Small skipper

Small Skipper

©Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

Small skipper

Scientific name: Thymelicus sylvestris
Often found basking on tall grasses, or buzzing between stems, the small skipper is a small, orange butterfly. It prefers rough grassland, verges and woodland edges.

Species information


Wingspan: 2.7-3.4cm

Conservation status


When to see

June to August


The small skipper is a small, orange butterfly. Adults fly between June and August, feeding on knapweeds and thistles and hovering close to the ground. Small skippers can be found on rough grassland and sand dunes, along woodland edges and roadside verges, and anywhere else with plenty of grasses. They lay their eggs in grasses, close to the leaf node; the caterpillars feed almost exclusively on Yorkshire-fog, but can be found on other grasses like Cock's-foot.

How to identify

The small skipper is russet-brown above, with a dark border and pale fringe to the wing edges. Smaller and plainer than the large skipper, it can be distinguished from the very similar Essex skipper by the brown tips on its antennae - the Essex Skipper has black tips.


Widespread across England and Wales.

Did you know?

Small skipper caterpillars hatch in late summer. They eat their own eggshell and then go into hibernation within the grass sheath where they emerged. They come out again the following spring, ready to feed and metamorphose.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland and woodland habitats sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of butterflies, including the small skipper. Careful grazing with traditional breeds, hay-cutting at the right time, scrub clearance and coppicing are just some of the ways grasslands and woodlands are kept in good condition - supporting invertebrates and, in turn, the larger animals that prey on them. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.