Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 23–37 mm; the fringes conspicuously light-and-dark banded, or not banded. Medium built to heavily built; short-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, or reaching noticeably over halfway to the wingtip; inserted fully one half the width of the head apart. The antennal clubs gradual-elongate; curved to not curved; minutely hooked at their tips (usually), or not 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 2-spurred, or 4-spurred.

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt, or pointed. The outer and hind margins angled at 90–110 degrees. The outer margins convexly curved; not scalloped (mostly), or scalloped to not scalloped (Carcharodus). Uppersides of the forewings light brown to dark brown, or orange-brown, or fuscous, or black; contrastingly dark-veined, or not conspicuously dark-veined.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded, or trapezoidal; with the outer margins scalloped, or with the outer margins not scalloped. Uppersides of the hindwings conspicuously dark-veined, or not dark-veined; conspicuously patterned (variously spotted, chequered, dark-bordered), or plain.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings conspicuously dark-veined, or not dark-veined.

Undersides of the hindwings conspicuously dark-veined, or not dark-veined; with silvery-metallic markings, or without metallic markings.

Wing venation. Forewings 12–13 veined. Forewings with 1 tubular anal vein, or with 2 tubular anal veins; the anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only, or comprising 1b and 1c; vein 1b furcate proximally to simple. Forewing veins all separate.

Hindwings 8 veined; with a praecostal spur (usually), or without a praecostal spur; with 2 anal veins; exhibiting vein 1a; the anal veins comprising 1a and 1b. 6 veins arising from the hindwing cell, or 6–7 veins arising from the hindwing cell (vein 5 being absent or reduced). The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another. The hindwings lacking vein 5, 8 arising near the base of the cell and rapidly diverging.

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs discoid to hemispherical (Erynnis), or hemispherical (mostly), or asymmetric, being horizonally elongate and broadly sausage-shaped in side view (Thymelicus); more or less smooth, or longitudinally ribbed. The larvae hairless, or hairy (then 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 markings; 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.

British representation. Genera 8; 11 species, or 12 species. 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).

Distribution. Frequenting open places. Habitats calcareous and non-calcareous.

Classification. Superfamily Hesperoidea.

Illustrations. • ‘Skippers’: Newman, 1871. • Ochlodes faunus (Large Skipper), in characteristic hesperiid resting pose: photo, Giles Watson. • Carterocephalus, Erynnis, Hesperia, Ochlodes, Pyrgus, Thymelicus (Skippers: Coleman, 1860). • Ochlodes faunus: neuration. • Larvae of assorted 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.’.