Spotty Chequered Skippers!

Following the announcement of our news about the initial Chequered Skipper success (very exciting!), people have been curious as to why red spots can be seen on the wings of some of the butterflies. Hopefully this blog post will reveal all.

This year we bought a second batch of Chequered Skipper’s over from Belgium and released them into the same site as last year. We therefore needed to be able to tell apart any butterflies that emerged over here – our ‘English’ Chequered Skippers - from the latest release of Belgian ones. The simplest way to do this was to mark the Belgian ones before we released them into their new home.

No hi-tec equipment was needed, just a coloured permanent felt tip pen. Marking small butterflies is quite an art, and whilst I did attempt a few myself I left most of this work to Caroline Bulman, Head of Species Ecology at Butterfly Conservation, who has much more experience in doing this. Each butterfly was marked on both the upper and underside of the wing so that the markings could be seen if the butterfly was basking/perched with wings open or roosting with their wings closed.

Chequered Skipper Belgian - 2nd release day (c) David James

On this occasion, because our main concern was being able to tell an English-emerged Skipper from a Belgian one, a simple colour spot somewhere on the wing was fine. It would also have been possible to mark each butterfly differently in order to be able to tell individuals apart, a method which would have enabled us to get an idea of population size.

But because of the small size of Chequered Skippers, and their speedy flight, actually seeing these individual markings purely through binoculars (which is how we survey at the moment) would have been very difficult. We would have needed to catch the butterflies in order to determine detailed markings and we didn’t want to cause that much disturbance at this delicate stage of the reintroduction.

The marking system worked very well and the records of all the Chequered Skippers seen over the flight period have enabled us to map how the butterflies have spread within the reintroduction site. This has only been possible through the incredible dedication of a fantastic team of volunteer surveyors, who put in over 420 hours of their time over the flight period, so a huge thank you to all of them.


Susannah O'Riordan

Roots of Rockingham Project Officer



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