Carcharodus alceae (Esper, [1780])

(Mallow Skipper)

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Original description

P. [apilio] Pl. Urb. Alceae“ Esper, E. J. C., [1780]: Die Schmetterlinge in Abbildungen nach der Natur ... 1 (2): 4; Taf. 51, Fig. 3 (female). Locus typicus: Probably Germany (Erlangen?).


Upperside colour mainly brownish, hindwings usually without prominent bright spots. Male without hair tuft on forewing underside. Underside of the hindwings also mainly brownish with some brighter spots.


(Female genitalia to follow)


Several subspecies have been described. Ssp. wissmanni is of special interest. It is distributetd in southwestern areas of the Arabian Peninsula.


From the Iberian Peninsula through Europe to Central Asia and probably western China. Northern limit of the distribution is the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. In the south the species reaches the Sinai, Mesopotamia, Pakistan and northern India. In northern Africa C. alceae is being replaced by the closely related species C. tripolina which can also be found in southern Spain and Portugal.

Flight time

In Central Europe usually two generations (April-May and July). In southern areas three or more generations. The fully grown caterpillar hibernates and pupates itself in spring without further feeding.

Ecology and habitats

Mainly gardens, „wasteland“ and agriculturally influenced areas.


Malvaceae, e.g. Alcea rosea, Malva sylvestris, M. moschata or Lavatheria thuringiaca. On the Sinai peninsula  found on a Euphorbiaceae plant.


This is the best known species of the genus, it has alredy been bred in the 17th century by M. S. Merian and figured in her caterpillar book.

Important literature and internet links

Lepiforum (in german)

Eurobutterflies (Matt Rowlings)

Guy Padfield's European Butterfly Page

Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa (Paolo Mazzei et al.)

Les Carnets du Lépidoptériste Français

Butterflies of France (Roger Gibbons)

L’Hespérie de l’Alcée, La Grisette

Carcharodus on

Homepage of Wolfgang Wagner (Heiner Ziegler)

Tree of life

Lepidoptera of Upper Bavaria (Markus Schwibinger, in german)

Lepidoptera in Austria (in german)

Motyle Europy

Lepidoptera of Ukraine (Vladimir V. Savchuk) (Ukrainian)

Butterflies of Kharkov Region (Eugene Karolinskiy)

„Alexanor“, Ukrainian Butterflies (S. G. Popov)

Butterflies of Turkey

Butterflies of Dagestan (V. Tikhonov)

Homepage of Michael Zepf

Filming VarWild

Fleeting Wonders (Philippe Bricaire)

Lepidoptera of Crimea

Benyamini, D. (2005): Euphorbiaceae – a new host-plant family for Carcharodus alceae Esper, 1780 (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) and a discussion on the use of Euphorbiaceae by butterfly larvae (Papilionoidea, Hesperioidea) in the world. – Nota lepidopterologica, 28 (2): 75–92.

Male (Switzerland/Valais, May 2009)

Egg (Switzerland/Bern, Bolligen, 2008,
studio photograph)

Larval tent, first instar
(Switzerland/Bern, Bolligen, 2008)

Larva, fifth instar (Switzerland/Bern, Bolligen, 2008)

Larval tent, fifth instar on Alcea rosea (Switzerland/Bern, Bolligen, 2008)

Habitat with host plant Alceae rosea
(Switzerland/Bern, Bolligen, 2008)

C. alceae Male
France, Var

leg. and GP W. de Prins

C. alceae Aedeagus
France, Var

leg. and GP W. de Prins

C. alceae Valva

France, Var

leg. und GP W. de Prins

C. alceae male (summer generation)
Switzerland, Bolligen, e.o. 10. 07. 2007

C. alceae female (summer generation)
Switzerland, Bolligen, e.o. 10. 07. 2007

C. alceae male (spring generation)
Switzerland, Miège, e.o. 24.-27. 04. 2008

C. alceae female (spring generation)
Switzerland, Ittigen, e.l. 21. 04. 2009

C. alceae male (summer generation)
Switzerland, Bolligen, e.o. 3. 07. 2007

C. alceae female (summer generation)
Switzerland, Bolligen, e.o. 3. 07. 2007

Host plant Malva sylvestris
(Switzerland/Bern, Ittigen, 2008)