An Essex skipper with distinctive ink black antennae. © 2020 Steven Cheshire.
The Essex Skipper and Small Skipper are almost identical in appearance which often makes identification in the field extremely difficult, even for the experienced observer as they are often found living in the same habitats and on the wing at similar times. The Essex Skipper has distinctive glossy black tips to its antennae (including the underside of the antennae tip) while the Small Skipper has dull brown/orange tips.
The adult butterflies spend much of their time basking or resting on grass stems in typical 'golden skipper' style.
It is rarely recorded in large numbers, usually only one or two individuals may be seen. Confusion with the Small Skipper must be considered when recording this species.
The Essex Skipper is generally found in tall, dry grasslands in open sunny locations. It is commonly found on disused railways, roadside verges and neglected fields where the larval foodplant grows.
The larvae of the Essex Skipper feed primarily on Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata) but may also use Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus).
The Essex Skipper may turn up anywhere in the region on grassland sites. Although it has a widespread distribution in our region, you are unlikely to see more than a handful of individuals even on a good day at a reliable site.