Grizzled Skipper

Pyrgus malvae


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Pyrgus malvae

Female, Switzerland, May 2016

Pyrgus malvae

Male, Switzerland, April 2015

Pyrgus malvae

Switzerland, April 2007 (for more underside pictures, see southern grizzled skipper, Pyrgus malvoides

Pyrgus malvae

Switzerland, April 2014

Pyrgus malvae

Switzerland, June 2012

Courting pair, my garden, Switzerland, April 2007

Male, my garden, April 2007

Male, my garden, April 2007

Female, my garden, April 2007

My garden, May 2006

Form taras, my garden, May 2006

The same individual with my dog, Asha, in the background

Pyrgus malvae distribution

Distribution - replaced in south-western Europe by the indistinguishable southern grizzled skipper, Pyrgus malvoides

The grizzled skipper and its sister species, the southern grizzled skipper (Pyrgus malvoides), are the commonest and most widespread Pyrgus species in Europe. Formerly considered subspecies, they are now treated as good species by most authors. Fortunately, there is very little overlap in their distribution, as they are indistinguishable in the field, though easily separable by genitalia for those prepared to kill. In Switzerland, the grizzled skipper flies in Vaud, in the fields and woods near my home, while the southern grizzled skipper flies in the Rhône Valley of Valais. All the pictures above were taken in the Villars-Gryon region and I am confident they are grizzled skippers. I have few underside shots from here - please see my page on the southern grizzled skipper for more photos of the underside.

Pyrgus is a notoriously difficult genus, especially for beginners. The butterflies are small and difficult to follow, often only the upperside or the underside can be seen (depending on the time of day), and above all, there is enormous variation within species. Nevertheless, it is usually possible to be sure you have malvae/malvoides (though not which one!). They are smaller than most similar species and the upperside markings are cluttered, well defined on forewing and hindwing, and pure white (rather than cream). The central marking on the hindwing is usually shaped like a molar tooth but may be reduced to a line and there is usually a bright, complete submarginal series outside it. S.1 of the forewing has two double spots in the basal and discal regions. The underside is also distinctive. The ground colour of the hindwing varies but is often rather a brick red, and the central white mark is molar-shaped, with the flat face inwards (basal) and the roots pointing outwards. The postdiscal series of white spots is usually broken, with those in ss.1 and 2 small (or in s.2, absent).

Many different Potentilla species are used as foodplants, as well as wild strawberries, blackberries and agrimony - despite the Latin name, I am not aware of the species using mallow.The butterflies can be found in a variety of habitats, from woodland rides to rough, rocky hillsides, flying from April to August in one or two broods depending on altitude and latitude. Where there is a single brood it is usually over by July. The species hibernates as a pupa.