Browns

A guide to butterfly species commonly found in Dorset

Gatekeeper

Pyronia tithonus

GatekeeperMale Gatekeeper

Butterfly on the right is a male - shown by the brown streaks across the forewings - scent brands releasing pheromones for attracting females. Note the two white spots within the eye spot on the forewing - Meadow Browns only have one white spot.

When to see:

Early July to Early September.
Peak: Mid July and August

Habitat:

Lanes, hedgerows, long grass

Where to see:

Anywhere

Foodplants:

Grass, Meadows, Couch, Fescues

Behaviour:

Perch

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Grayling

Hipparchia semele

Grayling
When to see:

July to End September.
Peak: July and August

Habitat:

Heathland, some downland

Where to see:

Hethfelton Wood, Higher Hyde, Studland, Portland Tout, Ham Common, Upton Heath North, Upton Heath South, Kinson Common

Foodplants:

Grass, Fescue, Hair

Behaviour:

Patrol

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Marbled White

Melanargia galathea

Marbled White
When to see:

Mid June to End August.
Peak: July to End August

Habitat:

Flowery grassland, downland and rough ground.

Where to see:

Anywhere

Foodplants:

Grass, Fescues, Cocksfoot

Behaviour:

Perch/Patrol

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Meadow Brown

Maniola jurtina

Meadow Brown view of top of wingsMeadow Brown view of upper wings

Meadow Brown underwingsMeadow Brown underwings

The Meadow Brown can be confused with the Gatekeeper, but is larger, generally duller - brown not orange - and there is only one white spot within the black eye-spot, while the Gatekeeper has two white spots.

Photos clockwise from top left: Lyn Pullen, Penny Hawes,Ken Dolbear & Elaine Conlon

When to see:

Early June to Mid September.
Peak: Mid July to End August

Habitat:

Lanes, rides, long grass

Where to see:

Anywhere

Foodplants:

Grass, any, not fussy

Behaviour:

Perch/Patrol

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Ringlet

Aphantopus hyperantus

Ringlet with open wings from aboveRinglet with open wings from above

Ringlet view of upper wingsRinglet with open wings from above

Ringlet showing underwingsRinglet view of underwings

Ringlets are very plain on their upper wings, the 'rings' being seen mainly on the underside of the wing, though this is a very variable butterfly, so the rings may only be spots or sometimes almost non-existent. There are five rings on the underside of the hind wing. Males and females are difficult to tell apart.

Photos clockwise from top left: Mark Pike, Mark Pike, Ken Dolbear & Mark Pike.

When to see:

June to End August.
Peak: Mid June to Early August

Habitat:

Damp long grass, Bracken

Where to see:

Cashmoor, Clubmens Down, Deadmoor Common, Duncliffe Wood, Fifehead Wood, Fontmell Down, Hod Hill, Lydlinch Common, Melbury Down, Piddles Wood, Sovell Down, Stubhampton Bottom, Ballard Down, Corfe Castle Mound, Higher Hyde, Brackett's Coppice, Cerne Abbas, Kingcombe Stones, Lorton Meadows, Portland Broadcroft, Powerstock Railway, Badbury Rings, Garston Wood, Upton Heath North

Foodplants:

Grasses, Tufted Hair, Couch, Meadow

Behaviour:

Perch/Patrol

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Small Heath

Coenonympha pamphilous

Small Heath
When to see:

Early May to Late July.
Early August to Early October.
Peak: June to Mid July, and Mid August to Mid September

Habitat:

Downland and drier grasslands

Where to see:

Cashmoor, Clubmens Down, Fontmell Down, Hod Hill, Melbury Down, Ballard Down, Durlston CP East, Durlston CP West, Tadnoll, Cerne Abbas, Lorton Meadows, Portland Broadcroft, Powerstock North, Powerstock Railway, Avon Heath CP North, Avon Heath CP South, Badbury Rings, Upton Heath North, Upton Heath South

Foodplants:

Generally finer grasses including fescues, bents and Dogs Tail.

Behaviour:

Patrol

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Speckled Wood

Pararge aegeria

When to see:

Late March to Early October.
Peak: Early to Mid May, June to Early July, August and September.

Habitat:

Lanes, hedgerows, shady glades

Where to see:

Anywhere

Foodplants:

Grass, Cocksfoot, Couch

Behaviour:

Perch/Aggressive

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends

 

Wall Brown

Lasiommata megera

Wall Brown with outspread wingsWall Brown showing some of the underwing and top wing
When to see:

May and June.
Early July to Mid September.
Late September to Mid October.
Peak: August to Early September, and Early October.

Habitat:

Downland and coasts.

Where to see:

Ballard Down, Durlston CP East, Durlston CP West, Portland Broadcroft, Portland Tout, Bindon Hill, Southfield Hogcliffe

Foodplants:

Grass, Tor, Cocksfoot, Yorkshire Fog.

Behaviour:

Perch/Patrol/Aggressive

Atlas: Distribution map & population trends