Butterflies are usually day-flying insects of the order Lepidoptera. They are grouped together in the suborder Rhopalocera. Butterflies are closely related to moths, from which they evolved.
The life of butterflies is closely connected to flowering plants, which their larvae (caterpillars) feed on, and their adults feed and lay their eggs on. They have a long-lasting history of co-evolution with flowering plants.
Moths - most species are active only at night. They can be told apart from butterflies in several ways. Moth antenna look like little feathers, and their wings are held flat on their backs when they are not flying.
||Brimstone (Female) - Gonepteryx rhamni
It is commonly believed that the word "butterfly" is a derived from "butter-coloured fly" which is attributed to the yellow of the male Brimstone butterfly, the female being a much paler whitish-green. The Brimstone has a most exquisite wing shape, perfectly matching a leaf when roosting overnight or hibernating within foliage. This is one of the few species that hibernates as an adult and, as such, spends the majority of its life as an adult butterfly. The distribution of this species closely follows that of the larval foodplant. In England, where it is represented by the subspecies rhamni, it can be found south of a line from Cheshire in the west to South-east Yorkshire in the east, although vagrants may turn up in other areas. In Ireland, where it is represented by the subspecies gravesi, its strongholds are in a small area that lies between the borders of West Galway, West Mayo and East Mayo, and a band running through central Ireland from Clare in the west to Kildare in the east.
||Comma - Polygonia c-album
Ragged wing edges distinguish this orange and brown butterfly. Undersides are brown with a white mark shaped like a comma.
The Comma is a fascinating butterfly. The scalloped edges and cryptic colouring of the wings conceal hibernating adults amongst dead leaves, while the larvae, flecked with brown and white markings, bear close resemblance to bird droppings.
The caterpillars are also cryptic. They are black and white, resembling a bird dropping. In the U.K the larvae feed on Hop, Common Nettle, Elm, and Blackcurrant; in other parts of its distribution it also feeds on Sallow and Birch.
||Common Blue - Polyommatus Icarus
Sue & Roy 20140529
Male has blue wings with black-brown border and thin white fringe. Female brown, similar to Brown Argus, but with blue dusting near body.
The Common Blue is the most widespread blue butterfly in Britain and Ireland and is found in a variety of grassy habitats.
The brightly coloured males are conspicuous but females are more secretive.
Caterpillars eat Common Bird's-foot-trefoil is the main foodplant. Other plants used include: Greater Bird's-foot-trefoil, Black Medick, Common Restharrow, White Clover and Lesser Trefoil.
||Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus
John F July 2017
Orange and brown, with black eyespot on forewing tip. Eyespots have two white pupils, not one, as in the Meadow Brown.
As its English names suggest, the Gatekeeper (also known as the Hedge Brown) is often encountered where clumps of flowers grow in gateways and along hedgerows and field edges. It is often seen together with the Meadow Brown and Ringlet, from which it is easily distinguished when basking or nectaring with open wings.
The larvae of feed on grasses, such as Rough and Smooth Meadowgrass, Smooth Meadow Grass, Sheep's Fescue, and are usually green or brown in colour.
||Green-veined White - Pieris napi
John F May 2017
Wings white with prominent greenish veins on hind wing. Upper wings have one or more spots. Small White is similar but lacks the green veins.
Caterpillars eat a range of wild crucifers is used: Garlic Mustard, Cuckooflower, Hedge Mustard, Water- cress , Charlock, Large Bitter-cress, Wild Cabbage and Wild Radish. Nasturtium and cultivated crucifers are used occasionally.
||Holly Blue - Celastrina argiolus
Wings are bright blue. Females have black wing edges. Undersides pale blue with small black spots which distinguish them from Common Blue.
The Holly Blue is easily identified in early spring, as it emerges well before other blue butterflies. It tends to fly high around bushes and trees, whereas other grassland blues usually stay near ground level. It is much the commonest blue found in parks and gardens where it congregates around Holly (in spring) and Ivy (in late summer).
The Holly Blue is widespread, but undergoes large fluctuations in numbers from year to year. It has expanded northwards in recent years and has colonised parts of midland and northern England.
||Large Skipper - Ochlodes sylvanus
John F June 2017
A small widespread butterfly with a darting flight. Upperwings orange with brown margins with a few pale orange spots.
Male Large Skippers are most often found perching in a prominent, sunny position, usually on a large leaf at a boundary between taller and shorter vegetation, awaiting passing females. Females are less conspicuous, though both sexes may be seen feeding on flowers, Bramble being a favourite. Males have thick black line through centre of fore-wing.
Caterpillars eat Cock’s-foot and occasionally Purple Moor-grass and False Brome are used. Females have been observed laying eggs on Tor-grass and Wood Small-reed.
||Large White - Pieris brassicae
Sue & Roy
The Large White is one of two species (the other being the Small White)
that can claim the title of "Cabbage White" that is the bane of allotment holders all over the British Isles. The larva of this species can reach pest proportions, and decimate cabbages to the point that they become mere skeletons of their former selves. The female is distinguished from the male by the presence of 2 black spots, together with a black dash, on the forewing upperside. This is one of the most widespread species found in the British Isles and can be found almost anywhere, including Orkney and Shetland. This species is also known to migrate to the British Isles from the continent, augmenting the resident population in the process.
Meadow Brown - Maniola jurtina
John F July 2017
Orange and brown, with black eyespot on forewing tip.
Widespread and common throughout Britain and Ireland. Eyespots have single white pupils unlike Gatekeeper which has two and is smaller and more orange with row of tiny white dots on hind underwings.
The Meadow Brown is the most abundant butterfly species in many habitats. Hundreds may be seen together at some sites, flying low over the vegetation. Adults fly even in dull weather when most other butterflies are inactive.
The caterpillar eat a wide range of grasses. Those with finer leaves such as fescues, bents and meadow- grasses are preferred, but some coarser species such as Cock's- foot , Downy Oat-grass, and False Brome are also eaten by larger larvae. Other species of grass are also believed to be used.
John F June 2017
Thought this was a Ringlet but now I think it'a a male Meadow Brown.
||Orange Tip - Anthocharis cardamines
John F June 2017
The Orange-tip is a true sign of spring, being one of the first species to emerge that has not overwintered as an adult. The male and female of this species are very different in appearance. The more-conspicuous male has orange tips to the forewings, that give this butterfly its name. These orange tips are absent in the female and the female is often mistaken for one of the other whites, especially the Green-veined White or Small White. This butterfly is found throughout England, Wales and Ireland, but is somewhat-local further north and especially in Scotland. In most regions this butterfly does not form discrete colonies and wanders in every direction as it flies along hedgerows and woodland margins looking for a mate, nectar sources or foodplants. More northerly colonies are more compact and also more restricted in their movements.
||Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui
Sue & Roy
This species is a migrant to our shores and, in some years, the migration can be spectacular. The most-recent spectacle, in 2009, is considered to be one of the greatest migrations ever, with sightings from all over the British Isles that are definitely on a par with previous cardui years.
It originates from north Africa, and it has been suggested that the urge to migrate is triggered when an individual encounters a certain density of its own kind within a given area. This theory makes perfect sense, since this species can occur in high densities that result in foodplants being stripped bare on occasion with many larvae perishing as a result.
Unfortunately, this species is unable to survive our winter in any stage. This is a real shame, for not only does this species often arrive in large numbers, but is a welcome sight as it nectars in gardens throughout the British Isles in late summer. This butterfly has a strong flight and can be found anywhere in the British Isles, including Orkney and Shetland. An interesting fact is that this butterfly is the only butterfly species ever to have been recorded from Iceland.
|Peacock - Aglais io
Sue & Roy 20140424
Red wings with black markings and distinctive eyespots on tips of fore and hind wings.
The Peacock's spectacular pattern of eyespots, evolved to startle or confuse predators, make it one of the most easily recognized and best known species. It is from these wing markings that the butterfly gained its common name. Undersides of the wings are very dark and look like dead leaves. A fairly large butterfly and a strong flyer.
Caterpillar foodstuffs are Common Nettle, although eggs and larvae are occasionally reported on Small Nettle and Hops.
John F 20140625
The eggs are ribbed and olive-green in colour and laid on the upper parts, and, the undersides of leaves of nettle plants and hops. The caterpillars, which are shiny black with six rows of barbed spikes and a series of white dots on each segment, and which have a shiny black head, hatch after about a week. The chrysalis may be either grey, brown, or green in colour and may have a blackish tinge. They grow up to 42 mm in length.
The recorded food plants of the European Peacock are Stinging Nettle, Hop, and the Small Nettle.
||Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta
John F June 2020
The Red Admiral is a frequent visitor to gardens throughout the British Isles and one of our most well-known butterflies. This butterfly is unmistakable, with the velvety black wings intersected by striking red bands.
This butterfly is primarily a migrant to our shores, although sightings of individuals and immature stages in the first few months of the year, especially in the south of England, mean that this butterfly is now considered resident. This resident population is considered to only be a small fraction of the population seen in the British Isles, which gets topped up every year with migrants arriving in May and June that originate in central Europe. Unfortunately, most individuals are unable to survive our winter, especially in the cooler regions of the British Isles.
||Ringlet - Aphantopus hyperantus
Underwing has distinctive eyespots: white centre, black inner ring and outer yellow ring.
When newly emerged, the Ringlet has a velvety appearance and is almost black, with a white fringe to the wings. The small circles on the underwings, which give the butterfly its name, vary in number and size and may be enlarged and elongated or reduced to small white spots; occasionally they lack the black ring. They are a dark brown butterfly and similar to male Meadow Brown.
Caterpillar foodplants are coarser grasses including Cock's-foot, False Brome, Tufted Hair-grass, Common Couch, and meadow-grasses. Other species of grass may also be used.
||Small Copper - Lycaena phlaeas
Sue & Roy 20140529
Bright copper with brown spots and brown margin. Undersides orange-brown with spots.
The Small Copper is usually seen in ones and twos, but in some years large numbers may be found at good sites. Males are territorial, often choosing a piece of bare ground or a stone on which to bask and await passing females. They behave aggressively towards any passing insects, returning to the same spot when the chase is over.
Caterpillars eat Common Sorrel and Sheep's Sorrel are the main foodplants. Broad-leaved Dock may be occasionally used.
||Small Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris
John F July 2017
This golden skipper is often found basking on vegetation, or making
short buzzing flights among tall grass stems. Despite its name, 4
skipper species found in the British Isles are the same size or smaller
than the Small Skipper. The male is distinguished from the female by the
sex brand on its forewings, which is a slightly curved line of
specialised scent scales. This butterfly is widespread on the British
mainland, south of a line running between Westmorland in the west and North Northumberland in the east. It is absent from Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. This species lives in discrete colonies of both small and large populations.
||Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae
John F March 2017
Bright orange and black wings with white spot in forewing which separates it from the larger and much rarer Large Tortoiseshell. The caterpillars feed on stinging nettles and small nettle.
The Small Tortoiseshell is among the most well known butterflies in Britain and Ireland. The striking and attractive patterning, and its appearance at almost any time of the year in urban areas have made it a familiar species.
||Small White - Pieris rapae
The Small White, along with the Large White, can claim the title of "Cabbage White" that is the bane of allotment holders all over the British Isles although the damage caused by this species is significantly less than that of the Large White. This is one of the most widespread species found in the British Isles and can be found almost everywhere. It is relatively scarce in northern Scotland but has been seen as far north as Orkney and Shetland. This species is also known to migrate to the British Isles from the continent, sometimes flying in great swarms, augmenting the resident population in the process.
||Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria
John F April 2017
Dark brown with creamy white patches on wings.
Occurs in woodland, gardens and hedgerows. Butterflies often perch in sunny spots, spiralling into the air to chase each other.
The aptly named Speckled Wood flies in partially shaded woodland with dappled sunlight. The male usually perches in a small pool of sunlight, from where it rises rapidly to intercept any intruder. Both sexes feed on honeydew in the tree tops and are rarely seen feeding on flowers, except early and late in the year when aphid activity is low.
The eggs are laid on a variety of grass host plants and the caterpillar is green with a short, forked tail, and the chrysalis is green or dark brown.
|Bio Blitz ------ 26-06-2015 blue & black
Brimstone - Gonepteryx rhamni
Comma - Polygonia c-album
Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus
Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus
Green-veined White - Pieris napi
Large Skipper - Ochlodes sylvanus
Large White - Pieris brassicae
Meadow Brown - Maniola jurtina
Orange Tip - Anthocharis cardamines
Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui
Peacock - Aglais io
Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta
Ringlet - Aphantopus hyperantus
Small Copper - Lycaena phlaeas
Small Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris
Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae
Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria
Added by Harry Ball
Small White - Pieris rapae
Added by John Ellis
Holly Blue - Celastrina argiolus
||Beautiful China-Mark - Nymphula nitidulata
Sue & Roy 20140625
Wingspan 18-22 mm.
One of the more distinctive and beautiful members of the Pyralidae, this is another species whose larvae are aquatic, feeding on bur-reed (Sparganium) and other water plants.
Found fairly commonly around lakes, rivers and ponds throughout Britain, the moths are on the wing during July and August.
It flies in the evening and at night, and comes readily to light.
||Burnet Companion - Euclidia glyphica
John F June 2017
One of the few day-flying moths, this species gets its English name from the fact that it is often found in company with Burnet moths.
It is relatively common in the southern half of Britain, becoming scarcer further north.
It inhabits open woodland, pastures and downland, and the larvae feed on clover (Trifolium) and trefoil (Lotus).
Cinnabar Moth - Tyria jacobaea
John F June 2017
Resembling no other British species, except perhaps the burnets (Zygaenidae), this is a fairly common moth in much of Britain.
It is generally nocturnal, but is quite often disturbed during the day from long grass, low herbage etc. At night, it comes to light.
The distinctive larvae, with their yellow and black hoops, generally feed gregariously on ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and other related plants.
The flight period is May through July.
Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar
John F July 2017
Just loves to eat Ragwort.
||Light Brown Apple Moth - Epiphyas postvittana
This originally Australian pest species was probably accidentally introduced into Cornwall in the 1930's and since then has spread quickly northwards, and is now regular in many parts, and very common in some areas. It flies in two generations between May and October.
Is an extremely polyphagous insect and considered to be a major pest of fruits (i.e. pome fruits such as apples) and ornamental plants (Danthanarayana 1975). Specifically, the worldwide distribution of light brown apple moth across dry, temperate, and tropical climates as well as a variety of geographic ranges suggests that the pest may be able to inhabit almost 80% of the continental U.S.
||Ruby Tiger Moth Caterpillar - Phragmatobia fuliginosa
John F Oct 2017
Fairly widespread throughout Britain, this species is common in places. Showing a gradual variation in colour, with the brightest individuals in the south.
The average wings span of is about 34mm
It derives its name from its dark reddy/brown forewings.
The thinly scaled wings have a metallic sheen but their brightness can vary with dark borealis forms particularly common in the north.
One or two black spots are usually evident in the middle of the forewings, the top half of the legs are covered in red or brown hairs and the upper leg coated in red hair.
When disturbed during the day in sunlight they can appear dramatically red in flight.
||Silver Y - Autographa gamma
Sue & Roy 20140609
Medium-sized, silver-grey moth with white y-shaped mark on the forewing. Found in most habitats. Some years, high numbers can be seen in gardens feeding at flowers.
Probably the UK's most common immigrant moth. Each forewing has conspicuous unbroken metallic silver Y-marking. Could be mistaken for the Ni Moth, which is generally smaller with a broken-Y mark or the Scarce Silver Y which is darker in colour. Superficially similar to several other species, but generally distinctive. F. gammina is smaller and can be found in most years.
They feed on a wide variety of low-growing plants and have been recorded on over 200 different species including crops such as the garden pea, sugar beet and cabbage. They can reduce crop yields by damaging leaves and are often considered to be a pest.
||Six Spot Burnet - Zygaena filipendulae
Sue & Roy 20140707
Medium-sized black moth with six red, occasionally yellow, spots. Frequents flowery grassland, woodland rides and sandhills.
The only British burnet moth with six red spots on each forewing, although care must be taken with identification, as in some cases the outermost spots can be fused. Rarely the red colour is replaced by yellow.
Caterpillars eat Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil, but also occasionally on Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil.
The species overwinters as a larva.
The larva is plump and hairy with variable markings, usually pale green with rows of black spots. It pupates in a papery cocoon attached to foliage.
Data supplied by H N Ball, G McPhail & L Holton
Brindled Pug - Eupithecia abbreviata
Chequered Fruit-tree Tortrix - Pandemis corylana
Common Carpet - Epirrhoe alternata
Common Quaker - Orthosia cerasi
Copper Underwing - Amphipyra pyramidea
Dark Arches - Apamea monoglypha
Dingy Footman - Eilema griseola
Double-striped Pug - Gymnoscelis rufifasciata
Dun-bar - Cosmia trapezina
Dusky Thorn - Ennomos fuscantaria
Gold Spot - Plusia festucae
Grey Dagger - Acronicta Psi
Hebrew Character - Orthosia gothica
Least Black Arches - Nola confusalis
Least Yellow Underwing - Noctua interjecta
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing - Noctua j
Marbled Beaty - Cryphia domestica
Mother of Pearl - Pleuroptya ruralis
Old Lady - Mormo maura
Pale Prominent - Pterostoma palpina
Pale Tussock - Calliteara pudibunda
Red-green Carpet - Chloroclysta siterata
Rivulet - Perizoma affinitata
Shaded Broad-bar - Scotopteryx chenopodiata
Shuttle-shaped - Dart Agrotis puta
Six-striped Rustic - Xestia sexstringata
Spectacle - Abrostola tripartita
Straw Dot - Rivula sericealis
Streamer - Anticlea derivata
Square-spot Rustic - Xestia xanthographa
Tawny Pinion - Lithophane semibrunnea
Twin-spotted Wainscot - Archanara geminipuncta
Waved Umber - Menophra abruptaria
Yellow-barred Brindle - Acasis viretata
Yellow Shell - Camptogramma bilineata
Bio Blitz - 26-06-2015 blue & black
Beautiful China-Mark - Nymphula nitidulata
Brimstone Moth - Opisthograptis luteolata
Buff Ermine - Spilosoma luteum
Burnet Companion - Euclidia glyphica
Cinnabar - Tyria jacobaea
Clay - Mythimna ferrago
Common Emerald - Hemithea aestivaria
Common Marble - Celypha lacunana
Common Marbled Carpet - Chloroclysta truncata
Common Pug - Eupithecia vulgata
Common Swift - Hepialus lupulinus
Common Wainscot - Mythimna pallens
Common White Wave - Cabera pusaria
Elephant Hawk-moth - Deilephila elpenor
Figure of Eighty - Tethea ocularis
Flame Shoulder - Ochropleura plecta
Ghost Moth - Hepialus humuli
Green Carpet - Colostygia pectinataria
Green Oak Tortrix - Tortrix viridana
Heart and Dart - Agrotis exclamationis
Large Yellow Underwing - Noctua pronuba
Light Brown Apple - Epiphyas postvittana
Light Emerald - Campaea margaritata
Marbled Minor - Oligia strigilis
Middle-barred Minor - Oligia fasciuncula
Mottled Beauty - Alcis repandata
Peach Blossom - Thyatira batis
Privet Hawk-moth - Sphinx ligustri
Riband Wave - Idaea aversata
Rosy Minor - Mesoligia literosa
Ruby Tiger - Phragmatobia fuliginosa
Silver-ground Carpet - Xanthorhoe montanata
Silver Y - Autographa gamma
Six Spot Burnet - Zygaena filipendulae
Small Fan-foot - Herminia grisealis
Small Square-spot - Diarsia rubi
Smoky Wainscot - Mythimna impura
Snout - Hypena proboscidalis
Willow Beauty - Peribatodes rhomboidaria