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Butterfly Conservation- Glasgow & South West Scotland Branch

Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) - PRIORITY SPECIES


A pretty skipper with chequered patches of yellow on a dark brown background. The sexes are difficult to tell apart. The female is however slightly larger, with bigger wings and has more black to the club base of the antennae (see the picture in our Atlas for an excellent comparison of the antennae).

Credit: Andrew Masterman
Credit: Anon
Credit: Jim Black

Life Cycle

Eggs are laid singly on Purple Moor-grass and hatch in early June. The young caterpillars feed on grass-blades until late October or early November and then over-winter as fully grown caterpillars in silk-wrapped grass blades. The overwintering caterpillars emerge in early April but do not feed but soon pupate in grassy vegetation.

Flight Times

The adults emerge in mid-May and are on the wing until the end of June

Habitat & Distribution in SW Scotland

Distribution map 2010

The Chequered Skipper has an intriguing very local distribution in Scotland being confined to the NW corner of the branch area around Loch Creran and Loch Etive and extending north into the Highland region as far north as Loch Arkaig where Butterfly Conservation has a nature reserve at Allt Mhuic (NN121912).

The Chequered Skipper used to be quite common in the East Midlands of England and was found in other scattered localities in the early twentieth century but gradually declined until it became exctinct in England in 1976. In Scotland, the Chequered Skipper was not discovered until 1939 and it is only as recently as the 1980s that surveys have identified its current range.

The habitat is wet open grassland dominated by Purple Moorgrass often on the edge of open deciduous woodland with Bog-myrtle and birch scrub which are thought to provide shelter and a warm micro-climate for the adults.. Breeding habitat is often found at the bottom of slopes next to Lochs & rivers and these conditions seem to promote lush growth of the foodplant which may partly account for its very local distribution.


  • Futter, K., Sutcliffe, R., Welham, D., Welham, A., Rostron, A., MacKay, J., Gregory, N., McCleary, J., Tait, T., Black, J. & Kirkland, P. 2006. Butterflies of South West Scotland. Argyll Publishing. (see Atlas page)
  • Asher, J., Warren, M, Fox, R., Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G., Jeffcoate, S. 2001. The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland. Oxford University Press.

Written by Andrew Masterman

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