THE SKIPPERS

The group of Skippers, or Hesperidae, are, simply speaking, one of the three main lineages of butterflies found worldwide, and are primarily tropical. They are smallish stubby butterflies, that as adults tend to zip or skip around from one point to another. Their antennae are hooked at the tips, but this may be difficult to spot, depending on the angle of view. Skippers also have generally stockier bodies and larger compound eyes than the other two main groups of butterflies, with stronger wing muscles in the plump thorax, in this specific respect perhaps, resembling many moths more than the other two butterfly lineages do.

The larvae of the central, largest and most diverse group of Skippers are the so-called “grass skippers” which feed on grasses, usually rolling the leaves up by tying the edges together with silk to make tubes in which the larvae live, popping out to feed. They eject their faeces from the tubes by flicking them out using a structure called an “anal comb” with some force. This is the group that is represented by a few species in the UK.

The commonest and most widespread in the parish of Hadlow is the Large Skipper, but Small Skippers and Essex Skippers are are also to be found.

Of the other UK species, the Silver-spotted, Dingy and Grizzled Skippers are found elsewhere in Kent, but are primarily dry grassland species that are not found in the parish, or nearby to my knowledge. Chequered Skippers are now only found in a few damp grasslands in Scotland, while the Lulworth Skipper is confined to Dorset.

More than 3500 species of skippers are recognized altogether, and they occur worldwide, but with the greatest diversity in the Neotropical regions of Central and South America.

Skippers also have generally stockier bodies and larger compound eyes than the other two main groups of butterflies, with stronger wing muscles in the plump thorax, in this resembling many moths more than the other two butterfly lineages do.

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