Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Chequered Skipper:
Chequered Skipper
Carterocephalus palaemon (Pallas, 1771)

Chequered Skipper egg.
  Chequered Skipper caterpillar.
  Chequered Skipper chrysalis
Chequered Skipper
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Hesperiidae: Subfamily Heteropterinae : Genus Carterocephalus: Species palaemon:
The Chequered Skipper is dark brown marked with a distinctive orange-yellow chequered pattern on the upper sides of its wings. The males perch in sheltered spot on a prominent position defending their territory and awaiting passing females. Females tend to fly low among the vegetation seeking out places to lay their eggs.

The larvae are white with a black head at first, feeding within a tubular shelter of grass spun together with silk. As the larvae mature, they begin to feed more freely and turn pale green by late autumn.

The larvae fall off the foodplant (Purple Moor Grass) which dies back during the winter. During this time, the larvae hibernate low down among the dead grass. Pupation takes place the following spring attached by a silk girdle to a blade of grass.

Further Reading
Ravenscroft, N. (1996) The Chequered Skipper. Butterfly Conservation, Colchester.
Colonies in Scotland breed in open grassland where the larval food plant occurs on wet but not waterlogged soils especially near the edges of open broad-leaved woodland where Birch scrub and Bog Myrtle occur. Breeding areas are usually below 200m beside rivers and lochs usually at the base of a slope.

The colonies which once existed in England occurred in rides and glades and damp coppiced woodland which are the normal habitat of preference for the species on mainland Europe.
The Chequered Skipper was present locally in a number of counties in central England including Leicestershire (Wakerley) Northamptonshire (Weldon) Cambridgeshire (Brampton Wood, Wansford, Kings Cliffe), Lincolnshire (Market Rasen) and Norfolk. By 1976, the Chequered Skipper had become extinct in England as a result of changes in woodland managment following the war.

Re-establishment trials in England have taken place since 1990 using individuals from the Ardennes region of France in preference to Scottish individuals (due to different habitat and foodplant requirements). A permanent colony is yet to become established in England.

Colonies still exist in western Scotland, where approximately ten core areas centred on Fort William occur. Its distribution in Scotland appears to be stable.
Where to see the Chequered Skipper in the British Isles
Allt Mhuic Nature Reserve on Loch Arkaig. Allt Mhuic is a Butterfly Conservation Reserve (first in Scotland) and was officially opened on June 2nd 2003. The reserve is 80 hectare in size and supports important populations of the Chequered Skipper and also the Pearl-bordered Fritillary  Large Heath and Scotch Argus. Visit between mid-May and the end of June when you can see both species.

Glasdrum Wood is also a good site located near the head of Loch Creran in Strathclyde.
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Chequered Skipper in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
Endangered Endangered

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Endangered Endangered

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
The primary larval food plant in Scottish colonies is Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea).
In England before the species became extinct here, the larvae fed on False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum
) and Tor Grass (Brachypodium pinnatum).

Other known foodplants include: Hairy Brome Grass (Bromus ramosus), Wood Small Reed (Calamagrostis epigejos), Cock's-foot Grass (Dactylis glomerata), Meadow Foxtail Grass (Alopecurus pratensis) and Timothy Grass (Phleum pratense).

See May. P. R (2003) for more information about larval foodplants.
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 insuficient data
UK Population trend 1976-2004 insuficient data

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status priority species (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Chequered Skipper except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Chequered Skipper on the NBN Gateway web site.
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For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Chequered Skipper can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Chequered Skipper can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Chequered Skipper
Image ID BB2542 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper male (imago)
BB2542 ©
Image ID BB2541 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper male (imago)
BB2541 ©
Image ID BB2540 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper female (imago)
BB2540 ©
Image ID BB2539 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper female (imago)
BB2539 ©
Image ID BB2538 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper female (imago)
BB2538 ©
Image ID BB2537 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper female (imago)
BB2537 ©
Image ID BB2536 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper female (imago)
BB2536 ©
Image ID BB2535 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper female (imago)
BB2535 ©
Image ID BB2534 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper female (imago)
BB2534 ©
Image ID BB2533 - Chequered Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Chequered Skipper female (imago)
BB2533 ©
There are 95 photographs of the Chequered Skipper in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Chequered Skipper as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 9 named aberrant forms of the Chequered Skipper currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. albinotica - Goodson 1960
ab. aurantia - Tutt 1906
ab. conjuncta - Blachier 1910
ab. excessa - Tutt 1906
ab. habeneyi - Siegel 1921
ab. luteana - Cabeau 1926
ab. melicertes - Schultz 1902
ab. nigra - Derenne 1919
ab. scabellata - Lempke 1953