Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Dingy Skipper:
Dingy Skipper
Erynnis tages (Linnaeus, 1758)

Dingy Skipper egg.
  Dingy Skipper caterpillar.
  Dingy Skipper chrysalis
Dingy Skipper
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Hesperiidae: Subfamily Pyrginae : Genus Erynnis: Species tages:
From a distance a basking Dingy Skipper certainly lives up to its name being dull brown orange-brown or grey-brown in colour. However on close inspection a freshly emerged Dingy Skipper has a wonderfully intricate pattern on both the upper-sides and undersides of their wings. It also has what one can only describe as a 'cute' appearance when viewed up-close. Its fluffy head and big eyes make it a charming character.

Unlike many other butterfly species, the Dingy Skipper will often rest with its wings wrapped around a dead flower head or stem where it is perfectly camouflaged, behaviour unlike most other butterfly species which rest with their wings closed above their backs.

The Dingy Skipper can be seen from the end of April until the middle of August depending upon the location in the UK with sites in the south producing earlier individuals. It is a Priority Species for conservation due to the continued loss of habitat and resulting drop in population.
The Dingy Skipper prefers a range of open sunny habitats with areas sheltered from strong winds. The larval food plant needs to grow within sparse grassy vegetation in a sheltered situation in full sun.

Taller plants such as Brambles etc are also needed by the adults for shelter, roosting and basking where they prefer prominent stems, leaves or bare patches of earth from which they defend their territories and wait for females.
The Dingy Skipper is found throughout the UK but has seen a major decline over recent years and is probably under-recorded in many areas due to the low population density.

This butterfly is often found on post-industrial 'brown field' sites many of which are under threat from development and urban re-generation schemes. They are also found on disused railway lines quarries and rough ground.
Where to see the Dingy Skipper in the British Isles
Gloucestershire: Prestbury Hill - Bill Smilie Reserve
Dorset: Cerne Hill Giant
Wiltshire: Magdalen Hill Down
Warwickshire: Southam Quarry, Bishops Itchington, Ryton Wood Meadows BC Reserve
Staffordshire: Cannock Chase
Stoke-on-Trent: Chatterley Whitfield
Somerset: Thurlbear Quarrylands

In Scotland, the Dingy Skipper is in decline. It is one of the rarest butterfly species in Scotland being at the edge of its northern limit. It has declined in its two main population centres along the coast of Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway, and along the Moray Firth. The primary cause for these losses is due to the conversion of semi-natural grassland to ‘improved’ pasture or arable land.

The Burren in Ireland is also good for Dingy Skipper.
Other notes
The Dingy Skipper is a rare butterfly which is easily overlooked. With a little research and regular visits during the peak flight-time to suitable habitat, it is possible to see this butterfly… sometimes in good numbers.

It can be confused with similar looking day-flying moths which are on the wing at the same time. These are Mother Shipton and Burnet Companion moths but with a little experience it becomes very easy to distinguish between these and Dingy Skipper.
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Dingy 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
Vulnerable Vulnerable

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

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 foodplants are Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa) and Greater Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus).

See May. P. R (2003) for more information about larval foodplants.
British subspecies
Erynnis tages ssp. baynesi (Huggins, 1956)
Occurs in the Burren in County Clare and parts of S.E. Galway, Ireland.Paler markings and brownish black upperside ground colouration are the main differences to ssp. tages.
Erynnis tages ssp. tages (Linnaeus, 1758)
Occurs throughout mainland Britain.
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 down by -26%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 down by -37%

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 candidate 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 Dingy 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 Dingy 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*
Dingy Skipper can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Dingy Skipper can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Dingy Skipper
Image ID BB2045 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper female (imago)
BB2045 ©
Image ID BB2044 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper female (imago)
BB2044 ©
Image ID BB2043 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper male and female (imago)
BB2043 ©
Image ID BB2042 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper male and female (imago)
BB2042 ©
Image ID BB2041 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper male (imago)
BB2041 ©
Image ID BB2031 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper male (imago)
BB2031 ©
Image ID BB2030 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper male (imago)
BB2030 ©
Image ID BB2029 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper male (imago)
BB2029 ©
Image ID BB1972 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper (imago)
BB1972 ©
Image ID BB1580 - Dingy Skipper - © Steven Cheshire
Dingy Skipper female (imago)
BB1580 ©
There are 34 photographs of the Dingy Skipper in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Dingy Skipper as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 12 named aberrant forms of the Dingy Skipper currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. albalinea - Frohawk 1938
ab. alcoides - Tutt 1906
ab. brunnea-alcoides - Tutt 1906
ab. brunnea-transversa - Tutt 1906
ab. brunnea-variegata - Tutt 1906
ab. fulva - Tutt 1906
ab. poliodes - Cabeau 1920
ab. posticeprivata - Stauder 1924
ab. suffusa-transversa - Tutt 1906
ab. suffusa-variegata - Tutt 1906
ab. transversa - Tutt 1906
ab. variegata - Tutt 1906