Yellow-banded Skipper (Pyrgus sidae)

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2017 photographs highlighted in yellow. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

24612_male_Var_07May11 10519_male_Var_14May08 42557_male_Var_08May17
5669_female_Var_25May07 34761_female_Var_6May14 34601_male_Var_29Apr14
0529_male_Var_10May06 10888_male_Var_26May08 40450_male_Var_11May16
   
25008_pair_Var_21May11    

A charming, above-average sized Pyrgus with a very distinctive underside. It is said to be very localised, but I have found it quite widespread in Var in lowland areas (it does not seem to occur at altitude, unlike most of its Pyrgus cousins), where its larval hostplant, Potentilla hirta, grows, and it seems to be very closely tied to the hostplant. In France, it only occurs in the far south-east. It is an early season (May) butterfly, and appears to be single brooded. It is quite large compared to other Pyrgus (you have to have seen a few for this to be obvious) and the uph is quite strongly and characteristically marked with a row of white submarginal splashes (sometimes the uph markings looking like a series of exclamation marks) which could only be confused with the Safflower Skipper (P. carthami). Also, notwithstanding the distinct yellow colouring, the pattern of the unh markings is quite similar to carthami.

It gets its name from the very distinctive underside, which is completely unlike any other Pyrgus, although it doesn't often sit with wings closed unless roosting. The subspecies occiduus flies in Provence, differing from the nominate form which only occurs from the Balkans eastwards, in that the yellow bands are somewhat paler, and the ups marks are less developed. However, this does not seem to accord with 0529 or 25008, in that the unh bands are quite a strong yellow and sharply outlined in black; 10888 is rather closer to the book description of occiduus, but I am not sure if this is due to wear or ageing, or just naturally pale. I need to see more sidae undersides before suggesting that either form is the norm in Var.

 

A superb video of the life-cycle of sidae has been produced by Filming VarWild and can be viewed on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl8otnXOuhg&t=629s

ref sex

observations

alt. m
24612 M a male, as indicated by the abdominal hair tuft. The upf is lightly marked for male sidae although the uph submarginal series is very strong. 220
10519 M

slightly stronger brown and with paler uph markings.

185
42557 M a very typical male, difficult to photograph as it hopped from daisy to daisy. 140
5669 F

slightly paler than the male but having the same characteristic markings.

185
34761 F a female which was in the process of egg-laying on this Potentilla species. 220
34601 M a male, originally just a record shot, but it rather nicely shows the boldness of the markings and strong yellow colouring of the band. 140
0529 M

I doubt that this is occiduus as the yellow bands are very strong and the borders black and strong.

250
10888 M

rather paler yellow (see comments above) and very likely a good example of the subspecies occiduus.

140
40450 M a typical sidae underside yellow colour, although they are not often seen with closed wings. 220
25008 PR a mating pair, the female being on the left. As is nearly always the case with mating pairs (of almost any species) the female is almost pristine and the male is worn and battered, being several days older and having engaged in territorial disputes. 340

 

24612_male_Var_07May11

 

10519_male_Var_14May08

 

42557_male_Var_08May17

 

5669_female_Var_25May07

 

34761_female_Var_6May14

 

34601_male_Var_29Apr14

 

0529_male_Var_10May06

 

10888_male_Var_26May08

 

40450_male_Var_11May16

 

25008_pair_Var_21May11