British Butterflies

Butterflies are some of the most beautiful insects to visit our gardens.  The UK has 59 species of butterflies; 57 are resident and 2 are regular migrants. About 20 of these will venture into gardens searching for nectar and food plants. 

Here are 15 gorgeous butterflies to look out for in UK gardens:

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Aglais io
Unmistakable butterfly with eyes on the upperside of its hindwings that give it its name. Underside is almost black, providing camouflage when at rest. When threatened it produces a hissing sound by rubbing its wings together.
Red Admiral Butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly

Vanessa atalanta
A frequent visitor to UK gardens. Large, strong-flying butterfly with velvety black wings with striking red and white bands. Underside is orange, blue, and white. Mostly a migrant, but may hibernate in southern England.
Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

Vanessa cardui
Well-known colourful butterfly. Orange wings have black tips and white spots. Undersides are pale with blue eyespots. A long-distant migrant it is responsible for some of the most spectacular butterfly migrations seen across the UK.
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Aglais urticae
A familiar visitor to UK gardens. Bright orange and black with a row of blue crescents along the edge of the wings. The underside is dark grey and brown. One of the first butterflies to be seen in spring and will frequent gardens in autumn too.
Large Skipper Butterfly

Large Skipper Butterfly

Ochlodes sylvanus
Small, orange moth-like butterfly that can be identified by the thick black line on its upperwings, known as a sex-brand that is formed of a line of scent scales. Can be spotted flying at high speed over grassy areas or feeding nectar from flowers.
Small Skipper Butterfly

Small Skipper Butterfly

Thymelicus sylvestris
Slightly smaller than the large skipper, it is less boldly marked. Spends much of its time basking amongst vegetation with their wings closed at rest. They are fantastic flyer and can often be spotted darting on short flights through grass stems.
Small White Butterfly

Small White Butterfly

Pieris rapae
Brilliant white wings with black tips and one or two wing spots. Undersides are creamy white. Along with the large white, it is sometimes known as the ‘cabbage white’ due to the caterpillars’ ability to strip the leaves off brassicas such as cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and nasturtiums.
Large White Butterfly

Large White Butterfly

Pieris brassicae
Like its smaller cousin, it is considered a pest by some gardeners. Common throughout Britain, its numbers are augmented in the summer by migrants from continental Europe. Caterpillars protect themselves by accumulating mustard oil from the foodplant in their bodies which makes them smell unpleasant.
Green-Veined White Butterfly

Green-Veined White Butterfly

Pieris napi
Similar in size to the small white. Prominent green veins on the hind wing. Upperwings have one or more spots. One of the most widespread species in the UK, it can be found in damp grassland, meadows, woodland, parks and gardens from spring to autumn.
Orange Tip Butterfly

Orange Tip Butterfly

Anthocharis cardamines
Males have orange tips on their upperwings warning predators that they are extremely distasteful. Females have black tips and can be mistaken for other whites. Both sexes have mottled moss-green underwings. Common throughout lowland England and Wales.
Meadow Brown Butterfly

Meadow Brown Butterfly

Maniola jurtina
An abundant butterfly with hundreds gathering at some sites flying low over vegetation. Brown with large, faint orange patches on their wings and an eyespot with a white pupil on its forewings. It will fly in dull weather when other butterflies are inactive.
Small Copper Butterfly

Small Copper Butterfly

Lycaena phlaeas
A fast-flying butterfly with bright copper-coloured forewings with dark brown spots. Males are territorial and can be spotted basking on bare ground or rock waiting for passing females, or aggressively chasing off other insects that get too close.
Holly Blue Butterfly

Holly Blue Butterfly

Celastrina argiolus
Males have sky-blue upper wings with narrow black borders, while females have duller, broader boarders. Underwings are paler blue, almost white with black spots. Emerges early in spring before other blues. Primarily found in the southern half of the UK, it is a frequent visitor to gardens.
Common Blue Butterfly

Common Blue Butterfly

Polyommatus icarus
Males have bright blue uppersides, while females are primarily brown. Orange spots on its underwings. Most widespread of the blue butterflies, it flies throughout summer from April to October and can be found in a variety of habitats.
Speckled Wood Butterfly

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Pararge aegeria
Brown wings with pale yellow spots, 1 black and white eyespot on the forewing and 3 on the hind. Undersides are patterned orange, yellow, and brown. Often found perched in sunny spots, before spiralling into the air to chase each other. Flies in partially shaded woodland.

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