“Wales is an essential refuge for many of Britain’s butterflies and moths. The uplands, valleys and coasts have hugely important populations of rare butterflies and moths, including the Marsh, High Brown and Pearl-bordered Fritillaries. Mynydd Mawr is one of the remaining strongholds for the Marsh Fritillary, while The Great Orme in North Wales is the best place in Britain to see the endangered Silver-studded Blue. There are also sites on the Gower in South Wales that are much visited for both their butterflies and moths”. Web page of Butterfly Conservation
The following are my own collection of sightings to date, all were photographed in Wales, most in the North of the country and locally to where I live. I have given the date & location of each sighting in the captions of the photographs. I will update the list as often as possible.
Species Listed & photographed to date (last update July 2018)
Large White Pieris brassica; Small White Pieris rapae; Green-veined White Pieris napi; Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines
Speckled Wood Paragae aegeria; Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus; Gatekeeper Pyronia tythonus; Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina; Small CopperLycaena phlaeas; Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus; Wall BrownLasiommata megera
Hairstreaks, Coppers & Blues
Green Hairstreak Callophyrs rubi ; Purple Hairstreak Favonius querqus Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus; Common Blue Polyommatus icarus; Silver-studded Blue Plebejus argus ssp. caernensis Brown Argus Aricia agestis
Small Tortoishell Nymphalis urticae ; Red AdmiralVanessa Atalanta; Painted Lady Vanessa cardui ; Peacock Nymphalis io; Comma Polygonia c-album; Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja; Grayling Hipparchia semele; Grayling Hipparchia semele ssp Thyone
Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris ; Large Skipper Ochlodes sylvanus; Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages
LARGE WHITE– Pieris brassica
Flight period: Early April to October in two or three broods
Description: Wingspan 5.3-6.5cm. Forewing in both sexes has a black tip, female has two further black spots, undersides yellowish.
Distribution: Throughout Europe, up to 2,000m. Prefers open areas and is closely associated with agriculture; common everywhere, gardens, parks, meadows & fields.
Local sightings: Widespread throughout the area, particularly abundant where Wild Cabbage is found growing, esp. Little Orme
SMALL WHITE- Pieris rapae
Flight period: Mid-March to October in two to four broods.
Description: Wingspan: 4-5.2. Very similar in appearance to Large White except for smaller size. Male has one dark spot spot on forewing that varies greatly inintensity.
Distribution: Throughout Europe to 2000m, common everywhere, sometimes in great numbers.
Local sightings: Widespread throughout
GREEN-VEINED WHITE – Pieris napi
Flight period: Mid March to October in two to three broods, but only one at higher altitudes.
Description: Wingspan: 4-4.6cm. Very similar to Small White but veins on underside are dark-dusted. There are seasonal differences in size & colour: spring brood is smaller & with darker, more distinct pattern.
Distribution: Throughout Europe to an altitude of 2000m; common everywhere but preferring cool damp places, meadows, shrubby slopes and edges of deciduous woods.
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn, Little Orme, gardens
ORANGE TIP–Anthocharis cardamines
Flight period: April-June Habitats: may be found in a variety of habitats, including gardens, but favours damp grassland and woodland margins.
The male Orange Tip is unmistakable, but the female could be mistaken for one of the other whites unless her mottled underside is visible. The wing tips are more rounded than those of other whites.
With the forewings pulled right down the mottled underside provides the insect perfect camouflage, particularly in dappled shade on a woodland edge.
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn
COMMA – Polygonia c-album
Flight period: Mid-June – October ; Wingspan: 4-5.5cm.
Description: A very distinctive and attractive butterfly with a strikingly sculpted wing outline. Upperside ground colour is dark orange -brown with dark brown to black spots; underside is indistinctly dappled brown with a small white ‘c’, or comma on the hind wing.
Distribution: Throughout Europe except NW Scandinavia, up to 1900m; woodland edges & clearings, water meadows & shrubby countryside, also visits gardens.
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn, Little Orme, gardens
RED ADMIRAL – Vanessa atalanta
Flight period: A migrant from the south, first arrivals to N Europe are usually from late April-May; then two or three broods from July to October.
Description: Wingspan 5-6cm. Very distinctive black-brown with red bands & white spots; underside of forewing similar to upperside, underside of hind wing dappled grey-brown.
Distribution: Throughout Europe except the far north, up to 2,000m; usually found in wooded countryside, open woods, parks, gardens.
Local sightings: Widespread throughout. Often sighted on the summits of Bryn Euryn, Great Orme and Little Orme
PAINTED LADY–Vanessa cardui
Flight period: April-October; regular visitor but unable to survive the British winter; our population is renewed each year by migrants from Southern Europe.
Description: The only British butterfly with a rosy pink/orange upperside and black wingtips marked with white.
Local sightings: Occasional sightings on Little Orme and in garden, attracted to valerian.
PEACOCK– Inachis io
Flight period: Late June to October, and after hibernation March to June; one or two broods.
Description: Wingspan 5-5.6cm. Ground colour red, each wing with a large multi-coloured eyespot; underside of wings dark, blackish-brown.
Distribution: Throughout Europe except for N Scandinavia, up to 2,000m. Favours gardens, orchards & parks, flower-rich edges of woods, damp meadows & scrub.
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn, Bryn Pydew, gardens
SMALL TORTOISHELL – Nymphalis urticae
Flight period: March to October in two to three broods, but adult butterflies can be seen throughout the year, even Dec-Jan if temperature is high enough to wake them from hibernation. The butterfly is a familiar sight in late summer as it takes nectar to build up essential fats in preparation for hibernation.
Description: Adult has marbled dark orange, creamy yellow and black upperwings with blue spots around the wing margins; underwings are darkish, smoky brown. Larva is yellow and black, gregarious, and feeds on Common Nettle, hence scientific name ‘urticae’.
Distribution: This is one of our most widespread butterflies, occurring throughout the British Isles, including Orkney and Shetland. It is found throughout temperate Europe, Asia Minor, Central Asia, Siberia, China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan.
Status: Small Tortoiseshell numbers have suffered a troubling decline, especially in the south, over the last few years. This butterfly has always fluctuated in numbers, but the cause of the most-recent decline is not yet known.Various theories have been proposed; one is the increasing presence of a particular parasitic fly, Sturmia bella, due to global warming – this species being common on the continent. The fly lays its eggs on leaves of the foodplant, close to where larvae are feeding. The tiny eggs are then eaten whole by the larvae and the grubs that emerge feed on the insides of their host, avoiding the vital organs. A fly grub eventually kills its host and emerges from either the fully-grown larva or pupa before itself pupating. (UK Butterflies)
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn, Little Orme, Great Orme, var. gardens
DARK GREEN FRITILLARY–Argynnis aglaja
Flight period: Mid June to late August; one brood.Wingspan: 5-6cm
Description: Female is distinctly larger than the male. Upperside very similar to that of the Silver-washed Fritillary, but underside of hind wing is overlaid with a greenish colour & large number of roundish silver spots that shimmer like mother-of-pearl.
Distribution: Throughout Europe, in mountains up to the tree line, sometimes above 2,000m; along the edges of woods, in clearings, on moors and in unimproved meadows.
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn, Great Orme
Posts featuring the butterfly in location: All is bright & beautiful at the top of the Bryn
GRAYLING – Hipparchia semele
Flight period: Late June to mid-October; one brood; Wingspan 4.8-6cm
Description: . Brown with a yellowish band, forewing with two dark eye-spots, hindwing with one; underside hindwing patterned like bark or stone.
Behaviour: Upon landing Graylings habitually display most of the underside of the orange-coloured upper forewing, gradually closing it until just one ‘eye’ is exposed before finally closing it completely. It is thought that this behaviour, also observed in other butterfly species equipped with eye-like markings, is to offer a target to a potentially lurking predator that may strike there rather than at the actual head. The butterfly may survive losing a chunk of wing, but not its vital body parts. When the wings are completely closed the Grayling is exceptionally well camouflaged, both against rock and the bark of trees, its other favoured perching place.
Distribution: Throughout Europe except N Scandinavia, up to 2,000m. Prefers warm, dry, sandy locations such as open pine forests, heaths & dunes.
Local sightings: Unpredictable on Bryn Euryn, usually up on the summit. Occasional on Little Orme.
GRAYLING – HIPPARCHIA SEMELE ssp. thyone
Flight period: H. semele ssp. Thyone flies earlier than is usual with other races, being on the wing towards the third week in June, and disappearing by the end of July.
Description: Males are strikingly smaller than any other British race of semele. The coloration is more uniform than in typical semele, with the pale areas more ochreous. Forewing spots are smaller than in other races, with the lower of the two often absent, and totally obsolete specimens are not very rare. The underside has the coloration duller and less contrasting than in the type, with the white portions of the hindwings tinged with ochreous. The tendency to obsolescence is even more striking on the under surface than on the upperside.
Local sightings: Great Orme only.
MEADOW BROWN – Maniola jurtina
Flight period: Mid- May to October; one brood Wingspan: 4-5cm
This is the commonest large Brown butterfly in Britain.
The male’s upperwings are dusky brown with a blurred black patch from the central forewing to the body. In the corner of each forewing is one small white-pupilled black eyespot, usually surrounded by a circle of dull orange. There may also be a faint orange patch below this.
The Meadow Brown often sits with its wings closed, and the lower hindwing may be all that is visible. This is grey-brown with a slight orange sheen and a zig-zag boundary that divides a darker inner half from a brighter outer half. There may be one or several small black dots in the outer half.
Female has long patch on upperside of forewing that varies from ochre-yellow through orange to red brown; underside of forewing russet red & of hind wing marbled grey-brown.
Behaviour: Flies during sunny and overcast weather; they mostly fly low to the ground and flutter about in amongst long grass. Often rest on the ground on pathways and fly up as you approach.Visits flowers to feed and to rest. The female is choosy about where she lays her eggs & will inspect several potential breeding sites. Eggs laid singly on grass stems & on dry material close to the ground.
Distribution: Throughout Europe except the far north, up to 1800m; in meadows, pastures, along field banks, grassy slopes and woodland edges, common everywhere.
RINGLET – Aphantopus hyperantus
Flight period: June,July, August; Wingspan: 42-52mm
A medium sized butterfly with dark velvety-brown upperwings, almost black on the male and only slightly lighter on the female. A fine white fringe runs round the outer edges, and there are usually two inconspicuous little black eyespots near the centre of each wing.
When settled, the wings are usually closed, revealing the Ringlet’s most distinctive feature – a string of conspicuous eyes with white centres surrounded by black then yellow rings. There are generally five to each hindwing with at least two on the forewings, clearly pronounced against a dark, slightly bronzed background.
Distribution: This species is widely distributed within the British Isles but is absent from north-west England and north Scotland. It inhabits the relatively sheltered areas of tall, occasionally damp, grasslands.
More photographs and location information in posts: Summer on the Woodland Edge & https://theresagreen.me/2015/08/02/butterfly-meadow/
GATEKEEPER – Pyronia tithonus
Flight period: Early July to late September; one brood
Description: Wingspan 3.2-4cm. A very attractive little butterfly; the upperside of wings is orange-red inside a broad brown border; forewing has a black eye-spot with two white centres; underside of forewing like the upperside, hind wing has a beige-brown pattern. The male rather smaller than the female and with more intense colours.
Behaviour: Feeds at flowers; commonly found around bramble thickets where the male displays striking territorial behaviour. He perches on a shrub or tall plant and challenges any other butterfly or even insect that comes within its range.
Eggs are laid singly on grass leaves.
Distribution: Central & S Europe, including British Isles, not above 1100m; in open deciduous woods, hedgerows, heaths & pine forests at the edge of high moors; local, but sometimes common.
More photographs & information on post : The Gatekeeper
SMALL HEATH – Coenonympha pamphilus
Flight period: Mid-March to mid-October; two or three broods; only one at higher altitudes
Description: Wingspan 3.2-3.6cm. Wings light to dark orange with grey-brown fringes; there is an eye spot at tip of forewing that shows as small and black on the upperside, then larger and highlighted and enclosed by a yellow circle on underside. Underside hind wing patterned in shades of brown with 4 small white spots.
Distribution: Throughout Europe except for the far north, from lowlands to over 1800m; everywhere in meadows that are neither very damp nor very dry.
SPECKLED WOOD – Pararge aegeria
Flight period: Mid-March to October in two or three broods; Wingspan 4-4.5cm
Description: Wings are brown with cream-yellow spots, especially on forewings; the forewing has one eye-spot, hind wings have three. In the female the pattern of creamy spots is more extensive than in the male; underside of both sexes is marbled brown-yellow. The intensity of the colour varies greatly from place to place.
Behaviour: Tends to fly in areas of shade or half-shade, but rests readily on the leaves of shrubs and herbaceous plants. Often basks on the ground amongst dry leaves where it is well camouflaged. Patrols hedgerows and is very territorial, flying at any intruders, defending vigorously. Female lays her eggs singly on grass stems and leaves of larval host plants.
Distribution: Throughout Europe except for the far north, (replaced in Iberia by Pararge af aegeria ) at altitudes up to 1200m in the mountains. Often found in shady woodland rides, on woodland edges, in clearings and along hedgerows.
Wall, or Wall Brown – Lasiommata megera
My first and only sighting of a Wall Brown in North Wales to date was on the clifftop of the Little Orme on a day that was beautifully sunny but with a strong cold wind blowing in off the Irish Sea, which may well have brought it here. The butterfly was in perfect condition and flying low to take nectar from various tiny eyebright and cranesbill flowers.
Conservation Status: There has been a severe and worrying decline of inland populations, with most remaining populations now being found in coastal areas. This species is therefore a priority for conservation efforts.
Flight periods: First generation adults emerge early May, peaking at end of May-early June, a little later in the north of England and Scotland. A second brood then emerges end of July; mid-August further north. There are 2 generations each year and, on occasion, a small 3rd generation may appear in October. Wingspan 4.5-5.3cm
Behaviour: The Wall gets its name from the characteristic behaviour of resting with wings two-thirds open on walls, or indeed any bare surface including bare ground.
The male of the species is territorial and will inhabit a particular area, such as a path, hedgerow or roadside verge, waiting for a passing female. Males typically perch in a favoured position but in sunny and warm conditions they often patrol in order to find a mate. All passing insects are investigated and rival males will fly high into the air before coming back to the ground a few seconds later.
The female is much more sedentary and the less-conspicuous of the two sexes. After a brief courtship a pair will mate before disappearing into surrounding vegetation. Both sexes are avid nectar feeders and will feed from any available flower.
UK Status and distribution: Once found throughout England, Wales, Ireland and parts of Scotland; this species as suffered severe declines over the last several decades. It is now confined to primarily-coastal regions and has been lost from many sites in central, eastern and south-east England. In Scotland it is confined to coastal areas in the south-west of the country. It is also found on the Isle of Man and Channel Islands. The butterfly is found in relatively small colonies that are self-contained although some individuals will wander, allowing the species to quickly colonise suitable nearby sites.
Source of information & more details from the UK Butterflies website:
hairstreaks, coppers & blues
Purple Hairstreak – Favonius querqus
My first, and to date only encounter with this lovely little butterfly was completely unexpected and sadly brief. It caught my eye as I was attempting to photograph a Speckled Wood basking on another leaf of the same Oak tree and I managed to get just one clear shot. It moved slightly to reveal two small orange eyespots on the hind wing, but while focussing to get a further shot the Speckled Wood flew up and chased the Hairstreak away.
Habitat: This butterfly is primarily found in woodland containing oak trees, the foodplant of the larva. However, the species can be found in any location where oaks occur, including lanes, parks, and other urban areas.
According to the UK Butterflies website, ” The Purple Hairstreak is our commonest hairstreak, and may be found in oak woodland throughout southern Britain, and more locally elsewhere. It is often difficult to locate, due to its habit of flying in the tree canopy, where it feeds on honeydew. However, the adults are occasionally seen basking at lower levels, on various small trees, shrubs and bracken. This butterfly is found across southern England and Wales, with scattered colonies further north.”
The adult feeds prmarily on honeydew & sap, but also takes nectar from bramble, hogweed and hemp agrimony – all present on Bryn Euryn.
The primary larval foodplants are Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur), Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) and Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris).Evergreen Oak (Quercus ilex) is also used.
Green Hairstreak – Callophrys rubi
I have not yet seen one in North Wales although I’m sure they are present. I’m justifying its inclusion in my Welsh collection on the basis that I used to see them in my garden in South Wales. If anyone knows where I might see one more locally, please let me know!
Small Copper – Lycaena phlaeas
Flight period: April, May, June then July, August – early September in 2-4 broods Wingspan 2.5-3cm
Description: A tiny butterfly: forewing yellow to red-orange with a broad dark brown margin and black spots, hind wing black-brown with a jagged orange marginal band; underside of forewing orange-brown with a greyish margin and black spots. Hind wing grey-brown with dark spots.
Distribution: Throughout Europe to Northernmost Scandinavia, up to 2,000m in mountains; in dry sunny unimproved meadows, cattle pastures, fallow land and other flower-rich areas where dock and sorrel grow.
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn, Bryn Pydew, Little Orme
COMMON BLUE – Polyommatus icarus
Flight period: Early April to mid-October in two or three broods
Description: Wingspan 2.7-3.4cm. Upperside of male is bright, light blue with a violet tinge; wing edges are outlined with a thin black line and bordered with a white fringe. Females are brown, occasionally suffused with blue and have a row of orange spots along outer wing margins. Underside is light grey in male and light brown in female with a vivid pattern of dots in both sexes.
Behaviour: Feeds on flowers and also at damp patches on the ground. At night roosts head-down on grass stems. Female lays eggs singly on the buds or flowers of the larval food plants.
Hibernates as a half-grown caterpillar.
Distribution: Throughout Europe to the Arctic, in mountains to altitudes of 2000m+, in dry and wet meadows, in open hilly country.
SILVER-STUDDED BLUE – Plebejus argus ssp. caernensis
This subspecies was first defined in Thompson (1937) (type locality: Great Ormes Head, North Wales).
” Caernensis occurs at a considerable elevation on limestone cliffs near the sea; and feeds, so far as I have been able to ascertain, exclusively on Rock Rose (Helianthemum). The time of its appearance is much earlier than type argus, at any rate in Wales, often emerging as early as the second week of June. This form never flies with the type, but is confined to totally different surroundings and conditions. There are many localities for type argus in the district, but all these are situate on sandy heaths and low lying waste lands; whenever a colony is found on the cliffs it is composed entirely of caernensis. ”
This subspecies differs from the subspecies argus as follows:
2. The male upperside has narrower, sometimes absent, dark borders.
3. The male underside is paler.
4. The female upperside has a blue flush that extends over most of the hindwings and base of the forewings.
Male. Very much smaller than type argus, those in my series varying between 16 mm and 22 mm when fully expanded. In colour they are much paler than the type, approaching the shade of argiolus; the black border is greatly reduced, and in some specimens almost absent.
The underside varies from chinese white to a beautiful steely grey, but all the markings are smaller than usual and the lunules dull and inconspicuous.
Female. Smaller than the male, varying from 15 mm to 20 mm. The majority are very strongly suffused with purple blue, and the upperside variation is so great that I must divide them into four sections. I allot a varietal name to each.
var. splendida. Specimens entirely suffused with blue, the brown scaling being obliterated.
This subspecies was formerly restricted to the Great Ormes Head in Caernarvonshire, (now Conwy), North Wales. However, in 1942, 90 adults were introduced to the Dulas Valley, some 13km to the east, and the colony has gradually spread along the valley at a rate of 1km per decade, colonising 15 new sites. It is estimated that the total population now numbers 100,000.
My sightings so far restricted to Great Orme.
Flight period: Fly over open grassland May-September.
Description: Wingspan 2.7-3.4cm. Both sexes of this butterfly have brown uppersides with orange spots around the edges but with no blue at all. The undersides are a greyish brown with orange marginal spots and numerous white-ringed black dots. The two anterior dots on the hindwing are close together, forming what is described as either a colon or figure of 8.
The adults have a silvery appearance as they fly low to the ground and they stop frequently either to perch or feed on flowers. They may be confused with Common Blue females, which also have brown upperwings but usually with some blue at the base.
Habitat: The main habitats are chalk and limestone grassland. However, the butterfly can occur in a range of habitats with disturbed soils, including, coastal grassland and dunes, woodland clearings, heathland, disused railway lines and road verges.
Distribution in UK: Widespread in southern & central England as far north as Yorkshire. Less common & mainly coastal in Wales and south-west England.
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn; Bryn Pydew
HOLLY BLUE – Celastrina argiolis
Flight period: Mid-March to early September; two broods or one at higher altitudes.
Description: Wingspan 2.8-3.4cm. Upperside is sky blue, female has broad black-brown wing margins. Underside is silvery blue-grey with small black dots.
Behaviour: A very mobile butterfly for its small size, often seen flying strongly over shrubs and among trees. Commonly rests on the leaves of shrubs and trees. Feeds on wet soil, carrion and tree sap, occasionally at flowers, particularly bramble. Female lays eggs singly on the backs of caterpillar’s food plants, mainly holly and ivy.
Distribution: Throughout Europe except for the far north, in mountains up to 1600m; in forest clearings, the edges of woods, water meadows and hilly areas with hedges, also in gardens.
More detailed post: Butterfly study: Holly Blue
Large Skipper–Ochlodes sylvanus
Flight period: Late June to mid-August; one brood.
Description: Wingspan 3-3.5cm. Upperside dark brown, with russet to orange spots and patches that are larger in the male than in the female. Male also has a a black strip of scent scales at middle of forewing. Underside is yellowish-brown tinged with olive green with a subtle yellow pattern.
Distribution: Throughout Europe, excluding N Scandinavia and Scotland, found up to 2000m on grassy slopes, woodland edges and fallow land.
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn
SMALL SKIPPER – Thymelicus sylvestris
Flight period: Late June to mid-August; one brood.
Description: Wingspan 2.6-3cm. Upperside light rust-brown with a narrow black border and pale fringe. Forewing of male has a thin black line of androconial (scent) scales. Underside is ochre yellow, partly suffused with grey-green. Tips of the undersides of the antennae are red-brown.
Has a fluttery, hovering flight, usually staying close to the ground; unceasingly active in sunny weather, resting only briefly on leaves or to take nectar from flowers which it visits regularly. Female lays eggs singly on the upper surfaces of blades of grass.
Caterpillars live in a ‘tent’ of grass blades drawn together with a silk thread. Hibernates as a caterpillar in a closely woven, white, silk cocoon.
Distribution: Central and S Europe, including Great Britain, found up to 1800m in meadows with long grass, on grassy flower-rich woodland edges and in clearings.
Local sightings: Bryn Euryn, Little Orme
Dingy Skipper – Erynnis tages
Flight period: May-August
Description: General impression is moth- like Wingspan 1.2-1.5 cm. Upperside A dull brown in colour edged with white dots Underside is light brown and unmarked apart from a few white dots.
Behaviour: Flies in grassy places.
Larval Food Plant: Bird’s-foot trefoil
Distribution in UK: The only skipper in Ireland.