Small Skipper Butterfly

I’ve managed to get out and about with the camera a few times over the past couple of weeks, searching for insects to photograph. Finding suitable subject matter has been a bit hit and miss, as the weather has been particularly wet, cold and windy at times and Saddleworth can be especially harsh in its climate. However, the small skipper butterfly has recently appeared in our local meadows. I’ve also photographed a few at Reddish Vale in Greater Manchester, on trips out with a photo-friend.

The small skipper butterfly (Thymelicus sylvestris) is quite numerous at the height of summer. One of the smallest UK butterflies, it lives in grassy meadows and feeds on knapweed and thistles. The caterpillars feed almost exclusively on “Yorkshire Fog” (I just love that name!) but have also been found on other grasses, like creeping soft-grass.

Mating small skippers on knapweed seedhead

The butterfly’s bright orange wings catch the light attractively in flight. At rest, the wings are completely folded in a vertical position, when the rear under-wing shows a rather dull orange-brown colour, making it less visible in the long grasses. When basking, the wings are held in a half open position, showing off the pretty colouration. The male is distinguished from the female by the dark line on its fore-wings, which comprise specialised scent scales.

I found that in cool weather, when the butterfly is less skittish, if it isn’t resting in front of a photographically clean background, I can sometimes coax it onto a higher grass, just by putting the head of the grass under its front feet and then it just walks onto the new stem…magic!

© Christine Widdall