Chequered Skipper
Carterocephalus palaemon

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Carterocephalus palaemon

Male, Switzerland, July 2019

Carterocephalus palaemon

Male, Switzerland, May 2014

Carterocephalus palaemon

Male, Switzerland, May 2018

Carerocephalus palaemon

Male, Switzerland, July 2017

Carterocephalus palaemon

Female, Switzerland, April 2014

Carterocephalus palaemon

Male, with Minnie, Switzerland, June 2015

Carterocephalus palaemon

Mating pair, male below, Switzerland, July 2010



Male warming up his flight muscles on a cold day, Switzerland, May 2012

May 2005, my garden (Switzerland)

May 2005, my garden in Switzerland

May 2005, my garden in Switzerland

Carterocephalus distribution

Distribution

Chequered skippers are found locally all over Europe, flying in damp grassland and woodland clearings from the valley to 1800m. Near me, at a little over 1000m, they are often on the wing by the end of April, though more commonly in May, and can still be seen well into July. In the UK it has been restricted to Scotland since the last English colonies were declared extinct in 1976, but there have been repeated reintroduction attempts and I believe the species now flies again in Northamptonshire.

This is an instantly recognisable butterfly. Males sit prominently on grass or flower heads, often in the half-open position typical of skippers but sometimes with wings fully flat, and frequently return to the same place if disturbed. The brown and gold, chequered upperside is unmistakable, though beginners should note that Duke of Burgundies behave similarly and are superficially the same colour scheme. As soon as it flies, of course, it is obviously a skipper. The underside is a very toned-down version of the large chequered skipper, with large, yellow, oval spots on a darker ground. In Scandinavia and the Baltic states, the similar northern chequered skipper, Carterocephalus sylvicolus, flies. This has much less dark above, especially in the male, which has a largely straw-coloured upperside, the female being closer in appearance to the chequered skipper.

Eggs are laid on a wide variety of grass species, the caterpillars feeding in a tube formed from a blade of grass, secured by silk. They spend the winter in a hibernaculum constructed from dead grass and pupate in this in the spring, before flying in a single generation from April or May, depending on altitude and latitude, through to July.