Small Skipper Butterfly - Thymelicus sylvestris

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Lepidoptera - Family: Hesperiidae

Small Skipper Butterfly - Thymelicus sylvestris (male)

The Small Skipper is a butterfly of rough grassland, downland, woodland edges and clearings.


This little butterfly is similar in appearance to the Essex Skipper but can be differentiated easily by studying a side view of the antennae. The undersides of the tips of the antennae of the Small Skipper are yellow-orange (see picture below), while those of the Essex Skipper are black.

Small Skipper, side vew showing antennae colouring


In Britain this butterfly is widespread in southern and central England and throughout Wales, with its range steadily extending northwards.

Small Skipper with Marbled White

Above: This small Skipper has to share its thistle flower with a Marbled White and a beetle.

Elsewhere the Small Skipper is common throughout most of central and southern Europe and in the northern countries of Africa; its range extends eastwards across the Mediterranean and into the Middle East.

Small Skipper Butterfly - Thymelicus sylvestris


The larval foodplants are grasses and nearly always Yorkshire Fog, Holcus lanatus.

Small Skippers lays their eggs inside grass sheathes during July and August. The caterpillars emerge and then go into hibernation until winter is over.

In spring the caterpillars begin feeding on grass, and when fully developed in early June they pupate in the bases of grass tussocks, emerging later in June as winged adults.

Small Skipper butterfly, Slovenia

Small Skipper butterflies take nectar from many kinds of meadow wildflowers including the various knapweeds (Knautia spp) and many other kinds of thistles.

Studying butterflies and moths...

Small Skipper Butterfly - Thymelicus sylvestris


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Rob Petley-Jones, Betty and Tony Rackham, and James Wainscoat.

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