Large Skipper - Herts & Middx Butterfly Conservation
Large Skipper (m) 2018 - Peter Clarke Large Skipper (f) 2006 - Simon Crockford

Large Skipper

Ochlodes sylvanus

Widespread but declining resident

Large Skipper branch distribution

Distribution and Status

The Large Skipper appears to be coping better than our other 'golden' skippers in our area. In the 1980s it was well distributed in Hertfordshire, and in Middlesex, mostly in the north and east. It had spread into other areas in the 1990s whilst disappearing from parts of north-east Hertfordshire. It became slightly more abundant since the beginning of the century, but a notable decline has occurred since 2015 either because of loss of suitable habitat or changes in agricultural practices. Like the Small and Essex Skippers, nectar sources are important for females to develop their eggs (Field et al.)

Habitat Requirements

Unimproved grassland, for example on roadside verges, woodland clearings, railway embankments and waste ground but it prefers shadier sites than the Small and Essex Skippers

Larval Foodplants

Cocks-foot Dactylis glomerata is the preferred foodplant in the county, but False Brome Brachypodium sylvaticum and Purple Moor-grass Molinia caerulea are also occasionally used

Adult Food Sources

Common Bird's-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Bramble Rubus fruticosus agg., Red Clover Trifolium pratense

Behaviour/Observation notes

Like the Small and Essex Skipper, early mornings and evenings, or cloudy weather are good times to find this species resting or basking, offering opportunities to take close-up photographs. When the sun is shining, males in particular, are far more active

Large Skipper branch phenology

Life History

The butterfly generally emerges in June with a long season lasting until the middle of August. The last week of June is the peak period as indicated on the chart. The eggs are laid beneath leaf blades in sunny sheltered situations. Larvae hatch from the end of July to form tubes from several leaf blades and enter hibernation in this stage. Pupae are formed within cocoons using silk, in late spring

Further information

Photo gallery
Branch Annual Report (2022)
Identifying Skippers
UK distribution map
Full list of larval hostplants (Hesperidae)
Stevenage butterflies - additional notes


Field, R.G, Watkins, G. and Gardiner, T. (2005), The Use of Countryside Stewardship Scheme Field Margins by the Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris, Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola and Large Skipper Ochlodes venata, The Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation, Vol 117 Pt 5 pp. 197-203


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