CEI Star Species – May 2020

CEI’s star species for May is the Dingy Skipper butterfly 🦋😃🐛

New volunteer Kevin Hassan has been learning about this very moth-like butterfly and has this to say…

“During these uncertain times, hopefully you have had the opportunity to take advantage of the good weather and immerse yourself in the beauty of our countryside at this time of the year. On your daily outing you may have stopped to look at a butterfly by the side of the road or path and impressed your companion or family by identifying such species as the Tortoise Shell, Peacock, Orange Tip and the Small or the Large White. Another species that you may not be so familiar with is the Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages).

The Dingy Skipper is becoming increasingly rare in the UK and is listed as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. However, if you see a small butterfly with mottled grey-brown markings and two rows of small white spots, basking in the sun on bare ground then you can add another species to your list. Although rare (most sightings are recorded in southern England), there have been sightings in East Ayrshire at the ex-colliery sites of Barony A and Rankinston. Both these sites match the Dingy Skipper’s preferred habitats of old quarries and waste ground.

The adult butterfly’s flight period is in May and June when it can be seen flying quickly close to the ground seeking out its preferred food of nectar from yellow flowers such as Common Birds-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa). It lays it eggs on the leaves of these plants which the young caterpillar spins together to create a small tent from which it feeds. When fully grown the caterpillar creates another larger tent (hibernaculum) where it will hibernate over the winter months. In April the caterpillar pupates with the adult emerging in May /June.

So, the next time your out for your daily exercise look out for the Dingy Skipper and hopefully you will be rewarded by spotting this rare and not so dingy butterfly.”

Thanks Kevin!