Lulworth Skipper’s unpredictable flight periods

Small orange butterfly with darker brown markings, on a daisy flower
Lulworth Skipper. Photo: Chris Abbott

When the Lulworth Skipper can be seen on the wing is becoming increasingly difficult to predict. The first sighting sent to the website this year was 11 May.We often receive enquiries from people intending to come to Dorset for a holiday who want to see the Lulworth Skipper, and advising them on how to time their visit is a challenge. This is part of the reply from our Records Officer, Bill Shreeves to a recent enquiry:

Lulworth Skippers over the last few years seem to have gone crazy regarding their flight periods. Nowadays they may be seen at any date from late April to early September and it is very difficult to give anyone accurate advice about when to visit. Last year the statistics did actually agree that the peak flight period was in weeks 15-16 of the transect walking season (i.e. from July 8th – July 21st). In 2017, peak periods for the same walks ranged from week 12 to 16!

We do not know why this is happening but it may be weather related, as our Lulworth Skippers in Dorset seem to be moving towards the flight period system which is normal in Europe – single brooded from mid May to early August with prolonged emergence.

Evidence from this year is that they are emerging early. I am told that on Bindon Hill the Large, Small and Lulworth Skippers are all already flying this week [last week of May] – madness, as I always tell beginners that the Large Skipper is out earlier than the Small!

Small orange and brown butterfly on a purple flower

Lulworth Skipper. Photo: Brian Arnold

The other question is always about where they may be seen. Bill suggests Ailwood Down, Ballard Down, Bindon Hill, and Durlston Country Park. They may not be too difficult to find when their numbers are good: we had five recently reported in the car park in Corfe Castle! You can check where species have been seen on our Recent Sightings page – scroll down to Record Details, and click on the column heading of the butterfly name to see all of one species listed together in alphabetical order.

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