Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris


The Small Skipper is a common and widespread species found in rough grassland and woodland edges, requiring an abundance of tall grasses and wild flowers. It prefers more open sites than the Large Skipper.


It has unmarked golden-orange wings, although the forewing of the male carries a distinctive dark line or sex brand. It can be easily confused with the Essex Skipper, but the underside of the tips of its antennae are orange whilst they are black in the Essex Skipper.

Flight times

It appears in early June and flies until the beginning of September.

Food plants

Eggs are laid in the sheaths of Yorkshire-fog or Creeping Soft-grass.


Widely distributed throughout the region.

Distribution Maps

Small Skipper distribution map 2005-09
Small Skipper distribution map 2010-14
Small Skipper distribution map 2015-19
Small Skipper distribution map 2015
2015 Summary
No of tetrads 373
First sighting 09/04/2015
Last sighting 18/09/2015
Small Skipper distribution map 2016
2016 Summary
No of tetrads 310
First sighting 15/05/2016
Last sighting 20/09/2016
Small Skipper distribution map 2017
2017 Summary
No of tetrads 318
First sighting 02/06/2017
Last sighting 04/09/2017
Small Skipper distribution map 2018
2018 Summary
No of tetrads 303
First sighting 31/05/2018
Last sighting 04/09/2018
Small Skipper distribution map 2019
2019 Summary
No of tetrads 350
First sighting 01/06/2019
Last sighting 15/09/2019
Small Skipper distribution map 2020
2020 Summary
No of tetrads 325
First sighting 25/05/2020
Last sighting 21/09/2020
Small Skipper distribution map 2021
2021 Summary
No of tetrads 324
First sighting 29/05/2021
Last sighting 25/09/2021
Small Skipper distribution map 2022
2022 Summary
No of tetrads 281
First sighting 29/05/2022
Last sighting 28/08/2022

Photo Gallery

Similar or Easily Confused Species and ID Hints

Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola

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