The Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)
The Large Skipper prefers sites which contain large stands of Bramble and tall uncut grasses. In 2015 a number were to be seen on Bepton Down due to the extent of tall grasses and the omnipresent brambles. Should proper downland management be maintained the large skipper might find the site less to its liking. However with the SSSI’s margins containing vast quantities of brambles this delightful skipper might still decide to stay.
It is widely distributed throughout England and Wales but is absent from Ireland and all but Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. It is on the wing from late May until the middle of August. The pointed, hooked and black tipped antennae are distinctive and the male also as a dark diagonal line on both forewings.
Eggs are laid singly on the underside of foodplant leaves (Cock’s-foot, False Brome etc) in July and August. They will hatch about a fortnight later. As with all skippers the larvae will construct a shelter by curling a leaf using silk and will then begin to feed mainly at night. It will then hibernate as a half-grown caterpillar in a tube of grass from which it will emerge in spring when its development will be completed. It will pupate in a cocoon made of silk and grass from April until May emerging as a butterfly some three weeks later.
In southern Europe they may have up to three broods but in the U.K. a single one is the norm.