Large Skipper

Ochlodes sylvanus


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Ochlodes sylvanus

Female, Switzerland, June 2018

Ochlodes sylvanus

Male, Suffolk, UK, July 2020

Ochlodes sylvanus

Female, Switzerland, June 2017

Ochlodes sylvanus

Female, Switzerland, May 2017

Ochlodes sylvanus

Male, Switzerland, June 2015

Ochlodes sylvanus

Female, Switzerland, June 2016

Ochlodes sylvanus

Male, Switzerland, June 2014

Ochlodes sylvanus

Male, Switzerland, June 2016



Spain, July 2011



Male, Switzerland, June 2012



Female on left, male on right, Switzerland, August 2012

Ochlodes sylvanus eggs

Female abdomen with some unlaid eggs adhering (she seemed oblivious to this)

Suffolk, in my childhood ...

Suffolk, in my childhood ...

Ochlodes sylvanus

Distribution

I will forever associate this species with childhood summers and still remember the day I first found them at the end of my garden, when I was 8 years old. They positively smell of sunshine and grass and shady trees as spring is opening into summer. Happily, large skippers are common all over Europe (though much more sparsely distributed in southern Iberia than the map above suggests) so memories are easy to come by. They have a preference for humid areas, often by water, and may be seen perching on bracken and bramble leaves in quite dense woodland.

The only species a large skipper might be confused with is the silver-spotted skipper, which is rather similar from the upperside, though the silver-spotted skipper is more contrasting. The males of both have a conspicuous sex brand in the middle of the forewing. Beneath, however, the two species are quite different. Large skippers have somewhat obscure yellow spots on an orange ground, tinged with grey on the hindwing. In contrast, silver-spotted skippers sport silver-white spots on a deep green ground and are quite unmistakable.

Eggs are laid on various species of grass and the caterpillars, like those of many skippers, feed in a tube formed by rolling a blade of grass and securing it with silk. The caterpillars hibernate when quite mature, so are able to feed up, pupate and emerge relatively early in the year compared to other golden skippers, typically appearing in May in hotter regions (like the Rhône Valley of Switzerland) or June further north, and flying until August. According to Tolman the species is bivoltine in Spain.