Skip Navigation Links

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)

On this page, we have made available all the information we have for this species

For example, clicking on one of the section titles below will show that piece of information. However, you can also choose to Show All the sections, or even Hide All, if you so wish.

Picture of Small Skipper
© Nick Greatorex-Davies

The Small Skipper is a common butterfly of open uncut grassland where it lives in self-contained colonies. Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) is the favoured hostplant. The butterfly is expanding its range northwards n Britain. (For further details on this species see

Family : Hesperiidae

Status : Rapid decline

Status details :
Status since 1976 is Rapid decline with a decrease of -74.9%
Status over the last 20 years is Rapid decline with a decrease of -44.0%
Status over the last 10 years is Stable with a increase of 68%

Log collated index plot

Species Log Collated Index Plot

This chart shows the index of abundance (LCI = Log Collated Index) over time. It shows fluctuations in populations from year to year, and is scaled so that the average index over the whole series is equal to 2 (horizontal line). For greater detail about how this index is derived, click on the green question mark above.

Trend description :
More widespread than the Essex Skipper, the Small Skipper has been one of the more common butterflies on UKBMS transects throughout England and Wales, but has declined significantly since monitoring began. Earlier in the series declines had been particularly prevalent on chalk grassland sites but also at many woodland sites and most increases had been in eastern England at woodland and coastal sites. However, less than twenty sites, scattered across the UK, now show trends of increase in Small Skipper and over 40% of monitored sites with sufficient data to calculate trends show significant long-term declines. The remaining sites are classed as stable showing no significant trend in either direction. The exact causes of these declines are not yet known and require further research, but are likely to have been exasperated recently by a run of years in which there has been poor weather during the majority of the flight period for this species.

This map shows the distribution between 1995 and 2016. Data is derived from the Butterflies for the New Millenium dataset via the NBN Gateway

Phenology plot
Species Phenology Plot

Phenology plot

This chart shows the average number of butterflies seen on transects between Arpil and October across all sites (fitted values from a Generalised Additive Model). The blue line gives average counts over the full BMS series (1976 to date) and the red line gives the average for the last year.

Species abundance map


This map shows symbols for the mean abundance at transect sites, with the colour of the symbol reflecting the level of abundance. Means are over all years. Grey background squares are the occupied cells as shown by the Butterflies for the New Millenium over the previous ten year period.


In total, Small Skipper has been recorded from 710 transects in the Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. Of these, annual indices of abundance have been calculated from 762 sites, with an average index of 44 individuals per site.

For 308 of these sites, Small Skipper has been recorded well enough to calculate annual indices of abundance in more years, allowing trends to be calculated.

In 2018, 12090 individuals were recorded from 325 sites, producing annual indices at 265 of these.

The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is organized and funded by Butterfly Conservation (BC), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The UKBMS is indebted to all volunteers who contribute data to the scheme.