30 Butterfly Species in France

Welcome to the enchanting world of butterflies in France! This country is home to a rich and diverse array of these captivating, brightly-colored insects.

Let’s explore 30 of the most striking butterfly species you are likely to encounter while roaming the French countryside.

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

Swallowtails are one of the most striking butterfly species in France.

Swallowtail Butterfly

With their distinctive markings and tail-like extensions, they are truly a sight to behold. Let’s take a closer look at some aspects of their lives:

  • Habitat: Swallowtails can be found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, marshlands, and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: These stunning butterflies showcase a vibrant yellow color with black tiger-like stripes, adding blue and red spots near their tail-like extensions.
  • Size: Their wingspan ranges from 6.5 to 8.5 centimeters, making them one of the largest butterfly species in France.
  • Diet: Swallowtails mainly feed on the nectar from flowers like thistles, wild carrot, and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Swallowtails lay their eggs on the leaves of host plants, usually fennel or other members of the Apiaceae family.
  • Lifespan: As adults, these butterflies typically have a lifespan of 3 to 4 weeks. Their entire life cycle – from egg to adult – lasts around six weeks.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars of the Swallowtail primarily feed on plants from the Apiaceae family, such as fennel, parsley, and dill.

Swallowtails are not only mesmerizing but also an excellent reminder of the beauty and diversity of France’s butterfly species.

Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

The Orange Tip butterfly is one of the most distinct butterfly species found in France, thanks to its vibrant orange-tipped wings.

Orange-tip Butterfly

It is a visually striking species that is commonly found in the spring and is often associated with the blooming seasons.

Let’s dive into the specifics of this beautiful species:

  • Habitat: Found in various habitats, including woodland edges, meadows, hedgerows, and even gardens.
  • Appearance: Males have white wings with bright orange tips, while females have white wings with black tips. Both sexes have mottled, greenish patterned underwings.
  • Size: Wingspan ranges from 4 to 5 cm, making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: The adult Orange Tip feeds on nectar from a variety of flowers such as dandelions, bluebells, and cuckooflowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the flowering stems of host plants, usually on cuckooflowers or other cruciferous plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for up to a few weeks, while the caterpillars take around 5 weeks to grow before pupating. The pupa stage lasts for 9-11 months.
  • Host Plants: The larval host plants are mostly cruciferous plants, with cuckooflowers being a preferred choice for egg-laying females.

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi)

Have you ever encountered a beautiful green butterfly in France? Chances are, you’ve met the Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi).

Green Hairstreak

Known for its strikingly bright green color, this delicate butterfly species is a true gem in the fascinating world of French butterflies.

Here’s what you need to know about the Green Hairstreak:

  • Habitat: Green Hairstreaks are quite adaptable, living in various habitats, including grasslands, woodland clearings, scrublands, and hedgerows.
  • Appearance: The Green Hairstreak stands out with its vibrant green wings and small tails on the hindwings, making it easy to spot when resting on leaves.
  • Size: This butterfly is small, with a wingspan of 24-34 mm.
  • Diet: Adult Green Hairstreaks feed on nectar from a range of plants, like hawthorn, blackthorn, and bugle flowers.
  • Reproduction: Adults mate in spring and lay their eggs near host plants. After hatching, the caterpillar eats leaves and stems before pupating.
  • Lifespan: As an adult butterfly, the Green Hairstreak usually lives for about two weeks.
  • Host Plants: The larvae of the Green Hairstreak feed on a variety of plants, including gorse, broom, and common rockrose.

Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia)

The Glanville Fritillary is a fascinating butterfly species that can be found in various regions of France.

Glanville Fritillary

This beautiful creature has some unique features and behaviors that make it stand out from the rest.

Let’s dive into some of its characteristics:

  • Habitat: Glanville Fritillaries prefer chalky grasslands, as well as coastal areas, and can often be found in meadows or sandy dunes.
  • Appearance: These butterflies display a checkerboard pattern of orange, black, and white on their wings, giving them a distinctive look.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 35 to 46mm, they are considered a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: The adult Glanville Fritillary primarily feeds on nectar from flowers such as dandelions, thistles, and red clover.
  • Reproduction: Female Glanville Fritillaries lay their eggs in clusters on host plants, where the caterpillars will emerge and feed.
  • Lifespan: The adult Glanville Fritillary has a relatively short lifespan, usually living for about 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars of this species feed on various plants, primarily ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and the sea plantain (Plantago maritima).

Observing the Glanville Fritillary butterfly in its natural habitat can be quite an enjoyable experience.

So, make sure to keep an eye out for this enchanting species when exploring the diverse landscapes of France.

Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

The Comma butterfly is a beautiful and distinctive species found in France.

Comma Butterfly

Let’s take a closer look at some of its characteristics:

  • Habitat: The Comma is found in a variety of habitats, such as woodland edges, hedgerows, gardens, and meadows. It prefers flower-rich areas and sunny spots.
  • Appearance: This species has uniquely scalloped wings with an orange and brown pattern on the upper surfaces, resembling a dry leaf. The underwing has a distinct white comma-shaped marking, hence the name.
  • Size: The Comma has a wingspan of around 45-55 mm, making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar from flowers such as thistles, dandelions, and buddleia and enjoy feasting on overripe fruit.
  • Reproduction: Commas have two generations per year, with females laying their eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The adult butterfly has a short lifespan of around three weeks, while it stays in the pupal stage for about two weeks.
  • Host Plants: The Comma’s caterpillars feed on common nettles, elm, and currant, allowing them to grow and transform into pupae before emerging as adult butterflies.

White Admiral (Limenitis Camilla)

The White Admiral, scientifically known as Limenitis Camilla, is a spectacular butterfly found in various regions of France.

White Admiral butterfly

This butterfly is popular for its elegant flight patterns and striking colors that blend perfectly with woodland environments.

Here is a list of aspects that describe the White Admiral:

  • Habitat: Primarily inhabits deciduous woodlands with plenty of undergrowth and clearings.
  • Appearance: Characterized by a beautiful mix of white markings and dark brownish-black wings. The undersides of its wings have a stunning pattern of white spots on a dark brown background.
  • Size: Has a wingspan of about 60-65 mm, making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: The adults feed on aphid honeydew and nectar from flowers like bramble and thistles.
  • Reproduction: Males patrol in search of females to mate. Females lay single eggs on the leaves of the host plant.
  • Lifespan: Adult White Admirals have a lifespan of around 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The main host plant for the larvae is the Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), where it consumes the leaves.

The charming White Admiral is not only a fascinating butterfly species in France, but it also serves as a reminder to preserve woodlands and their natural environments.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is a striking butterfly species that you can easily spot in France.

red-admiral butterfly

Known for its captivating color and unique wing pattern, this butterfly brings a touch of beauty to the French countryside.

Here’s a brief overview of this enchanting species:

  • Habitat: Red Admirals inhabit gardens, woodlands, meadows, and other sunny areas with plenty of nectar sources.
  • Appearance: These butterflies have black wings with bright red bands. The spots on their wingtips are white and form a beautiful contrast.
  • Size: The wingspan of a Red Admiral ranges from 45 to 50mm—making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Red Admirals primarily feed on nectar from various flowers, such as thistles, buddleias, and ivies.
  • Reproduction: Males are territorial and will defend their area from rival butterflies. Females lay single eggs on stinging nettles, the primary food source for their caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Adult Red Admirals live for about three weeks during the summer months.
  • Host Plants: Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are the main host plants for Red Admiral caterpillars. They develop and grow on these plants before transforming into butterflies.

Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)

The Clouded Yellow is a mesmerizing butterfly species that captivates the attention of nature enthusiasts as it flutters through the skies of France.

Clouded Yellow butterfly

In this section, we’ll explore various aspects of this beautiful creature including its habitat, appearance, size, diet, reproduction, lifespan, and the host plants that play an essential role in its life cycle.

  • Habitat: From grasslands and meadows to gardens and parks, the Clouded Yellow can adapt to a wide range of environments, making it a common sight in France.
  • Appearance: The bright yellow wings with a bold black border give this butterfly its characteristic look. The underside of its wings features a dazzling array of intricate patterns and markings.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 4-6 cm, the Clouded Yellow is of medium size, fitting well in the palm of your hand.
  • Diet: As an adult butterfly, the Clouded Yellow primarily feeds on the nectar of various flowers such as clover and alfalfa, providing them with energy to fly and reproduce.
  • Reproduction: Mating takes place in flight, after which the female lays eggs on the host plants. The caterpillars then emerge, feeding on the host plants until they form a chrysalis.
  • Lifespan: The adult Clouded Yellow typically has a lifespan of around 3 weeks, depending on environmental factors and the availability of food sources.
  • Host Plants: The Clouded Yellow caterpillars feed on plants from the Fabaceae family, especially the species Medicago, Trifolium, and Lotus. These plants provide essential nutrients for their growth and development.

Small White (Pieris rapae)

The Small White, also known as the Small Cabbage White or Small Cabbage Butterfly, is a common and widespread butterfly species that can be found throughout France.

Small White butterfly

This species is often seen in gardens and wildflower-rich meadows, where they bask in the sun and feed on various flowering plants.

  • Habitat: Gardens, urban parks, lowland meadows, and other open habitats.
  • Appearance: White with greyish-black markings on the forewings and rear edges of the hindwings. Males are often more delicate in appearance than females.
  • Size: Wingspan ranges from 38 to 50 mm.
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, while caterpillars feed on plants from the brassica family, including cabbages and kale.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the underside of host plant leaves. The eggs hatch into caterpillars, which feed on the leaves for about three weeks before pupating.
  • Lifespan: One month in the adult stage, with two or three overlapping generations per year.
  • Host Plants: Brassica species, such as cabbages, cauliflower, and kale, among other crucifers.

Large White (Pieris brassicae)

The Large White, also known as the Cabbage White, is one of the most widespread and recognisable butterfly species in France.

Large White butterfly

This species thrives in various habitats throughout the country and is popular among gardeners due to its affinity for brassica plants.

Below, we will explore its key aspects:

  • Habitat: The Large White adapts well to diverse environments, including gardens, farmlands, meadows, and wastelands.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is predominantly white, with black-tipped forewings and a black or grey spot at the front edge. Its underwings display a pale, yellowish hue.
  • Size: The Large White’s wingspan ranges from 5 to 6.5 cm, earning it the name “Large” due to its somewhat bigger size compared to the Small White.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feed on the leaves of brassica plants; as adults, they sip nectar from flowers such as buddleia and lavender.
  • Reproduction: Mating occurs in spring and summer, followed by the female laying her eggs in clusters on the underside of brassica leaves.
  • Lifespan: The adult butterfly’s lifespan lasts up to a month, while their entire life cycle spans around six weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their preferred host plants are members of the Brassicaceae family, such as cabbage, kale, and broccoli. This feeding preference is the reason behind their nickname, the “Cabbage White.”

Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)

The Purple Emperor is a fascinating butterfly species that can be found in France.

Purple Emperor Butterfly

Known for its stunning appearance and elusive nature, this butterfly is a favorite among enthusiasts.

Let’s explore some interesting features of this captivating creature:

  • Habitat: Purple Emperors thrive in deciduous woodland areas, particularly where there is an abundance of their host plants.
  • Appearance: Males are distinguished by their striking iridescent purple wings, while the females are primarily brown with white wing markings.
  • Size: These butterflies have a wingspan of about 65-75mm, making them medium-sized compared to other species.
  • Diet: Adult Purple Emperors feed on tree sap, ripe fruits, and even animal dung for nutrients, rather than nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Males perform an elaborate aerial courtship display to attract females. Once mated, the females lay their eggs singly on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: The adult butterflies have a relatively short life span of 1-2 weeks, depending on the weather conditions.
  • Host Plants: Purple Emperors primarily lay their eggs on and feed upon the leaves of Goat Willow and to a lesser extent, Grey Willow.

The Purple Emperor is a magnificent butterfly to observe in the wild. If you ever have the chance to spot one in its natural environment, be sure to cherish the encounter for its rarity and beauty.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

The Small Tortoiseshell, scientifically known as Aglais urticae, is an exquisite butterfly species found in France.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

With its vibrant colors and captivating patterns, it never fails to amaze those who come across it.

This beautiful butterfly can be spotted in various habitats across the country.

Here’s an insight into some interesting aspects of the Small Tortoiseshell:

  • Habitat: You’ll likely spot this butterfly in gardens, meadows, woodlands, and grasslands.
  • Appearance: A stunning combination of orange, black, and blue on the wings, with a row of blue spots along the edges.
  • Size: This butterfly has a wingspan of approximately 45-50mm.
  • Diet: While the adults feed on nectar from flowering plants, the caterpillars prefer nettles.
  • Reproduction: The Small Tortoiseshell lays its eggs in clusters on the underside of the stinging nettle leaves.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of an adult is about 2 months, although some may live up to 9 months, depending on the conditions.
  • Host Plants: Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are the primary host plant for the caterpillars as they rely on them for feeding and protection.

Keep an eye out for this visually striking butterfly while exploring the diverse habitats of France. Its presence will surely add a touch of wonder to your experience.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

You might be surprised to know that Painted Lady butterflies are one of the most widespread species in the world!

painted lady butterfly

Here are some interesting facts about this captivating species:

  • Habitat: These butterflies can be found in various habitats ranging from gardens, meadows, and open spaces, to woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: They sport beautiful orange, black, and white markings, with the typical “lady” spots on their wings.
  • Size: Painted Ladies are medium-sized, with a wingspan of about 5-9 cm.
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on nectar from flowers, while caterpillars feed on leaves of host plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on thistles or nettles, which will act as a food source for the hatched caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The adult butterfly has a lifespan of 2-4 weeks on average.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars of the Painted Lady species mostly thrive on thistles, mallow, and various legume plants.

In France, Painted Ladies can be easily spotted, and their captivating appearance makes them a must-see for butterfly enthusiasts!

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

The Common Blue is a widespread and delightful butterfly that can be found across France.

Common Blue butterfly

This beautiful species is easily recognized by its striking blue wings, bordered by a thin, dark rim, and white fringes.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the fascinating features of the Common Blue:

  • Habitat: The Common Blue can be found in various habitats such as meadows, grasslands, woodland clearings, and coastal areas. They prefer sunny, open spaces with plenty of wildflowers.
  • Appearance: They have bright blue upper sides, with a dark border and white fringe. Their under sides are more muted, with brown, white, and orange markings resembling a mosaic.
  • Size: This small butterfly has a wingspan of 3.2 to 3.8 centimeters, with the females generally being larger than males.
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on nectar from flowers, especially those from legume families like clover and trefoil.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on or near the host plants. The caterpillars pass through several growth stages before pupating into a chrysalis, which can be found attached to grass stems.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for 2-3 weeks during the summer months, with one or two generations produced each year.
  • Host Plants: The larvae preferentially feed on plants from the family Fabaceae, such as bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), and common clover (Trifolium pratense).

So, when exploring the beautiful French countryside, keep an eye out for the enchanting Common Blue butterfly.

Their graceful flight and dazzling colors are a sight not to be missed!

Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus)

The Silver-studded Blue is a small, attractive butterfly that primarily inhabits heathlands, meadows, and grasslands.

Silver-Studded Blue butterfly

They are named after the silver or blue metallic spots on their hindwings’ underside.

Here are some key features of this butterfly species:

  • Habitat: They primarily inhabit heathlands, meadows, and grasslands. They are also found in open woodland and coastal areas.
  • Appearance: Males exhibit a distinctive blue color on their wings, with black margins and white fringe. Females have brown wings with orange crescents and some blue speckles near their body.
  • Size: They have a wingspan of 25-30 mm, making them relatively small compared to other butterfly species.
  • Diet: As adults, they feed on nectar from flowers, like thyme and heather. Their caterpillars feed on plants from the Fabaceae family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on host plants or close to ant colonies. The caterpillars have a mutually beneficial relationship with ants for protection and food.
  • Lifespan: Adult Silver-studded Blues live for around three weeks. The complete life cycle, including the caterpillar stage, takes about one year.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants are various species from the Fabaceae family, including the Broom, Gorse, and Common Birdsfoot Trefoil.

Chalk Hill Blue (Polyommatus coridon)

Chalk Hill Blue is a fascinating butterfly species that can be found in the fascinating landscapes of France.

Chalkhill Blue Butterfly

This beautiful creature displays an impressive array of features, making it an absolute delight for nature enthusiasts.

Here’s what you need to know about the Chalk Hill Blue butterfly:

  • Habitat: Prefers chalk and limestone grasslands, typically found at higher altitudes.
  • Appearance: Males exhibit a striking blue color with narrow black borders, while females have brown wings edged with orange markings.
  • Size: Generally small, with a wingspan of about 30-35mm.
  • Diet: Adults feed on the nectar of various flowering plants, particularly preferring thistles and marjoram.
  • Reproduction: Mating occurs in midsummer, with females laying eggs on the leaves of the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live for about 3-4 weeks, depending on environmental conditions.
  • Host Plants: Primarily horseshoe vetch (Hippocrepis comosa) and, occasionally, birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).

Next time you’re in France, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the elegant Chalk Hill Blue – a fleeting treasure amongst the rich biodiversity of the country.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

Small Copper is one of the 30 beautiful butterfly species you can find in France.

Small Copper butterfly

This small, bright, and fast-flying butterfly adds a special touch to the colorful French countryside.

Let’s learn more about this remarkable species.

  • Habitat: The Small Copper is commonly found in various habitats, such as grasslands, heathlands, woodland clearings, and even urban gardens.
  • Appearance: Sporting a vibrant orange and brown upper surface with intricate patterns on their wings, these butterflies are a delightful sight as they flit about.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 25 to 35 mm, these tiny butterflies are easier to spot than you might think.
  • Diet: They primarily feed on nectar-producing plants, like daisies, buttercups, and clovers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the underside of leaves, ensuring a safe and hidden environment for the larvae.
  • Lifespan: Adult Small Coppers live for around three weeks, with up to three generations hatching in one year.
  • Host Plants: The preferred host plants for these butterflies are Common Sorrel and Sheep’s Sorrel, where their larvae feed on the leaves before turning into pupae.

Now that you know more about the Small Copper, keep an eye out for these stunning insects when you’re exploring the great outdoors in France.

Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera)

The Wall Brown is an exciting butterfly species that you may encounter while exploring the diverse wildlife in France.

Wall Brown Butterfly

Not only are they a visually striking species, but their particular habits and characteristics make them an intriguing presence.

  • Habitat: Wall Browns are usually found in sunny and open grassy areas, such as meadows, coastal cliffs, and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: The Wall Brown sports a vibrant orange color on its wings, adorned with intricate patterns of dark brown spots and lines.
  • Size: They are medium-sized butterflies, with a wingspan of about 4-5 cm.
  • Diet: As a member of the Nymphalidae family, the Wall Brown primarily feeds on nectar from flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: During the breeding season, females lay their eggs individually on various grasses, providing ample food for the caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The Wall Brown has a short lifespan of around two to three weeks in their adult butterfly stage.
  • Host Plants: The main host plants for their larvae are different grass species, such as bents, fescues, and bluegrasses.

As you journey through France, keep an eye out for this enchanting species, and take time to appreciate the Wall Brown’s unique characteristics and contributions to the ecosystem.

Large Heath (Coenonympha tullia)

The Large Heath (Coenonympha tullia) is a fascinating butterfly species that can be found in France.

Large Heath Butterfly

As you explore the French countryside, be sure to keep an eye out for this charming creature.

Here are some key details about the Large Heath:

  • Habitat: You can usually find this species in wet and damp moorlands, bogs, and marshes. They tend to favor areas with sedges and other water-loving plants.
  • Appearance: The Large Heath has an appealing pattern of orange and brown, with dark eye spots on the upper side of the wings. The underside of the wings is adorned with small silver spots, making them quite eye-catching.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 35 to 45 millimeters, this butterfly is tiny, but still relatively large in comparison to some other species.
  • Diet: Adult Large Heaths primarily feed on the nectar of flowers, such as marsh thistle and devil’s-bit scabious.
  • Reproduction: Mating usually occurs in June and July, with only one generation produced per year. Females lay their eggs on the plants that the caterpillars will eat.
  • Lifespan: As an adult, the Large Heath butterfly typically lives for around two to three weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their caterpillars feed on various sedge species, including Hare’s-tail Cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum) and Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium).

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

The Meadow Brown is a widely distributed butterfly species that can be found throughout France and most of Europe.

Meadow Brown butterfly

It’s a common sight in grasslands and open spaces during the summer months.

This butterfly is not only known for its adaptable nature, but also for its hardiness and resistance to the ever-changing environmental conditions.

Let’s explore some remarkable characteristics of the Meadow Brown:

  • Habitat: Grasslands, meadows, hedgerows, and open woodlands.
  • Appearance: Dark brown to orange wings with a black eye spot on the forewings. Males have a distinct scent gland on their front wings.
  • Size: Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan between 40 and 50 mm.
  • Diet: Meadow Browns primarily feed on a wide range of wildflowers, including thistles, clovers, and knapweeds.
  • Reproduction: Mating usually occurs in late spring or early summer. Females lay single eggs on or near host plants. Caterpillars emerge in approximately two weeks, and in 2-3 months, they transform into chrysalises.
  • Lifespan: Adult Meadow Browns live for 1-2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Mostly grasses, such as the Cock’s foot grass (Dactylis glomerata), and the False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum).

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)

The Marbled White is a fascinating butterfly species native to France.

Marbled White Butterfly

This beautiful insect can often be spotted fluttering around grasslands, meadows, and woodlands.

Let’s take a closer look at some of its distinguishing features:

  • Habitat: Typically found in grassy meadows, chalk downs, and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: Displays a striking pattern of black and white markings, giving it the appearance of being “marbled” on both the upper and underside of its wings.
  • Size: Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan ranging from 5 to 6 cm.
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, with a preference for purple flowers like Knapweed and Thistles.
  • Reproduction: Males establish territories and wait for receptive females, who lay their eggs on grasses in July and early August.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a relatively short lifespan, living for about three weeks during the summer months.
  • Host Plants: Eggs are laid on various grass species, with the larval stage feeding mainly on Red Fescue, Sheep’s Fescue, and Yorkshire-fog grasses.

Keep an eye out for the Marbled White on your next nature walk in France, and you might just be lucky enough to spot this lovely butterfly dancing gracefully among the wildflowers.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene)

The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene) is a beautiful butterfly species that you can find in France.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary Butterfly

This fascinating creature has some unique characteristics that distinguish it from other butterflies.

Here’s what you need to know about the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary:

  • Habitat: Prefers wet grasslands, damp heathland, and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: Orange-brown wings with distinctive black spots and a pearl-like border on the lower edge of the hind wings.
  • Size: Wingspan ranging between 38-44 mm, making it a small to medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on nectar from flowers such as violets, thistles, and buttercups.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of host plants, which hatch into caterpillars in about two weeks.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies typically live for around two weeks, while the entire life cycle spans around one year.
  • Host Plants: Primarily violet species, including the common dog-violet and marsh violet.

So, next time you’re in France, take a moment to appreciate the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary – a true beauty in the world of butterflies.

White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album)

The White-letter Hairstreak is a fascinating butterfly species found in France.

White-letter Hairstreak butterfly

With its unique appearance and intriguing behavior, it is definitely a beautiful sight to spot in nature.

Here, we will explore some interesting facts about this butterfly species:

  • Habitat: This butterfly is found in woodland edges, hedgerows, and scrubby areas where its host plant, the elm tree, is abundant. It is present in areas with both high-quality and degraded habitats.
  • Appearance: The White-letter Hairstreak gets its name from its characteristic white ‘W’ marking on the underside of its hindwings. The upper side of the wings is dark brown, with a single row of orange spots near the wing edges.
  • Size: It has a wingspan of approximately 27-34 mm, making it a small-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Adults feed on the nectar from a variety of flowers such as thistles and brambles.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on the twigs of the host plant, close to the flower buds.
  • Lifespan: The White-letter Hairstreak has a single brood each year, with adults on the wing from late June to August.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of this species feed exclusively on elm trees, including English elm, wych elm, and some hybrid elms. The decline of elm trees due to Dutch elm disease has had a significant impact on the population of White-letter Hairstreak butterflies.

Black Hairstreak (Satyrium pruni)

The Black Hairstreak is an intriguing butterfly species native to France, captivating enthusiasts with its fascinating habits and striking appearance.

Black Hairstreak butterfly

Let’s dive into some specific details of this particular species:

  • Habitat: Black Hairstreak butterflies are found mainly in woodlands, hedgerows, and forest edges, with a preference for locations near their host plants.
  • Appearance: This butterfly displays dark brown wings with a distinct pattern of white streaks on the underside, and a bold row of striking orange spots near the edges.
  • Size: Adults typically have a wingspan of 28-32 mm, making them a relatively small butterfly species.
  • Diet: As adults, they rely mainly on honeydew to sustain them, but occasionally indulge in nectar from flowers too.
  • Reproduction: The female Black Hairstreak lays her eggs close to the buds of host plants, where the larvae will have immediate access to food upon hatching.
  • Lifespan: Adult Black Hairstreaks have a relatively short lifespan of around three weeks.
  • Host Plants: Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is their primary host plant, where the caterpillars will feed on the leaves.

The Black Hairstreak butterfly is yet another wonder of the rich biodiversity France has to offer. Keep an eye out for these delicate creatures when exploring the countryside or wooded areas.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

The Brimstone butterfly is a fascinating and eye-catching species that’s native to France.

Brimstone Butterfly

This captivating creature is known for its distinctive features and unique characteristics.

Let’s dive into some interesting tidbits about the Brimstone:

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives in woodland areas, country lanes, and gardens with plenty of nectar-producing plants.
  • Appearance: Brimstones feature a lovely pale, leaf-green color that helps them blend seamlessly into their environment, ensuring they stay hidden from predators.
  • Size: Brimstone butterflies measure about 5-6 centimeters in wingspan, making them a medium-sized butterfly species.
  • Diet: The adult butterflies feed on nectar from various flowering plants, with their favorites being species from the Daphne, Salix, and Allium families.
  • Reproduction: Female Brimstones lay their eggs singly on the leaves of their respective host plants.
  • Lifespan: The Brimstone butterfly has a relatively long lifespan for a butterfly, with adult butterflies living up to 12 months.
  • Host Plants: The Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn plants serve as the primary host plants for Brimstone caterpillars, providing both shelter and nourishment.

As you can see, the Brimstone butterfly is a fascinating species that adds a touch of beauty to the French countryside.

Don’t miss the opportunity to admire these elegant insects if you get the chance to explore their natural habitat.

Purple-shot Copper (Lycaena alciphron)

The Purple-shot Copper is a stunning butterfly species that can be found in various parts of France.

Purple-shot Copper butterfly

To better appreciate its presence and learn more about this fascinating creature, let’s delve into some interesting aspects of its life.

  • Habitat: Purple-shot Coppers prefer habitats like grasslands, sunny meadows, and forest edges. They are also found in limestone-rich areas and at altitudes of up to 2,000 meters.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is eye-catching with its vibrant purple sheen. The male has a coppery brown color with purple iridescence, while the female has brown wings with orange spots.
  • Size: The wingspan of the Purple-shot Copper ranges from 30 to 38 mm.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies mainly feed on the nectar of various flowers, such as thistles and knapweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the underside of host plants’ leaves. The caterpillars then feed on these plants before pupating.
  • Lifespan: The adult butterfly has a short lifespan of about three weeks.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants for the Purple-shot Copper caterpillars are sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and dock (Rumex spp.).

The Purple-shot Copper is a magnificent species that graces the skies of France.

Be sure to keep an eye out for this dazzling butterfly when exploring the French countryside.

Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Camberwell Beauty, also known as the Mourning Cloak, is a fascinating butterfly species that can be found in France.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

These butterflies have a distinctive appearance, making them easily recognizable and a delight for butterfly enthusiasts.

  • Habitat: The Camberwell Beauty prefers wooded areas, gardens, and parks. They are often found near water sources, such as ponds and streams.
  • Appearance: One of the most captivating features of this butterfly is its dark brown to black wings, adorned with an irregular yellow or cream border, offering a striking contrast. Additionally, there are blue spots near the edges of the wings, adding to their allure.
  • Size: The wingspan of the Camberwell Beauty ranges between 50 and 70 mm, making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on tree sap, rotten fruit, and nectar from flowers, while caterpillars predominantly feast on willow leaves.
  • Reproduction: Camberwell Beauty butterflies have one reproduction cycle per year. Female butterflies lay eggs on host plants in clusters of about 300.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for approximately 11 to 12 months, which is impressive for butterfly species.
  • Host Plants: Willow, poplar, and elm trees are the primary host plants for the Camberwell Beauty, providing food and shelter for the caterpillars.

Small Blue (Cupido minimus)

The Small Blue butterfly is a charming little creature that’s often found in certain areas of France.

Small Blue butterfly

This tiny butterfly is not only eye-catching but also displays fascinating behaviors and characteristics that make it special.

Let’s dive into the life of the Small Blue butterfly:

  • Habitat: Prefers warm, grassy meadows and wastelands with kidney vetch plants, essential for laying eggs.
  • Appearance: Shiny blue to dark gray body, small wings with a pale blue and white upper side.
  • Size: It’s the smallest butterfly in France, with a wingspan of just 16-27mm.
  • Diet: Adults mainly feed on nectar from flowers, particularly legumes and cruciferous plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay one egg per flower on the host plant during the spring months.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually survive for around two weeks, with the complete life cycle taking almost 9 months.
  • Host Plants: Kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) is the primary host plant where caterpillars develop and feed.

Next time you’re outdoors in France, be on the lookout for this captivating little butterfly. The Small Blue’s delicate charm makes it a delightful discovery in the beautiful French countryside.

Grayling (Hipparchia semele)

The Grayling is a captivating butterfly species that can be found across various regions in France.

Grayling butterfly

Known for its unique appearance and adaptive behavior, it is a fascinating insect to observe.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Grayling butterfly:

  • Habitat: Grayling butterflies favor sunny and dry environments like heathlands, coastal dunes, limestone grasslands, and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: They exhibit a combination of gray, brown, and black colors on their wings, along with a distinctive eye-shaped mark to deter predators.
  • Size: The wingspan of the Grayling ranges between 54-62mm, making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Adult Graylings feed on nectar from various plants, such as thistles, brambles, and wild marjoram.
  • Reproduction: The male Graylings patrol their territory and wait for the females to pass by. Once they mate, females lay their eggs on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult Grayling butterflies live for around 2-3 weeks, with most of their life cycle spent in the caterpillar and pupal stages.
  • Host Plants: The preferred host plants for the Grayling caterpillars are different species of grasses, such as bents, fescues, and common couch.

Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon)

The Chequered Skipper is a butterfly species known for its unique and vibrant wing pattern.

Chequered Skipper butterfly

Let’s explore more about this fascinating creature:

  • Habitat: Chequered Skippers are primarily found in the northern and western regions of France, inhabiting damp grasslands, meadows and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: The wings are marked with a bold black and orange checkered pattern which contrasts sharply against its dark brown background, making it unmistakable.
  • Size: The wingspan of this small butterfly typically ranges from 25 to 34 millimeters.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed mainly on nectar from flowers such as bugle, marsh thistle, and bird’s-foot trefoil.
  • Reproduction: The females lay eggs on the underside of the host plant’s leaves during June and July.
  • Lifespan: Adult Chequered Skippers live for around 3 to 4 weeks, while the caterpillars take approximately 11 months to develop before pupating and emerging as adult butterflies.
  • Host Plants: The main host plant for Chequered Skipper larvae is purple moor-grass, but other plant species like wood small-reed can also be used.

With its eye-catching appearance and unique habitat requirements, the Chequered Skipper serves as an important indicator of habitat health, adding to the biodiversity of grasslands and meadows throughout France.


In summary, France boasts a diverse range of beautiful and unique butterflies.

These 30 species are just a small selection of the many fascinating creatures that call this country home.

We’d love you to share your own experiences with French butterflies in the comments below!

Butterflies   Updated: June 19, 2023
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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