It is these darting flights, wings glinting golden-brown in the sunlight, that normally alert an observer to their presence. Closer examination will reveal many more individuals nectaring or basking with their wings held in the half-open posture distinctive of skipper butterflies. The butterfly is widespread in southern Britain and its range has expanded northwards in recent years.

Size and Family

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

Conservation Status

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

Caterpillar Foodplants

The Small Skipper almost exclusively uses Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus), although several other grasses have been recorded as foodplants, for example Timothy (Phleum pratense), Creeping Soft-grass (H.mollis), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), and Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata).



Prefers open places with long grass, such as unimproved rough grassland, downs, road verges, field edges and woodland glades.


  • Countries: England, Scotland and Wales
  • Widespread up to North Yorkshire and Scottish border
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = +4%

Small Skipper (upperwing) - Andrew Cooper

Small Skipper (female/upperwing)

Small Skipper - Bob Eade

Small Skipper (male/upperwing)

Small Skipper - Bob Eade

Small Skipper (underwing)

Small Skipper (male & female) by Peter Eeles

Small Skipper (male & female)

Small Skipper (eggs) by Jim Asher

Small Skipper (eggs)