Saturday, 8 August 2020

From Essex To Wirral


Essex skipper butterfly

The Essex skipper has arrived - it has been spreading rapidly from Essex in recent decades and was seen at New Ferry Butterfly Park on the limewaste meadow area on July 31st. It is usually found in tall, dry grasslands in open sunny situations. It is our 27th recorded species, and likely to stay and breed. Thanks to Chloe from RECORD for finding and identifying it. 

The Essex skipper (Thymelicus lineola) is a small butterfly with a darting flight, its bright orange-brown wings are held with forewings angled above its hind wings. Males have a thin black line through the centre of the forewing, parallel to the leading edge.

Essex Skipper butterflies closely resemble and are often found in company with Small Skippers. Unfortunately the only way to tell it from Small Skipper is that the underside of the antennae is glossy black in the Essex, orange/brown in the Small. Jeremy Thomas's recommended way of telling then apart is to find one basking or roosting, `creep up to them on all fours, until you are head on and can look upwards at the antennae'!!!

Essex skipper caterpillar

Essex skipper caterpillars feed on grasses. The main species used is Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata), although the butterfly may use several other grasses including Creeping Soft-grass (Holcus mollis), Common Couch (Elytrigia repens), Timothy (Phleum pratense), Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), and Tor-grass (B. pinnatum).

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