Skippers

Skippers are a family of Hesperiidae in the order of Lepidoptera; because they are diurnal, we generally called them butterflies but many authorities class them as a group intermediate between butterflies and moths. They are called skippers because of their rapid and darting flight.

Worldwide, there are between three and four thousand species of skippers, but in Britain we only have thirteen of them. There are three species of skipper in the park, large skipper, small skipper and Essex skipper.

Left to right: large, Essex skippers and small skippers

Most skippers, including the three species that live in the park, rest with their forewings and hindwings at different angles, as in the three pictures above. This is a characteristic that is never found in any other Lepidoptera family. The most significant and distinguishing characteristic, however, is that all of the veins of a skipper’s forewing run straight to the wing’s margin, without branching.

A group of large skippers

The caterpillars of all three of the park’s skippers feed on species of grass, inside shelters formed by spinning blades together with silk. Large and small skippers both overwinter as caterpillars in silk cocoons down among the grass but the Essex skipper overwinters at the egg stage of its life cycle; the eggs are laid in strings underneath a blade of grass.

All three species emerge early in the spring to resume their interrupted life cycles.


More lepidoptera here:

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