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Britain's Butterflies: A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland

Britain's Butterflies: A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland

David Newland
Robert Still
Andy Swash
David Tomlinson
Series: WILDGuides
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: REV - Revised, 3
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Britain's Butterflies: A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland
    Book Description:

    Britain's Butterfliesis a comprehensive and beautifully designed photographic field guide to the butterflies of Britain and Ireland. Containing hundreds of stunning colour photographs, this revised and updated edition provides the latest information on every species ever recorded. It covers in detail the identification of all 59 butterfly species that breed regularly, as well as four former breeders, 10 rare migrants and one species of unknown status. The easy-to-use format will enable butterfly-watchers-beginners or experts-to identify any species they encounter.

    Stunning colour plates show typical views of each butterfly species, including the various forms and aberrationsDetailed species profiles cover adult identification; behaviour; habitat requirements; population and conservation; egg, caterpillar and chrysalis; and status and distribution, including up-to-date mapsPhotographs of egg, caterpillar and chrysalis for every breeding speciesSections on biology, where to look for and how to identify butterflies and other essential information

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6601-4
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-2)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 3-5)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. 6-6)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. 7-7)
    Martin Warren

    Butterflies are one of the most popular and easily recognisable groups of animals They have an important place in our culture and are widely used as symbols, both of the beauty and fragility of nature, but also of freedom and harmony.

    Sadly, butterflies have undergone a severe decline in recent decades and today almost half our resident species are threatened Even in my lifetime, two species have become extinct in Britain, although thankfully one of these, the Large Blue, has been successfully reintroduced I joined Butterfly Conservation to do my bit to help halt and reverse these declines, so creating...

  5. [Illustration]
    (pp. 8-8)
  6. Preface
    (pp. 9-9)
    David Newland, Robert Still and Andy Swash
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 10-11)

    On a sunny summer’s day in the countryside, butterflies are all around us Perhaps not as many as in the past, but there are still 59 different species to see in Britain and Ireland, plus a dozen more that visit very occasionally from continental Europe or further afield.

    This book aims to help you recognize a butterfly when you see it and to get to know all our British species It is so much more fun to know what you are looking at when you see a butterfly – and to have some idea as to whether it is common...

  8. How butterflies and moths differ
    (pp. 12-12)

    Butterflies and moths are members of a huge number of some 165,000 insects known as the Lepidoptera The word lepidoptera is constructed from Greek words meaning ‘scale’ and ‘wing’ and is now used to describe all insects which have four scale-covered wings From it is derived the word lepidopterist for someone who specializes in studying these insects.

    Butterflies reach their greatest diversity in the tropics The islands of Trinidad and Tobago, for example, boast more than 600 species of butterflies, yet Britain and Ireland has only about 60 species, despite the land mass being 20 times greater In Europe, there...

  9. [Illustration]
    (pp. 13-13)
    (pp. 14-14)
  11. Butterfly Biology
    (pp. 15-23)

    This section of the book provides an introduction to the biology and ecology of butterflies The diagram opposite illustrates the life-cycle of a butterfly, and the following sections detail the egg, larval, emergence and adult stages.

    Butterfly eggs come in many shapes and sizes depending on the species (see pages 207–211).

    Eggs are very small, usually less than 1 mm across their longest dimension Although shapes, colours and sizes may differ, the structures are similar, comprising a hard outer case inside which is contained, much like a chicken’s egg in miniature, an embryo surrounded by a nutritious fluid. Once...

  12. Where to look for butterflies
    (pp. 24-33)

    Some of our butterflies wander from place to place. These are the species that are encountered most readily, such as Brimstone, the whites, Orange-tip, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Meadow Brown. You may find these anywhere. An average-sized garden, with the right plants (seeopposite) will attract a dozen or more different species during the year. Always keep a look out, as species will occasionally turn up in the most unlikely places. Where there has been extensive arable farming, there will not be many butterflies unless wide hedgerows remain, but elsewhere butterflies have evolved to occupy...

  13. How to identify butterflies
    (pp. 34-39)

    Butterflies, like all other insects, have three distinct sections to their body: head, thorax and abdomen.

    The HEAD is where a butterfly’s sense organs are located: twoantennae, two large compoundeyesand aproboscisTheantennaeare used for smell and balance; theeyesare able to discern colour and are especially good at sensing movement; theproboscisis a hollow, coiled tube through which the butterfly feeds. The proboscis can be uncoiled enabling a butterfly to reach deep into a flower for nectar.

    The THORAX is the central and broadest of the three body sections and contains the...

  14. Glossary
    (pp. 40-40)


      • Skippers
        (pp. 42-57)

        A common and widespread colonial butterfly of rough grassland and woodland glades.

        Adult identification: Despite its name, this is not our smallest skipper. It is best identified by its unmarked golden-orange wings, though the forewing of the male carries a distinctive dark line (sex-brand). The wings lack the faint mottling of the Large Skipper, but check the colour of the tips of the antennae (dull brown or orange underneath) to separate it from the very similar Essex Skipper (page 44). This is one of the so-called ‘golden’ skippers (the group that includes Essex, Lulworth, Large and Silver-spotted Skippers)

        Behaviour: A...

      • Whites and Yellows
        (pp. 58-73)

        This beautiful golden-yellow butterfly is an annual migrant to Britain and Ireland Numbers vary enormously from year to year, with exceptional ‘Clouded Yellow summers’ typically occurring once in a decade.

        Adult identification: With its rich, chrome-yellow wings heavily edged in black, the Clouded Yellow is one of the easiest butterflies to identify. The female is normally slightly darker than the male, and her wing margins are dotted with yellow spots. Some 10% of females are of the pale form,helice, their colour ranging from a soft lemon-yellow to white. The distinctive underwing pattern is similar in both the normal and...

      • Swallowtails
        (pp. 74-75)

        The only British representative of the spectacular family of swallowtail butterflies Our resident race,britannicus, is restricted to the fenlands of the Norfolk Broads.

        Adult identification: Unmistakable, thanks to its size, colour and shape. Occasionally, Swallowtails from continental Europe occur in southern England. These are a different race,gorganus(seepage 23), and are slightly larger with paler markings. The sexes of both races look the same, except that females are usually larger than males.

        Behaviour: Adults tend to feed in the morning and evening, attracted especially to Yellow Iris, thistles and Ragged-Robin. When feeding they often flap their wings...

      • Hairstreaks, Blues and Coppers
        (pp. 76-105)

        Like all the hairstreaks, this species is easily overlooked, despite occurring in a wide variety of habitats It is still widespread, but habitat destruction during recent decades has led to the loss of many colonies.

        Adult identification: Unmistakable, as this is the only British butterfly with a green underside to its wings. The sexes are very similar. Their upperside is a plain and unmarked brown and they are virtually indistinguishable except that the female is very slightly larger and slightly paler than the male. The male has a light-coloured sex-brand on its forewing although this is not normally visible.


      • Metalmarks
        (pp. 106-107)

        An attractive and highly localized spring-flying butterfly with a fritillary-like appearance, which has suffered a widespread decline in recent decades.

        Adult identification: Similar to the 'small' fritillaries (pages 108–117), but readily identified by the two parallel bands of white spots on its underwing and the white spots along the fringes of both the forewing and hindwing. Confusion with the Chequered Skipper (page 52) is also possible, but the ranges of the two do not overlap in Britain.

        Behaviour: This species lives in small, compact colonies. It is one of the most pugnacious of butterflies, territorial males being most conspicuous...

      • Fritillaries
        (pp. 108-123)

        Though one of our rarest and most localized species, this sedentary butterfly has been saved from the brink of extinction in England.

        Adult identification: One of our smallest fritillaries, which can be readily recognized by its generally dark colouring – although the larger female is usually slightly paler than the male.

        In Britain, it is most likely to be confused with the larger and brighter Marsh Fritillary (page 110) and the two species of pearl-bordered fritillary (pages 114–117), both of which show seven silver pearls (not six, like this species) along the borders of the underside of each hindwing....

      • Nymphalids, Emperors and Allies
        (pp. 124-137)

        An elegant and distinctive inhabitant of sunny woodland glades, particularly in southern England Although its range has spread, the overall population appears to be declining.

        Adult identification: Easy to identify when close, but from a distance it can be mistaken for a Purple Emperor (page 126). Although their uppersides are similar, the hindwings lack the ‘eye’ of the larger Purple Emperor. The wings are also more rounded than Purple Emperor and it has a daintier, gliding flight. The sexes are almost identical. Some rare aberrations occur (seepage 37).

        Behaviour: Unrivalled among British butterflies for their graceful and agile flight,...

      • Browns
        (pp. 138-159)

        This attractive and distinctive butterfly is widespread in southern England and parts of southern Wales, and has been extending its range both northwards and eastwards in recent years.

        Adult identification: Though there are several very similar species to be found in southern Europe, in Britain there is no other species that can be confused with this black-and-white butterfly.

        Behaviour: A colonial species, sometimes found in large numbers. In the early morning and late afternoon, both sexes will sunbathe, perched on grass-heads or prominent flowers. When sunbathing, they are highly approachable, taking little or no notice of observers. In the heat...

      (pp. 160-191)

      This section provides full accounts for the four former breeders, 11 rare migrants and one species with unknown status. There are another six extreme rarities that have been recorded in Britain and Ireland, and these are shown here for completeness, with a summary of the records. Although such rarities do appear in Britain or Ireland naturally, there is always a chance that you may find an unusual butterfly that has escaped or been released from captivity (albeit often illegally – see the section onConservation and legislation page 232); some of these species are shown onpages 192–193.


    • Species of doubtful provenance
      (pp. 192-193)

      There are many other butterfly species that have been recorded in the wild in the UK, although for a variety of reasons their occurrence is unlikely to be natural, and for some species the records are now considered doubtful:

      The ability of butterflies, especially the early life stages, to survive transportation, together with the natural range and migratory habits of the species in question all but rules out an unassisted occurrence.

      The ease by which many species can be bred in captivity, either by established butterfly houses or by private individuals, can lead to escapes and accidental or deliberate introductions....

  16. Caterpillar foodplants
    (pp. 194-205)

    Butterflies are very particular about the foodplants they choose for their caterpillars and each species has its own preferences, with some caterpillars thriving only on one or just a few species. For example, the only known foodplant of the Small Blue is Kidney Vetch, and the butterfly’s distribution is therefore restricted to areas where this plant grows. Other species are not so fussy, but still lay their eggs on only a limited range of plants. The Grizzled Skipper is usually associated with Wild Strawberry, but it will also lay on Agrimony and Creeping Cinquefoil and, occasionally, on several other plants....

  17. Eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises
    (pp. 206-224)

    Depicted in this section are the early life stages of all of Britain and Ireland’s resident and migrant breeding species, except for a few for which images are unavailable to the best of our knowledge.

    Eggs are shown at 10× life-size, and the caterpillars and chrysalises at life-size. Approximate dimensions are given for each of the life stages. Caterpillar length is when fully grown, ready to pupate. All dimensions vary and the figures given are only intended to be a guide. There is a brief description of where and the time of year that eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises are most...

  18. List of British and Irish Butterflies
    (pp. 225-229)

    The following list provides a summary of the status of the 81 species that are, or have been, resident or occurred as a migrant to Britain or Ireland, including six that have been recorded so rarely that their occurence is regarded as accidental (vagrants), and those species that have been introduced as part of a licensed conservation programme, or have been accidentally introduced and subsequently bred.

    The species are listed in taxonomic order and the entries in the Status/notes column are colour-coded as follows:...

  19. Butterfly watching and photography
    (pp. 230-230)

    The Victorian hobby of butterfly collecting has been largely replaced by butterfly photography. Recently at Fermyn Woods, on a hot day in early July, there must have been over 40 visiting photographers. Their objective was not to capture the Purple Emperor itself, as our predecessors would have tried to do, but to capture digital images of this magnificent butterfly. Because these woods cover a wide area, this number of enthusiasts could easily be accommodated.

    When looking for a rare species, it helps to have other people present because word soon passes between groups about the best places to be looking...

  20. Butterfly Conservation
    (pp. 231-231)

    Founded in 1968, Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to saving butterflies and moths and their habitats. It runs a wide variety of conservation projects, and is taking the lead in protecting the UK’s butterfly and moth populations, particularly through research on population trends and by the preparation of detailed Action Plans to reverse population declines. These plans are implemented in close collaboration with statutory and voluntary conservation organisations, as well as with corporate partners and individuals. Much of this work is conducted at a landscape scale to ensure long-term conservation of threatened species, with over 70 landscapes prioritised...

  21. Recording and monitoring
    (pp. 231-231)

    A central aspect of Butterfly Conservation’s work is the gathering of accurate recording and monitoring information on the state of butterflies and moths. TheButterflies for the New Millenniumrecording scheme is the largest of its kind in the world, with over seven million records gathered from over 10,000 recorders across Britain and Ireland. The results have been used to produceThe Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland, and subsequent updates on the State of Britain’s Butterflies. In 2007, Butterfly Conservation also launched theNational Moth Recording Schemethat has already gathered over 18 million records of larger...

  22. Conservation and legislation
    (pp. 232-233)

    Data obtained from both UKBMS and BNM have been used to draw up theButterfly Red List for Great Britain. This classifies species according to their relative risk of extinction based upon rarity, trend in their population size (whether they are getting more or less rare) and the threats that they face.

    The Red List categories were devised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and have been accepted internationally. The categories are Regionally Extinct (in our case, the region is Britain), Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Near Threatened, and Least Concern.

    It is a sobering fact that 19...

  23. Further reading
    (pp. 234-235)
  24. Sources of further information and useful addresses
    (pp. 235-235)
  25. Acknowledgements and photographic/artwork credits
    (pp. 236-238)
  26. Index of English and scientific names
    (pp. 239-240)