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Skipper (butterfly) facts for kids

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Thymelicus spp -xndr).jpg
Female Essex skipper, Thymelicus lineola
Scientific classification

Latreille, 1809

The skippers are a family of butterflies, the Hesperiidae. They are named after their quick, darting flight.

Skippers used to be classified in their own superfamily, Hesperioidea, because they have their antennae clubs hooked backward like a crochet while the other butterflies have club-like tips to their antennae. Skippers also have generally stockier bodies than regular butterflies, with stronger wing muscles.


There are about 3500 species of skippers. They are usually classified in the following subfamilies:

  • Coeliadinae: awls, awlets and policeman (butterfly) (about 75 species)
  • Hesperiinae: grass skippers (over 2000 species)
  • Heteropterinae: skipperlings (about 150 species)
  • Megathyminae: giant skippers (about 100 species)
  • Pyrginae: spread-winged skippers (about 1000 species)
  • Pyrrhopyginae: firetips (about 150 species)
  • Trapezitinae: Australian skippers (about 60 species)

Many species of skippers look frustratingly alike. For example, some species in the genera Erynnis, Hesperia, and Amblyscirtes cannot currently be distinguished in the field even by experts. The only reliable method of telling them apart involving dissection and examination of the genitalia.


Examples include:

  • Aaron's skipper - Poanes aaroni
  • Chequered skipper - Carterocephalus palaemon
  • Small skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris
  • Essex skipper - Thymelicus lineola
  • Lulworth skipper - Thymelicus acteon
  • Silver-spotted skipper - Hesperia comma
  • Large skipper - Ochlodes venata
  • Dingy skipper - Erynnis tages
  • Grizzled skipper - Pyrgus malvae
  • Dakota skipper - Hesperia dacotae

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