Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola


The Essex Skipper is widespread in SE England, but is extending its range northwards. It is found in tall, dry grassland, roadside verges and woodland rides.


It is virtually identical to the Small Skipper, but the underside of the tips of the antennae are black in comparison with the orange tips of the Small Skipper. The dark borders on the female sometimes radiate along the veins, and the male has short, straight and finer sex brands.

Flight times

It appears later than the Small Skipper at the end of June and flies until the end of August.

Food plants

Eggs are laid in the sheaths of Cock's-foot, Tor-grass or Creeping Soft-grass.


Becoming more widely distribution throughout the region.

Distribution Maps

Essex Skipper distribution map 2005-09

Combined records for the five year period 2005-09

Essex Skipper distribution map 2010-14

Combined records for the five year period 2010-14

Essex Skipper distribution map 2015-19

Combined records for the five year period 2015-19

Essex Skipper distribution map comparison of 2005-09 & 2010-14 & 2015-2019

Distribution has consolidated over this fifteen-year period, with further expansion and infilling of its range, particularly in more northerly and westerly parts of Derbyshire.

Essex Skipper distribution map 2015
2015 Summary
No of tetrads 157
First sighting 14/06/2015
Last sighting 12/09/2015
Essex Skipper distribution map 2016
2016 Summary
No of tetrads 126
First sighting 09/06/2016
Last sighting 05/10/2016
Essex Skipper distribution map 2017
2017 Summary
No of tetrads 130
First sighting 12/06/2017
Last sighting 28/08/2017
Essex Skipper distribution map 2018
2018 Summary
No of tetrads 109
First sighting 31/05/2018
Last sighting 20/08/2018
Essex Skipper distribution map 2019
2019 Summary
No of tetrads 127
First sighting 27/06/2019
Last sighting 24/08/2019
Essex Skipper distribution map 2020
2020 Summary
No of tetrads 126
First sighting 02/062020
Last sighting 24/08/2020
Essex Skipper distribution map 2021
2021 Summary
No of tetrads 113
First sighting 16/06/2021
Last sighting 28/08/2021
Essex Skipper distribution map 2021
2022 Summary
No of tetrads 81
First sighting 17/06/2022
Last sighting 11/08/2022

Photo Gallery

Similar or Easily Confused Species and ID Hints

Small Skipper Thymelicus silvestris

The Small Skipper is very similar to the Essex Skipper in both looks, habitat and flight times. Though the adult Essex Skipper has a shorter flight time, starting later in June and continuing through until late August.

The most striking difference between the adults is the tips of the antennae: in the Small Skipper these are orange-brown, whereas the Essex Skipper's appear to have been dipped in black ink.

The males also differ in the size and shape of the “sex-brands” on the fore wings. In the Small Skipper these are slightly curved, in the Essex Skipper shorter and straight.

The caterpillars are also similar in body markings, but with the Small Skippers head being green and the Essex Skipper striped with brown.

Large Skipper Ochlodes venata

A larger and more widespread orange skipper, the Large Skipper also flies and feeds in similar habitats and times as the Small Skipper and Essex Skipper. All three skippers rest in a distinctive pose with their fore and hind wings held at different angles. The Large Skipper is distinguished from the others by being slightly larger, and also having brighter undersides and more variegated markings on the upper wings.

Comparison of Small Skipper and Essex Skipper antennae
Comparison of Small Skipper and Essex Skipper antennae © Mick Ball
image of Large Skipper
Large Skipper - © Mark Searle