Hesperia comma

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Silver-spotted skipper
Silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma) female.jpg
Silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma) female underside.jpg
Female underside, Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire
Not evaluated (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Hesperiidae
Genus: Hesperia
Species: H. comma
Binomial name
Hesperia comma
(Linnaeus, 1758)

See text

  • Papilio comma Linnaeus, 1758

Hesperia comma, the silver-spotted skipper, is a butterfly of the Hesperiidae family. It is also known as the common branded skipper or Holarctic grass skipper in North America, where the butterfly Epargyreus clarus, a spread-winged skipper, also has the common name of "silver-spotted skipper".

Hesperia comma-01 (xndr).jpg

Appearance, behaviour and distribution[edit]

Often confused with the large skipper Ochlodes venata, this species is easily distinguished by the numerous white spots on the underside hindwings, and the tips of the upper forewings tend to be darker than those of the large skipper. Also their flight periods rarely overlap; in Britain the large skipper has all but finished when the silver-spotted takes to the wing in August. The silver-spotted skipper prefers warm calcareous sites and has a wide distribution as far south as North Africa, northwards throughout Europe to the Arctic and eastwards across Asia to China and Japan. It also has subspecies in North America. In the UK it is rare and restricted to chalk downlands of southern England.


  • Hesperia comma assiniboia (Lyman 1892)
  • Hesperia comma benuncas (Oberthur 1912)
  • Hesperia comma borealis Lindsey 1942 – Labrador branded skipper
  • Hesperia comma catena (Staudinger 1861)
  • Hesperia comma colorado (Scudder 1874)
  • Hesperia comma comma (Linnaeus 1758)
  • Hesperia comma dimila (Moore 1874)
  • Hesperia comma dodgei (Bell 1927) – Dodge's branded skipper
  • Hesperia comma florinda (Butler 1878)
  • Hesperia comma harpalis (WH Edwards 1881) – Yosemite branded skipper (= Hesperia comma idaho, Idaho branded skipper)
  • Hesperia comma hulbirti Lindsey 1939 – Hulbirt's branded skipper
  • Hesperia comma laurentina (Lyman 1892) – Laurentian branded skipper
  • Hesperia comma lena Korshunov & P. Gorbunov 1995
  • Hesperia comma leussleri Lindsey 1940 – Leussler's branded skipper
  • Hesperia comma manitoba (Scudder 1874)
  • Hesperia comma mojavensis Austin & McGuire 1998 – Mojave branded skipper
  • Hesperia comma manitoba (Scudder 1874) – Manitoba branded skipper
  • Hesperia comma mattoonorum McGuire 1998
  • Hesperia comma mixta Alpheraky 1881
  • Hesperia comma ochracea Lindsey 1941
  • Hesperia comma oroplata Scott 1981
  • Hesperia comma oregonia (WH Edwards 1883) – Oregon branded skipper
  • Hesperia comma pallida Staudinger 1901
  • Hesperia comma planula Korshunov 1995
  • Hesperia comma sachalinensis Matsumura 1933
  • Hesperia comma shandura Evans 1949
  • Hesperia comma susanae L Miller 1962
  • Hesperia comma sushinki Korshunov 1995
  • Hesperia comma tildeni HA Freeman 1956 – Tilden's branded skipper
  • Hesperia comma yosemite Leussler 1933
Hesperia comma-02 (xndr).jpg

Life cycle and foodplants[edit]

Females lay single eggs during August and September on the leaf blades of sheep's fescue Festuca ovina, the only foodplant, and occasionally on nearby plants. The females are very fussy where they lay; most eggs in the UK are laid in short turf, up to 4 cm, and often next to patches of bare ground. This species overwinters as an egg and hatches in March. Like other skippers the larvae construct small tent-like structures from leaf blades and silk from which to feed. They enter the pupal stage after 14 to 15 weeks at the base of the foodplant. Pupation takes 10 to 14 days, and as with most butterflies the males emerge first.

Recent resurgence in the UK[edit]

Concerted conservation efforts in the UK, backed by government agencies, have seen this once-threatened species thriving in certain areas. Numbers have increased by some 1500% over the last twenty years; the number of sites has increased from just 68, with 202 new sites established. Conservation schemes have focussed on providing the silver-spotted skipper with suitable habitats, with positive results.

See also[edit]

References and external links[edit]