Silver-spotted Skipper (Hesperia comma) is a butterfly of the Hesperiidae family. It is known as the Common Branded Skipper or Holarctic Grass Skipper in North America, where the butterfly Epargyreus clarus, a spread-winged skipper, also has the common name of "Silver-spotted Skipper".

Appearance, behaviour and distributionEdit

Often confused with the Large Skipper Ochlodes venata, this species is easily distinguished by the numerous white spots on the underside hindwings, and the tips of the upper forewings tend to be darker than those of the Large Skipper. Also their flight periods rarely overlap; in Britain the Large Skipper has all but finished when the Silver-spotted takes to the wing in August. The Silver-spotted Skipper prefers warm calcareous sites and has a wide distribution as far south as North Africa, northwards throughout Europe to the Arctic and eastwards across Asia to China and Japan. It also has subspecies in North America. In the UK it is rare and restricted to chalk downlands of southern England.

Life cycle and foodplantsEdit

Females lay single eggs during August and September on the leaf blades of Sheep's Fescue Festuca ovina, the only foodplant, and occasionally on nearby plants. The females are very fussy where they lay; most eggs in the UK are laid in short turf, up to 4 cm, and often next to patches of bare ground. This species overwinters as an egg and hatches in March. Like other skippers the larvae construct small tent-like structures from leaf blades and silk from which to feed. They enter the pupal stage after 14 to 15 weeks at the base of the foodplant. Pupation takes 10 to 14 days, and as with most butterflies the males emerge first.

Recent resurgence in the UKEdit

Concerted conservation efforts in the UK, backed by government agencies, have seen this once-threatened species thriving in certain areas. Numbers have increased by some 1500% over the last twenty years; the number of sites has increased from just 68, with 202 new sites established. Conservation schemes have focussed on providing the Silver-spotted Skipper with suitable habitats, with positive results.

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