Thymelicus lineola | Essex Skipper | Léimneoir Essex

Pre 2017

2017 - 2021


Conservation status

Ireland: Not assessed, recently established (Regan et al., 2010)
Europe: Least Concern (van Swaay et al., 2010)
Climate risk category: Potential Climate Change Risk; present distribution in Europe can be explained by climate to only a limited extent (Settele et al., 2008)

Legal status

The Essex Skipper is not afforded legal protection in Ireland.

Native status


Species Biology


Key identification features include:

  • Small size, wingspan: 26 - 30 mm
  • Upperside of wings bright orange with black margins, males with distinct black line on upper forewing
  • Antennal tip black underneath


Generalist, found on unimproved dry grassland and field margins. It was first reported in Wexford in 2006 and is currently only known from two populations in Kildare and Wexford (Wilson et al., 2008; Harding & Jacob, 2013). Adults fly rapidly in sunshine close to the ground in grassy locations, or perch for long periods on warm, bare patches of ground. The males, which are territorial, also perch on or near prominent patches of flowers, while females seek out oviposition sites (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Flight period

Univoltine: from late June to mid-September.

Life cycle

Eggs are laid in low or tall herbs, within a rolled leaf-sheath on a grass-stem. The larva develops and hibernates within the eggshell prior to hatching in the spring. Within a few days of starting to feed it spins together the edges of a leaf blade and uses this as a tubular retreat. It emerges from this to feed on the leaf-tips. It pupates about late May in a silk cocoon enclosed within leak blades at the base of the foodplant (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Food plants

Generalist, the larvae feed primarily on Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata), but Creeping soft grass (Holcus mollis), Couch Grass (Elytrigia repens), Timothy-grass (Phleum pratense), Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) and False-brome Grass (Brachypodium sylvaticum) is also used.

Flowers visited

Generalist, adults primarily feed on Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.), but nectar sources also include: Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Heather (Calluna vulgaris / Erica spp.), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) and White Clover (Trifolium repens).


World distribution(GBIF)

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.



Bond, K.G.M. and Gittings, T. 2008. Database of Irish Lepidoptera. 1 - Macrohabitats, microsites and traits of Noctuidae and butterflies. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 35. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.

Harding, J. and Jacob, M. 2013. Addition of Small Skipper butterfly (Thymelicus sylvestris) to the Irish list and notes on the Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola)(Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae). Irish Naturalists' Journal 32(2): 142-144.

Regan, E.C., Nelson, B., Aldwell, B., Bertrand, C., Bond, K., Harding, J., Nash, D., Nixon, D. and Wilson, C.J. 2010. Ireland Red List No. 4 – Butterflies. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Ireland.

Settele, J., Kudrna, O., Harpke, A., Kühn, I., Van Swaay, C., Verovnik, R., Warren, M.S., Wiemers, M., Hanspach, J., Hickler, T. and Kühn, E. 2008. Climatic risk atlas of European butterflies. Sofia-Moscow: Pensoft.

Van Swaay, C., Cuttelod, A., Collins, S., Maes, D., López Munguira, M., Šašic, M., Settele, J., Verovnik, R., Verstrael, T., Warren, M., Wiemers, M. and Wynhof, I. 2010. European Red List of Butterflies. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Wilson, C.J., Goodwin, J. and Bond, K. (2008). Addition of Essex Skipper butterfly (Thymelicus lineola (Ochsenheimer,1808))(Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) to the Irish list and deletion of the previously recorded occurence of Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris (Poda, 1761)) in Ireland. Irish Naturalists' Journal 29: 133-134.