Essex Skipper butterfly

Thymelicus lineola

family - Hesperiidae (Skippers)

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The Essex Skipper butterfly rests with forewings held above the hindwings. The top of the wings is orange-brown edged with black.

The Essex Skipper butterfly is almost identical to the Small Skipper butterfly but can be identified by the black underside to the clubs of the antennae. Therefore, please also look at the Small Skipper butterfly.

My personal observations of the Essex Skipper butterfly

months seen in my garden: July

garden plants that attract this species: Hyssop, Helichrysum, Marigolds, Candytuft, Sweet William, Virginian Stock, Buddleia (list shared with Small Skipper butterfly)


The main image above was taken on 28 July 2001. The plant is Hyssop.

The identification was confirmed at a local branch meeting of the Butterfly Conservation Society. Essex Skipper butterflies were just beginning to infiltrate the county (of Gloucestershire) at that time.

Previous sightings may have been either Small or Essex Skipper butterflies.

This is a small brownish butterfly and consequently not easily seen in a plant-filled garden. In my early days of butterfly-watching, I sat in the summer sunshine in my garden thumbing through my butterfly guide book and wondered why I hadn't seen any of the Skipper family. Of course, I saw them once my awareness had been raised.

Butterfly sightings 2005:

Essex Skipper on Knapweed at Badbury Rings, 13 July 2005
Essex Skipper on Knapweed at Badbury Rings, 13 July 2005
Essex Skipper on Buddleia Lochinch, 21 July 2005

Butterfly sightings 2004:

Missed the Essex Skipper season due to being in hospital for 4 months from mid-July.

Images from 2003:

Essex/Small Skipper On Verbena. 30 July 2003.

Essex/Small Skipper On Buddleia. 30 July 2003.

Essex/Small Skipper On Verbena. 30 July 2003.

Only one visit in 2003 but several digital images captured.

Past Images:

Essex/Small Skipper On Knapweed. At Crickley Hill. 16 July 2001.

Essex/Small Skipper In my Wiltshire garden. 2 August 1999.

Essex/Small Skipper On Hyssop. In my Wiltshire garden. 29 July 1999.


Reference Section

Size: 27mm (smaller than the Small White - see list of butterflies by size)

First Generation flight period: July-August


The difference between the Small Skipper and the Essex Skipper butterfly is determined by the color of the underside of the tip of the antennae.

Small Skipper: undersides of clubs of antennae are reddish-orange.
Essex Skipper: undersides of clubs of antennae are black.

Habitat: Grassland
Larval Food Plants: Grasses
Wild Nectar Plants: Clover, Knapweed

Family Group: Hesperiidae - see list of butterflies by family

This page last updated: 21 July, 2005