Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults diurnal; medium sized; relatively short-bodied to long-bodied; medium built (wingspan more than 8 and less than 15 times the thoracic width) to heavily built (wingspan less than 8 times the thoracic width); wings in repose apposed vertically over the back, or partially opened.

Head rough. Antennae very short to of medium length; extending to about 0.37–0.54 times the length of the forewing; inserted fully one half the width of the head apart; clubbed. The club gradual (curved or straight, often more more or less hooked at the tip). Antennae of males simple; non-ciliate. Eyes glabrous. Ocelli absent. Chaetosemata present. Maxillary palps absent. Labial palps ascending (pointed); 3 segmented. Proboscis fully developed; not scaly.

Wingspan 23–37 mm; 7–9 times the thoracic width. Forewings broad; 1.5–1.9 times as long as wide. The outer and hind margins angled at about 90–110 degrees. The outer margin convexly curved; forewings apically blunt, or pointed; ground colour predominantly light brown to dark brown, or orange-brown, or black (or fuscous); forewings without eye-spots above. Hindwings broadly rounded, or trapezoidal; similar in breadth to the forewings; the upper surfaces conspicuously patterned above (variously spotted, chequered, dark-bordered), or plain; with neither discal spot nor transverse lines; silver-marked underneath (H. comma), or not silver-marked underneath; without a frenulum.

Neuration of forewings and hindwings dissimilar. Forewings 12–13 veined; with 1 anal vein, or with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only, or comprising 1b and 1c. Forewings lacking a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the forewings furcate proximally to simple. Discal cell of the forewings without a tubular media (M) vein. The forewing veins all separate. Hindwings 8 veined; with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the hindwings comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings exhibiting vein 1a; lacking a tubular vein 1c; with a praecostal spur (usually), or without a praecostal spur. The hindwing cell emitting more than six veins, or emitting no more than six veins (usually). 6 veins arising from the hindwing cell (usually), or 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell (vein 5 absent or reduced). The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another. Vein 8 of the hindwings arising from the upper margin of the cell (from near its base); not approximating to vein 7. The hindwings lacking vein 5.

Adults having all 6 legs fully developed and operational for walking. Fore-legs of female operational for walking. Fore-legs with a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs without spurs. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred, or 4-spurred.

Tympanal organs absent.

Eggs, larvae and pupae. Eggs not flattened (usually hemispherical, occasionally asymmetric and ovoid-elongate in the horizontal plane, or in Thymelicus broadly sausage-shaped in side view); smooth or minutely pitted, or ribbed and/or reticulate. Larval prolegs 10. Larvae not densely long-hairy (hairless or shortly hairy); exposed feeders (mostly), or concealed feeders. On Papilionaceae, Rosaceae, and (mainly) Gramineae.

Pupae smooth and rounded; conspicuously patterned, or plain; without shining-metallic spots; exposed, with no coccoon, or concealed (sometimes in a slight cocoon); usually not suspended, but attached at the tail and secured by a median girdle of silk; when ‘concealed’, subterranean, or on the surface of the ground (?).

British representation. Genera 8 (2 adventive only); 11 species (including 3 adventives). Carcharodus alceae (Mallow Skipper, adventive), Carterocephalus palaemon (Chequered Skipper), Erynnis tages (Dingy Skipper), Hesperia comma (Silver-spotted Skipper), Hylephila phyleus (Fiery Skipper, adventive), Ochlodes faunus (Large Skipper), Pyrgus armoricanus (Oburthür's Grizzled Skipper, adventive), Pyrgus malvae (Grizzled Skipper), Thymelicus acteon (Lulworth Skipper), Thymelicus lineola (Essex Skipper), Thymelicus sylvestris (Small Skipper).

Classification. Butterflies. Suborder Ditrysia. Superfamily Hesperoidea.

Illustrations. • ‘Skippers’: Newman. • Ochlodes faunus (Large Skipper, female), in charateristic hesperiid pose: photo, Giles Watson. • Ochlodes faunus (Large Skipper, male): Giles Watson, photos. • Thymelicus acteon (Lulworth Skipper: B. Ent. 442). • Thymelicus acteon (legend+text: B. Ent. 442). • Thymelicus acteon (text, cont.: B. Ent. 442). • Thymelicus acteon, T. lineola and T. sylvestris (Kirby). • Cartocephalus, Erynnis, Hesperia, Ochlodes, Pyrgus, Thymelicus (Skippers: Coleman). • Carcharodus alceae, Pyrgus armoricanus: Kirby. • Larvae and pupae of Carterocephalus, Hesperia, Thymelicus (Duponchel, 1849). • Ochlodes faunus: neuration.

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera. Version: 8th June 2016.’.