Small orange butterfly on a grass seedhead Active

Small Skipper. Photo: Lyn Lambert

Family: Skippers
Size: Small   Wingspan: 30mm

Not actually the smallest skipper in the UK! This butterfly is benefiting from the increasing temperatures of climate change, spreading further north and even getting just into Scotland.

Where to see

  • Habitat: Open/rough ground, clearings. Uses tall grass to breed.
  • Caterpillar foodplants: Yorkshire Fog grass and sometimes other grasses
  • Best places: Widespread.

Distribution map

Small Skipper was recorded from these 1km squares in Dorset (2015-19).

  •     1 record
  •     2-9 records
  •     10+ records
Explore the Atlas to see historical distribution trends for this species.

When to see

Mid June to mid August

Sightings by month (last 5 years)*

Compare flight times for all species.

This year and last*

Browse the sightings archive.

What to look for

Of the Skippers in Dorset the Small and the Essex have the plainest wings, without yellow spots, and look the most orange. The male is much more active than the female and can be distinguished from the female by its slightly curved scent mark on the upper forewing.

The Small Skipper can be difficult to tell apart from the Essex Skipper, but if you can see the underside of the tip of the antennae, the Essex is black with a very definite edge; the Small can be brown, greyish or even patchy black. If you are looking at a male, the sex brand on the Small is at an angle to the leading edge of the forewing, while on the Essex it is parallel.

Compared to the male Lulworth Skipper, it is more golden in colour.

Overwinter stage: Caterpillar

Photo gallery

Click thumbnails to view full-size images.

Find more Small Skipper related content, including news and photos.
*Note: The charts shown on this page are drawn only from casual sightings submitted to this website. Records from this website will be added to a lot more data collected throughout the year and used to compile the five-yearly Butterfly Atlases for Dorset and the UK.