Friday, 8 July 2011

Darting Small skippers

A grassy area in the little wildlife garden near where I live is managed like a meadow, cut once a year. The grass is long and lush now, peppered with a range of wildfowers. One of the insects that benefits from this arrangement is the Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris. The males of this golden brown, little butterfly dart around the meadow, stopping to feed or sunny themselves occassionally. The larval food plant of this species is Yorkshire Fog, a common rough grass. The adults emerge in mid June and fly in a single generation until August. They like to feed on clovers, bird's foot trefoil, restarrows, knapweeds, thistles, brambles and hawkbits. This is another butterfly species thought to have benefited from recent climate warming in the U.K. It now inhabits most of England and Wales, with its range having moved north about 100 km in the last 25 years.
A male, the same individual as above, resting on Bird's Foot trefoil. Male skippers can be distinguished from females by their "sex-brand", a dark like in the middle of their forewings.

2 comments:

Phil said...

Small skippers were a rarity here when I first moved to Durham, 35 years ago - now they are a common sight and are well established in Northumberland. Commas, ringlets and speckled woods have also returned/colonised during the same period and the northwards spread of speckled woods has been pretty remarkable here ....... it's an ill wind, etc., etc.....

Blackbird said...

indeed Phil, at least there are some positive aspects of global warming for us northerners. I only look forward to praying mantis colonising the U.K...