On-line Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland

Thousands of photos of every butterfly to be seen in Britain and Ireland from our constantly updated galleries

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Swallowtail by Mark Hows from the Galleries.

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Species Image Identification Habitat Distribution Status Confusion species
Chequered Skipper (more images) Chequered Skipper Only skipper with chequered upperwing pattern. Sunny scrubby areas along the edges of copses. Restricted to Inverness and Argyll in Western Scotland. Rare Duke of Burgundy
Dingy Skipper (more images) Dingy Skipper Grey-brown upperwings with tiny white dots along the wing edges, fringed pale grey. Coastal dunes and rough ground, chalk and limestone downland. Widely distributed - the only skipper species in Ireland. Local Grizzled Skipper
Grizzled Skipper (more images) Grizzled Skipper Checkerboard upperwings with black and white barring to fringes. Clearings, woodland rides and edges, grassland with scrub. Declining in central southern counties, scarce in south-west and midlands. Absent from Scotland and Ireland. Very rare in Wales. Scarce Dingy Skipper
Lulworth Skipper (more images) Lulworth Skipper Smallest and darkest skipper. Brown upperwing with dusting of gold in the shape of a peacock's feather in the female. South-facing hillsides, cliff tops and undercliffs. All British colonies restricted to Dorset. Rapidly declining in Europe, although colonies in Dorset doing well. Large Skipper, Silver-spotted Skipper
Essex Skipper (more images) Essex Skipper Bright orange-brown upperwings. Rough, tall grassland, hedgerows, road verges, woodland edge, wetlands and salt marsh. Confined to England south of the Humber. Scattered colonies along coastal areas in south-west counties. Common Small Skipper
Small Skipper (more images) Small Skipper Bright orange-brown upperwings. Rough grassland, wasteland and along woodland rides and edges. England and Wales, but absent from north-west England, Scotland and Ireland. Common Essex Skipper (almost indistinguishable), Lulworth Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper (more images) Silver-spotted Skipper Olive-green underwings with silver patches. Southern chalk downs. Chilterns, North Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex and Kent. One isolated site in Somerset. Rare Large Skipper
Large Skipper (more images) Large Skipper Brown-edged upperwings with bright orange patches divided by black veins. Prefers more sheltered sites in unimproved grassland, hedgerows and road verges, woodland glades and edges. Lowland areas of England and Wales. Northward expansion into Scotland, but remains scarce. Common Silver-spotted Skipper, Lulworth Skipper
Swallowtail (more images) Swallowtail Unmistakeable bold back and pale yellow wing markings and long tails below a blue border and orange eye. Wetlands and fens. Confined to the Norfolk Broads. Occasional migrants along the south coast. Rare
Wood White (more images) Wood White Smallest of the "whites". Rests with wings closed – long, thin oval shape characteristic – dainty fluttering flight distinctive. Cleared woods, ditches and rides in young plantations, abandoned railway cuttings. Southern English Midlands, Wye Valley, East Wales and home counties including the Weald. Absent from Ireland except Galway. Scarce Green-veined White; Real's Wood White (Ireland)
Real's Wood White (more images) Real's Wood White Indistiguishable from Wood White. Best seperated therefore based on non-overlapping distribution. Grassland, meadows, fen and bog. Ireland, but not present in County Galway where Wood White is present. Local Wood White
Clouded Yellow (more images) Clouded Yellow Deep yellow underwings with black spot midway across forewing. Pair of silver spots with chestnut border on hind-wing. In flight rich orange upperwings with black borders. Southern downland and coastal grassland. Migrant from southern Europe reaching British shores in variable numbers each spring. Common in irruption years.
Brimstone (more images) Brimstone Large butterfly with pale yellow wings (paler in female) with pointed corners and prominent veins and a "mould" spot in the centre. Woods, hedgerows and gardens. Southern England up to Humberside. Localised in Wales. Common Clouded Yellow, Large White
Large White (more images) Large White Large butterfly with clean white wings with conspicuous black tips to the forewings. Vegetable gardens, allotments and cabbage fields. Throughout British Isles. Common – with swarming in some years with migrants from the continent. Small White
Small White (more images) Small White Smaller of the two "cabbage" whites – upperwings are clear white. Vegetable gardens, allotments and cabbage fields. Throughout British Isles although localised in Northern Scotland. Common
Green-veined White (more images) Green-veined White Broad grey-green veins on underwings. Found in all habitats but most often found around breeding sites in damp, boggy meadows, riversides and ditches. Throughout British Isles although absent from Shetland and parts of the Scottish Highlands. Common Small White
Orange Tip (more images) Orange Tip Bright orange wing tips of male distinctive. Mottled moss-green undersides of hindwing distinctive in both sexes. Wide range of habitats including tall open grassland and woodland rides. Common throughout England, Ireland and Wales, localised in parts of Scotland. Absent from the Highlands and Islands and the far north. Common Small White, Green-veined White (females only)
Green Hairstreak (more images) Green Hairstreak Unmistakeable bright green undersides to wings. Plain brown uppersides. Wide range of habitats including moorland, lowland heath, downland, woods and rough scrub. The most widely distributed hairstreak, but recent reclamation of old grassland habitat and intensive forestry has reduced its distribution. Local Dingy Skipper or female "Blue" in flight.
Brown Hairstreak (more images) Brown Hairstreak Golden underwings intersected by two white lines. Brown upper-wings with large orange patches in the female. Woodland or hedged fields with Ash or Blackthorn. Largest populations in the Weald of Surrey and Sussex, Devon and south-west Wales. Smaller colonies elsewhere in Southern English counties and Lincolnshire. Scarce Gatekeeper
Purple Hairstreak (more images) Purple Hairstreak Black upperwings turning purple in the sun. Silver-grey under-wings with white streak and orange eye. Oak woodland. Common in woodlands south of the Wash, localised further north. Common White-letter Hairstreak
White-letter Hairstreak (more images) White-letter Hairstreak Underwings are blackish-brown with thin W-shaped white line and orange crescents along edge of hind-wing. Elm trees especially Wych Elm. Throughout Wales and England as far north as Yorkshire. Abundant in the English Midlands. Local Black Hairstreak
Black Hairstreak (more images) Black Hairstreak Golden-brown underwings with white streak and diagnostic orange border with row of black spots. Woodland or hedgerow with Blackthorn. About 30 colonies exist in the East Midlands. Rare White-letter Hairstreak
Small Copper (more images) Small Copper Bright copper upper forewings with black marks. Copper border along hindwing. Rough open spaces including grassland, heath, sunny woodland rides and occasionally gardens. Throughout British Isles, absent only from higher mountainous parts of Scotland and the Scottish Isles. Common but declining
Small Blue (more images) Small Blue Tiny butterfly – male has silvery blue upper-wings (female brown) with no markings. Silver-grey underwings with row of black spots. Colonial butterfly found in chalk pits, embankments and downland. Widespread distribution with main strongholds in the Cotswolds, Wiltshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight. Extremely rare Holly Blue, Brown Argus in flight
Silver-studded Blue (more images) Silver-studded Blue White fringes and broad black border to blue upperwings. Distinctive underwing pattern with orange and black peacock-like studs. Heathland and dunes. Largest populations found in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset, but also locally in Norfolk, Suffolk and North Wales. Rare Brown Argus species
Brown Argus (more images) Brown Argus Sooty brown upperwings with crescent of orange spots along edge. Chalk and limestone grassland, dunes, woods and cliffs. South-east England and coast of Wales. Locally at coastal sites in the west country. Local Northern Brown Argus
Northern Brown Argus (more images) Northern Brown Argus Almost identical to Brown Argus but with white spot in centre of forewing in northern colonies. Mountains with broken scree and rough grassland. Scotland and Northern England. Local Brown Argus
Common Blue (more images) Common Blue Males have bright blue unmarked upperwings. Female upper wing colour varies from purple through brown with orange crescents along outer edge. Dunes, cliffs, heathland and rough short-cropped grassland. Found throughout British Isles absent only above 500m and the far north Shetland Isles. Common Holly, Adonis and Silver-studded Blue
Chalkhill Blue (more images) Chalkhill Blue Large "blue" with pale, slivery-grey upperwings in the male. Female has brown upperwings. Chalk and limestone downland. North and South Downs and other similar habitat in Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Dorset. Local Adonis Blue (females only)
Adonis Blue (more images) Adonis Blue Brilliant turquoise-blue upperwings edged with thin black line. Female has brown upperwings, near identical to Chalkhill Blue. South-facing chalk or limestone grassland. North and South Downs and other similar habitat in Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Dorset. Scarce Chalkhill Blue (females only)
Holly Blue (more images) Holly Blue Diagnostic underwing lacking orange marks but tiny black dots. Upperwings violet blue. Gardens, hedgerows and woods. Throughout England although commonest in the South. Local in Ireland and Wales. Common Small Blue
Large Blue (more images) Large Blue Broad black borders to blue upperwings with 4-6 black spots. Black spots but no orange marks on underwing. Colonial species found on grazed, unfertilised south-facing grassland. Sites on Dartmoor, in Cornwall and the Cotswolds. Extremely Rare Female Holly Blue, male Common Blue
Duke of Burgundy (more images) Duke of Burgundy Size and shape of a "Blue" but with the markings of a Fritillary. Upper and underwing black with orange patches and black spots. Chalk and limestone grassland and recently cleared woodland. Strongholds in Wiltshire and Hampshire, but smaller colonies elsewhere including North Yorkshire and the Lakes. Rapidly declining Small Copper
White Admiral (more images) White Admiral Dusky brown upperwings with wide white band. Pattern repeated on underwing. Shady woodlands. England south of the Humber, especially Southern Central counties. Local
Painted Lady (more images) Painted Lady Chequered upperwing pattern of black veins and black and white patches on dull orange wings. Hind underwing has intricate pattern with dark eye-spots. Any sunny habitat including gardens. Throughout British Isles. Common (in some years) migrant.
Purple Emperor (more images) Purple Emperor Large butterfly with dusky purple upperwings with white band across hindwings and white spots on forewings. Large forests and woodlands. Central Southern English counties especially Surrey and Sussex. Scarce White Admiral
Small Tortoiseshell (more images) Small Tortoiseshell Bright orange upperwings with dark border of blue crescents and six black patches on each forewing. Sunny, open countryside. Throughout British Isles including far north islands. Common
Large Tortoiseshell (more images) Large Tortoiseshell Like larger, duller Small Tortoiseshell. Forest edges and wooded lanes with Elm. Extinct as a resident species. Most sightings are misidentification or captive released stock. Extinct Small Tortoiseshell
Red Admiral (more images) Red Admiral Unmistakeable velvet black upperwings with diagonal band of red across each forewing and along edge of hindwing. Conspicuous white patches at top of forewing. All habitats especially woods, gardens and hedgerows. Throughout British Isles including far north islands. Common migrant
Peacock (more images) Peacock Spectacular glossy blue and black peacock eyes on each upperwing against a chestnut- red background. Most habitats especially in and around woods. England, Wales and Ireland expanding into Southern Scotland. Common
Comma (more images) Comma Jagged orange upperwings with brown and black blotches. Woods, hedges and mature gardens. England, Wales and recently South-east Scotland. Locally common following rapid recent expansion.
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (more images) Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary Mosaic of yellow underwings with 7 pearls along edge of hindwing. Orange upperwings with black veins, crossbars and spots. Moist, grassy habitats, often near woodland edges, also moorland and heath. Western areas of Scotland, Wales and England. Locally common Pearl-bordered Fritillary
Pearl-bordered Fritillary (more images) Pearl-bordered Fritillary Underwing is mosaic of orange and yellow with seven pearls along outer edge of hindwing but only 2 within the wing. Upperwings identical to Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Scrubby gorse or bracken covered hills. Stronghold remains West and Highland areas of Scotland. Fast declining species now restricted to a few carefully conserved sites. Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary
High-brown Fritillary (more images) High-brown Fritillary Greenish-orange underwings with large silver spots outlined in black. Rough grassland and scrubby areas. Devon (Dartmoor), Lancashire (Morecombe Bay) and South Wales (Alun Valley) Rare Dark-green Fritillary
Dark-green Fritillary (more images) Dark-green Fritillary Greenish underwings lacking eyes between outer rows of silver spots. Cliffs, dunes, moorland and rough grassland. Coastline of Britain and hilly areas of Scotland, Wales and SW England. Scarce elsewhere. Locally common High-brown Fritillary
Silver-washed Fritillary (more images) Silver-washed Fritillary Largest and most striking Fritillary with deep orange wings with large black spots and lines. Woodland. South and South-west England, Wales and Ireland. Locally common
Marsh Fritillary (more images) Marsh Fritillary Reddish-orange upperwings with strong black veins and crossbars and characteristic row of black dots along edge of hindwing. Generally duller, less distinct Fritillary. Open grassland, damp and boggy meadows. Grasslands of Cornwall, Devon and Wiltshire, South Wales and Western Scotland. Rare
Glanville Fritillary (more images) Glanville Fritillary Upper hindwing has row of black spots in orange circles. Under hindwing white with two orange bands outlined in black. Cliffs and warm sheltered valleys. Isle of Wight. Occasional temporary coloniser to mainland counties. Rare
Heath Fritillary (more images) Heath Fritillary Dark Fritillary lacking any spotting on any wing. Woodland rides and clearings. Kent, Essex and Devon. Rare
Speckled Wood (more images) Speckled Wood Distinctive creamy patches on brown upperwings. Upper hindwing has three black eyes towards rear edge. Shaded woodland. England (south of Yorkshire), Wales and Ireland. Also northern Scotland. Common
Wall Brown (more images) Wall Brown Orange upperwings with dark borders and black eye-spot on each forewing. Open grassland including wasteland. Cliffs. Common neat coastline of England and Wales and Ireland. Scarce in the Midlands and Central Southern England. Scarce
Mountain Ringlet (more images) Mountain Ringlet Velvet brown upperwings with orange blotches with tiny black dots towards outer edge. Grassy areas on mountain sides. Lake District and highlands of Scotland. Local Scotch Argus
Scotch Argus (more images) Scotch Argus Velvet brown upperwings with bold orange blotches and white-pupilled black eye-spots. Boggy grassland. Lake District and south-west Scotland, the Highlands and inner isles. Local Mountain Ringlet
Marbled White (more images) Marbled White Distinctive Black and white chequered upperwings. Unfertilised chalk and limestone grassland, cliffs, woodland rides and embankments. Central southern and south-west England with colonisation into Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Locally common
Grayling (more images) Grayling Marbled underwings with darker centre separated from paler outer half by ziz-zag boundary. Under forewings have orange centre with two black eye-spots. Upperwings light brown with straw-coloured bands. Rough grassland, quarries, cliffs, dunes and lowland heath. Coastline of Britain and Ireland. Scarce
Gate Keeper (more images) Gate Keeper Orange patches on both upper wings with single double-pupilled eye-spot on forewing. Hedgerows, scrubby grassland and woodland glades. Restricted to southern counties north to the Midlands and lowland Wales. Also southern coast of Ireland. Common Female Meadow Brown
Meadow Brown (more images) Meadow Brown Dusky-brown upperwing with one black eye-spot on forewing. Female has obvious orange patch on forewing. Any habitat with grasses. Throughout British Isles. Common Small Heath, Large Heath and Ringlet
Ringlet (more images) Ringlet Dark brown upperwings with white fringe. Dark underwings with row of characteristic black eyes with white pupils and yellow rings. Woodland glades and borders with lush vegetation. Also scrubby rank grassland. Wales, Ireland South and eastern England and lowland southern Scotland. Local Meadow Brown
Small Heath (more images) Small Heath Under forewing is orange with black eye-spot. Under hindwing grey-brown with white blotch mid-way out. Unimproved grassland, downs, road verges, dunes, heaths and moorland. Throughout British Isles. Common Meadow Brown
Large Heath (more images) Large Heath Green-grey underwings with pale zig-zag band and string of black eye-spots. More northerly butterflies lack the eye-spots. Damp moors and peat bogs. Ireland, north Wales and northern England. More widely distributed in Scotland. Uncommon Meadow Brown