Paul Leyland – Large Skipper

Paul writes: I found my first Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) close to home on 23 June. They always appear along the field path which runs next to my house, this year a little later than normal. Even though I see them as close as two metres from the house boundary I have never seen one in the garden. They obviously find enough wild flowers and grasses to feed themselves. They are a lovely orange brown butterfly with a subtle chequered pattern on top and underside of the wings. They also have a distinctive black beady eye.

Their preferred habitat is rough grassland with plenty of tall grasses, the main larval foodplant is Cock’s Foot grass. I find them to be common and see them at plenty of sites in North Yorkshire such as woodland edges, footpaths and roadside verges. They can be seen throughout England and Wales and into southern Scotland but not in Ireland. They will be around from now until the middle of August.

In the early 18th century when butterflies were first getting common names the Skippers were known as Hogs. The black eyes combined with a hairy snout and body supposedly conjured up images of piglets. The Large Skipper went through several vernacular names. Chequer-like Hog (for males) and Cloudy Hog (for females) were two of the first.

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