Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 29–37 mm; the fringes not banded. Medium built to heavily built; medium-bodied to long-bodied; large-headed. The eyes glabrous. Antennae reaching noticeably less than halfway to the wingtips to reaching about halfway to the wingtips; inserted fully one half the width of the head apart. The antennal clubs gradual-elongate; not flattened; minutely hooked at their tips. Labial palps ascending (pointed). Having all 6 legs fully developed and operational for walking. Fore-legs with a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs without spurs. Posterior tibiae 4-spurred (with middle spurs).

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt. The outer and hind margins angled at about 100–110 degrees. The outer margins convexly curved. Uppersides of the forewings dark fuscous; contrastingly dark-veined, or contrastingly dark-veined to not conspicuously dark-veined; without a discal mark; in the male with the basal 3/5 suffused brownish-orange, with a strong sub-metallic blackish grey oblique streak anteriorly in the disc, and a postmedian irregular series of brownish- or yellowish-orange spots; in the female, similar but lacking the dark streak.

Hindwings. Hindwings somewhat trapezoidal, or broadly rounded; with the outer margins not scalloped. Uppersides of the hindwings dark fuscous; conspicuously dark-veined, or conspicuously dark-veined to not dark-veined; conspicuously patterned; with a conspicuous discal mark to without a discal mark; orange-tinged dark fuscous, with the indistict discal spot and a postmedian series brownish- or yellowish orange.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings pallid by comparison with the uppersides, orangish in the disc and yellowish instead of fuscous; conspicuously dark-veined, or conspicuously dark-veined to not dark-veined.

Undersides of the hindwings greyish-greenish, densely strewn with yellowish scales, with two anterior and a postmedian series of silvery ochreous-white spots. The greenish tint and silvery spots of the hindwings readily distingush this species from the 'Large Skipper'; conspicuously dark-veined, or conspicuously dark-veined to not dark-veined; with silvery-metallic markings.

Wing venation. Forewings 12(–13) veined; without basally dilated veins. Forewings with 1 tubular anal vein to with 2 tubular anal veins; the anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only, or comprising 1b and 1c (cf. Ochlodes?); vein 1b simple. Forewings with a discal cell; vein 2 departing from the cell less than three-quarters of the distance from its base (from somewhat short of halfway, cf. Ochlodes?). All the forewing veins separate.

Hindwings 8 veined; with a praecostal spur; with 2 anal veins; exhibiting vein 1a; the anal veins comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings with a closed discal cell; the transverse vein complete. 6 veins arising from the hindwing cell (vein 5 absent), or 6–7 veins arising from the hindwing cell (cf. Ochlodes?). The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another.

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs hemispherical; more or less smooth. The larvae hairless; concealed feeders (in tubes of grass leaves). On grasses.

Pupae smooth and rounded; concealed (in a strong coccoon of grass material, close to the ground).

British representation. 1 species. Hesperia comma (Silver-spotted Skipper). The adults abroad August.

Status in Britain. Indigenous.

Distribution. English Midlands, East Anglia, southeast England, central southern England, southwest England, and Isle of Wight. Frequenting open places. Habitats calcareous.

Classification. Superfamily Hesperoidea. Hesperiidae.

Illustrations. • Hesperia comma (Silver-spotted Skipper). • Hesperia comma (Silver-spotted Skipper): egg and larva. • Larvae of H. comma and other Hesperiidae: Duponchel (1849).

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. 2008 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies. Version: 16th May 2016.’.