Thursday 23 May
Lulworth skipper (Thymelicus acteon)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Lulworth skipper fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Lulworth skipper description
The Lulworth skipper is one of our smallest butterflies (3). Males are orange-brown with light spots and a black band on the forewings. Females are darker in colour than males and do not have this dark band. The underside of both sexes is orange-brown with no markings or spots (1). The caterpillar reaches 2.4 centimetres in length, has a green body with a darker green, yellow-bordered line along the back and pale yellow lines along the sides (4).
- Wingspan: 2.5 - 2.8 cm (1)
Lulworth skipper biology
The Lulworth skipper is single-brooded; adults fly between late June and late September, and eggs are laid in small groups in flower sheaths of tall patches of tor-grass. After hatching three weeks later, the larvae spin a cocoon in which to hibernate. They emerge the following spring and create tubes in which to live by spinning the leaf together. Pupation occurs amongst the clumps of tor-grass (4).Top
Lulworth skipper range
Found in some areas of south and central Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa. In Britain the Lulworth skipper is largely restricted to coastal areas of south Dorset, centred on the village of Lulworth, colonies are also known from the Isle of Portland and west Dorset (3).Top
Lulworth skipper habitat
The Lulworth skipper inhabits sheltered or south-facing slopes in unimproved calcareous grasslands, such as chalk downland and coastal grasslands (3). Tall clumps of the sole foodplant tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) are required (3).Top
Lulworth skipper status
Protected in Britain with respect to sale only under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (2).Top
Lulworth skipper threats
The Lulworth skipper was once found in Devon. Apart from the loss of the species in this area, its range has stayed relatively stable. Its habitats in Britain have not been destroyed, largely because the slopes on which the species occurs are too steep to be ploughed or occur in military training areas. During the twentieth century, the levels of grazing in areas inhabited by this skipper have decreased; the foodplant has been able to grow to the taller heights that suit this species as a result. Small declines in the Lulworth skipper have occurred in some areas due to an increase in grazing (2).Top
Lulworth skipper conservation
Scrub removal has benefited the species in some localities, and many sites are ungrazed (2). However, research has indicated that some grazing may actually benefit this butterfly, as nectar-source flowers will be encouraged, but grazing in spring and summer when the larvae tend to be located at high points on vegetation is detrimental. Maintaining the longer sward needed by this species conflicts with conservation management for other butterfly species such as the Adonis blue butterfly (Lysandra bellargus); conservation measures will therefore need to manage different parts of an area for different species, with the Lulworth skipper becoming a priority in the existing key areas (3).Top
Find out more
For more information on the Lulworth skipper see:
- Butterfly Conservation:
- Butterfly Conservation's Species Action Plan:
- Asher, J., Warren, M., Fox, R., Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G., and Jeffcoate, S. (2001) The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Information authenticated by Butterfly Conservation:
- Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
- A winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal's metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer. In insects, the correct term for hibernation is 'diapause', a temporary pause in development and growth. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
- Stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- The process of becoming a pupa, the stage of an insect's development, when huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
- Also known as ‘univoltine’. Referring to an organism which has just one brood each year.
- Still, J. (1996) Collins Wild Guide: Butterflies and moths of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
- Bourn, N.A.D. and Warren, M.S. (1997) Species Action Plan: Lulworth Skipper, Thymelicus Action. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham. Available at:
- Asher, J., Warren, M., Fox, R., Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G. and and Jeffcoate, S. (2001) The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Carter, D.J. and Hargreaves, B. (1986) A Field Guide to Caterpillars of Butterflies and Moths in Britain and Europe. Collins, London.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.