30 Butterfly Species in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland boasts a diverse and rich habitat that supports a vibrant population of butterflies.

These captivating creatures can be found fluttering across the region’s meadows, woodlands, and gardens.

In this article, we’ll explore 30 fascinating butterfly species that call Northern Ireland home, each unique in their patterns and behavior.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

The Small Tortoiseshell is a delightful and widespread butterfly found across Northern Ireland.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

It is a familiar sight in many gardens and parks, adding a splash of color to the landscape.

Let’s explore some features of this beautiful creature:

  • Habitat: Small Tortoiseshells are found in a variety of habitats, including gardens, meadows, woodland clearings, and hedgerows.
  • Appearance: This butterfly features a stunning pattern of orange, black, and yellow markings on the upper side of its wings, with a row of blue spots along the edge. The underside is a mottled gray-brown color.
  • Size: The Small Tortoiseshell has a wingspan of about 45-60mm.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on nectar from flowers such as thistles and buddleia, while their caterpillars feed on stinging nettles.
  • Reproduction: Mating occurs in spring, and females lay eggs on the underside of nettle leaves. The caterpillars hatch, feed, and grow before pupating in a communal silk web.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a lifespan of around 9-12 months, allowing them to hibernate over winter and breed in the spring.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plant for Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars is the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

Peacock Butterfly (Aglais io)

The Peacock butterfly is one of the most recognizable and widely distributed species in Northern Ireland.

Peacock Butterfly

This beautiful species has vibrant colors and markings that make it a favorite among butterfly enthusiasts.

Let’s explore some interesting facts about the Peacock butterfly:

  • Habitat: Peacock butterflies can be found in a variety of habitats, including gardens, woodlands, and meadows. They are often seen basking in the sun and are attracted to nectar-rich flowers.
  • Appearance: The Peacock butterfly has striking eyespots on its wings that resemble the eye markings of a peacock’s tail feathers. The background color of the wings is a rich, dark reddish-brown, with blue, yellow, and black markings around the eyespots.
  • Size: This medium-sized butterfly has a wingspan of around 50-70mm.
  • Diet: Adult Peacocks feed primarily on nectar from flowers, while the caterpillars are known to eat the leaves of several plant species, particularly nettles.
  • Reproduction: Peacock butterflies lay their eggs in clusters on the underside of nettle leaves. The caterpillars hatch and live communally in a silken web, which offers protection from predators.
  • Lifespan: The adult Peacock butterfly typically lives for around 11 months, with individuals overwintering in hibernation before re-emerging in the spring.
  • Host Plants: Nettles, in particular, the common nettle (Urtica dioica), serve as the primary host plant for the Peacock butterfly’s caterpillars.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is a striking butterfly species with an intriguing life cycle, found in a variety of habitats throughout Northern Ireland.

painted lady butterfly

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

  • Habitat: Painted Ladies are adaptable to various environments, including gardens, meadows, coastal areas, and even urban settings.
  • Appearance: This butterfly boasts intricate wing patterns with shades of orange and brown, accented by black and white spots along the edges.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 5-9 cm, Painted Ladies are medium-sized butterflies.
  • Diet: Adults mainly feed on nectar from flowers, while their larvae munch on host plants.
  • Reproduction: Painted Lady butterflies lay their eggs singly on host plants, hatching into caterpillars who then form their chrysalis.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live for 2-4 weeks, with their entire generation-to-generation life cycle lasting around a month.
  • Host Plants: Thistles, mallows, and nettles are commonly chosen by Painted Ladies as host plants for their eggs and caterpillars.

The Painted Lady butterfly is a fascinating species with a rich presence in Northern Ireland. Its adaptability to different habitats and intricate markings make it a particularly interesting creature to observe and learn about.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is a striking and easily recognizable butterfly species, native to Northern Ireland and other parts of Europe.

red-admiral butterfly

Let’s dive into some interesting details about this amazing creature:

  • Habitat: Red Admirals can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including gardens, woodlands, meadows, and hedgerows.
  • Appearance: These butterflies have a distinct look with dark brownish-black wings, highlighted by vibrant red-orange bands and white spots.
  • Size: With a wingspan of approximately 2-2.8 inches (50-70 mm), Red Admirals are relatively large butterflies.
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar from various flowers, such as thistles and buddleia, as well as rotting fruit and tree sap.
  • Reproduction: Males find females by perching on strategic lookout spots, and after mating, the female lays her eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult Red Admirals typically live for about 6 weeks, from early spring to late autumn. The caterpillar-stage lasts around 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed primarily on nettle plants (Urtica spp.), but can also consume hops and pellitory-of-the-wall.

Small White (Pieris rapae)

Small White, also known as the Small Cabbage White, is a widespread butterfly species in Northern Ireland. They can be found in almost any environment, from gardens to fields and meadows.

Small White butterfly

Here’s a quick overview of the fascinating Small White butterfly:

  • Habitat: They are widespread throughout Northern Ireland and can be found in gardens, meadows, and fields.
  • Appearance: Adults have white wings with black tips on the forewings, while male butterflies have one spot and female butterflies have two spots on the underside of the forewings.
  • Size: Typically, their wingspan measures around 3.2 to 4.7 cm.
  • Diet: The adult Small White feeds on nectar from flowers, while the caterpillars feed on host plants.
  • Reproduction: Small White butterflies have two generations per year, with the females laying their eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: In their butterfly stage, the Small White can live for around one month.
  • Host Plants: They favor plants from the Brassicaceae family, like cabbage, mustard, and various wildflowers.

With their common presence and adaptability, Small Whites are a joy to spot in gardens and green areas all around Northern Ireland.

Large White (Pieris brassicae)

The Large White, scientifically known as Pieris brassicae, is one of the most commonly found butterfly species in Northern Ireland.

Large White butterfly

This striking butterfly is often seen fluttering around gardens and various landscapes.

Here are some basic facts about the Large White:

  • Habitat: Primarily seen in gardens, farmland, and open countryside.
  • Appearance: White wings with a prominent black mark at the tip of the forewing, and a smaller black mark on the outer edge of the hindwing.
  • Size: Wingspan ranging from 60 to 70 millimeters.
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, while caterpillars feed on Brassica plants (cabbage family).
  • Reproduction: Mating takes place in spring, with females laying clusters of 20-100 bright yellow eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults can survive for 3 to 10 weeks, while caterpillars spend around a month growing before becoming a chrysalis for around 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillar mainly feeds on Brassica plants like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, making them famous as ‘cabbage whites.’

Large Whites are gorgeous butterflies contributing to Northern Ireland’s abundant biodiversity, and their distinct appearance makes them easy to spot in a variety of habitats.

The life-cycle of these butterflies reflects complex adaptation strategies as they survive and reproduce through different seasons.

Green-veined White (Pieris napi)

The Green-veined White is a common butterfly species found in Northern Ireland and various other regions of Europe and Asia.

Green-veined White butterfly

This delicate butterfly is not only charming to look at but also plays a vital role in pollination, contributing to the ecosystem.

  • Habitat: The butterflies’ favored habitats include grassy areas, meadows, gardens and wood edges where wildflowers grow in abundance.
  • Appearance: Its upper side is mainly white, with black tips on the forewings. Of particular interest are the greenish veins on the undersides of the wings, which give this butterfly its unique name.
  • Size: Adult Green-veined Whites have a wingspan between 40 and 52mm, making them relatively small in size.
  • Diet: They primarily feed on nectar from various flowering plants, including dandelions, garlic mustard, and cuckooflowers.
  • Reproduction: Green-veined Whites can have two or three broods each year and lay yellowish-white eggs on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: The butterflies generally live for around two weeks in their adult form.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of the Green-veined White primarily feed on plants from the Brassicaceae family, including cabbage and mustard plants.

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

Have you ever spotted an Orange-tip butterfly in the wild? These fascinating critters are one of the most widespread and recognizable species in Northern Ireland.

Orange-tip Butterfly

Let’s delve deeper into their unique characteristics:

  • Habitat: Orange-tip butterflies can be found in various habitats such as meadows, hedgerows, woodland clearings, and riverbanks.
  • Appearance: Males have a bright orange wingtip, while females have a muted gray wingtip. Both sexes sport blotchy, greenish-white underwings for camouflage.
  • Size: The wingspan of an Orange-tip butterfly typically ranges between 40-52mm.
  • Diet: Adult Orange-tips primarily feed on nectar from flowers like cuckooflower, garlic mustard, and red campion.
  • Reproduction: Mating takes place in spring as butterflies emerge from their chrysalides. Females lay single eggs on host plants, usually on flower buds.
  • Lifespan: The adult Orange-tip butterfly typically lives for three weeks, while caterpillars spend 3-4 months growing before pupating.
  • Host Plants: Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) and Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) are this species’ main host plants, with the latter being more common in Northern Ireland.

Consider yourself lucky if you ever get a chance to witness these beautiful butterflies fluttering about in their natural environment – they’re a truly stunning sight!

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

The Common Blue butterfly is a fascinating creature, with its vibrant colors and energetic fluttering.

Common Blue butterfly

Let’s dive into the details of this beautiful species and learn more about its characteristics:

  • Habitat: Common Blue butterflies can be found in various habitats, such as grasslands, meadows, woodland clearings, and even urban parks. They are highly adaptable and can live at different altitudes, ranging from sea level to mountainous areas.
  • Appearance: The males have striking blue wings with black edges, while the females display a more brownish hue with orange spots along the wing edges. The underwings of both sexes feature intricate patterns of black, white, and orange.
  • Size: With a wingspan of about 32-42mm, the Common Blue is a relatively small butterfly, making it even more delightful to spot in the wild.
  • Diet: The adults feed primarily on nectar from various plants, such as thistles, knapweed, and marjoram. Meanwhile, the caterpillars munch on wild plants like clover and bird’s-foot trefoil.
  • Reproduction: Common Blues have two broods per year, with eggs laid in spring and late summer. The caterpillars develop throughout the summer months before pupating into chrysalides for the winter period.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies typically live for 2-4 weeks, while caterpillars and chrysalides spend considerable time in various developmental stages.
  • Host Plants: Typical host plants for Common Blue caterpillars include white clover, bird’s-foot trefoil, and other pea family members.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)

The Holly Blue is a fascinating butterfly species that’s worth exploring. With its delicate and enchanting appearance, it’s quite a lovely sight to witness as it dances gracefully in the sky.

Holly Blue butterfly

Let’s take a closer look at some important aspects of its life:

  • Habitat: Typically found in woodland areas, hedgerows, and gardens
  • Appearance: Distinctive silvery-blue wings with a slight dusting of white along the fringe
  • Size: Small size, with a wingspan ranging from 27 to 34 millimeters
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on nectar from flowers, while the caterpillars consume buds, flowers, and seeds
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the buds of host plants, and the caterpillars hatch after about a week
  • Lifespan: Adult Holly Blues live for around two to three weeks
  • Host Plants: Holly and ivy are their favored plants, but they also utilize spindle, dogwood, and heathers

So, when you’re out enjoying the beauty of Northern Ireland, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the charming Holly Blue butterfly.

If you’re lucky, you might just witness one fluttering about, adding a touch of magic to your day.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The Small Copper butterfly is a delightful sight to behold as it flutters around grasslands and meadows.

Small Copper butterfly

This beautiful butterfly is an essential part of Northern Ireland’s diverse ecosystem.

To learn more about this species, let’s discuss some of its distinctive traits:

  • Habitat: Small Copper butterflies prefer warm, sunny areas such as heathlands, meadows, and even gardens. They are widespread in Northern Ireland and can be found in lowland habitats.
  • Appearance: This butterfly has striking coppery-orange wings with black spots and borders, while the undersides are grey with discrete black markings.
  • Size: They are small, with a wingspan ranging from 25 to 35 millimeters.
  • Diet: Adult Small Copper butterflies mainly feed on flower nectar, while caterpillars primarily consume leaves of the Common Sorrel and Sheep’s Sorrel plants.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies lay their eggs singly on the leaves of host plants, which later hatch into caterpillars that later pupate into butterflies.
  • Lifespan: Their adult lifespan is pretty short, ranging from two to three weeks, allowing them to reproduce quickly.
  • Host Plants: Small Copper caterpillars depend on the Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) for their growth and development.

The Small Copper butterfly not only adds a touch of beauty to Northern Ireland’s landscape but also contributes to the overall health of the ecosystem.

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis)

The Brown Argus is a small butterfly that is commonly found in Northern Ireland. This charming butterfly is beloved by enthusiasts for its delicate and unique appearance.

Brown Argus Butterfly

Let’s learn more about this fascinating species:

  • Habitat: The Brown Argus prefers warm, grassy areas and can often be found in meadows, disused quarries, and coastal grasslands. It avoids shady and wooded areas in favor of open, sunny spaces.
  • Appearance: The Brown Argus has a rich brown color on its upper wings, with a beautiful pattern of orange crescents and small white spots on the edges. Its undersides are primarily a light brown with striking white, orange, and black markings.
  • Size: Small in size, its wingspan ranges from 20mm to 35mm.
  • Diet: Adult Brown Argus butterflies feed on nectar from various flowers, such as dandelions, thistles, and wild marjoram.
  • Reproduction: Female Brown Argus butterflies lay single eggs on the leaves and flowers of their host plants. After about two weeks, the larvae hatch and go through a series of growth stages before forming a chrysalis to transform into the adult butterfly.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live for around two weeks, while the entire life cycle takes about a year.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants for the Brown Argus are the common rock-rose and dove’s-foot crane’s-bill, providing both food for the larvae and a place for the butterflies to lay their eggs.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

The Speckled Wood is a delightful butterfly that can be observed in various parts of Northern Ireland.

Speckled Wood butterfly

This attractive species has an intriguing life cycle and ecology, making it a fascinating subject for nature enthusiasts.

Let’s take a closer look at some key aspects of the Speckled Wood:

  • Habitat: Prefers woodland, hedgerows, and gardens with dappled sunlight and shade where the adult butterflies can often be seen basking in the sun or feeding on flowers.
  • Appearance: Presenting a dark brown base color with cream-colored patches, creating a speckled pattern, and a subtle hint of orange on the hind wings.
  • Size: The wingspan typically ranges from 4-4.5 cm, making them a medium-sized butterfly species.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on nectar from various flowers while the caterpillars munch on various species of grass, including Yorkshire Fog and Rough Meadow-grass.
  • Reproduction: Males are highly territorial and will defend their area against rival males. Females lay single eggs on host plants, which hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The adult butterfly can live up to four weeks, completing its life cycle within one year.
  • Host Plants: Favorites include grasses such as Brachypodium sylvaticum and Holcus lanatus, providing a favorable environment for the development of larvae.

Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera)

The Wall Brown butterfly is one of the beautiful species found in Northern Ireland.

Wall (Lasiommata megera)

This butterfly has a distinct appearance and behavior that sets it apart from other species.

Let’s explore some fascinating facts about this captivating creature:

  • Habitat: Wall Brown butterflies inhabit a wide range of environments such as woodland clearings, meadows, coastal areas, and even urban gardens.
  • Appearance: The upperside of the wings features a spectacular pattern of orange and brown, with black and white speckled borders. The underside is predominantly gray and brown, resembling dry leaves or tree bark, perfect for camouflage.
  • Size: The wingspan ranges from 4-5 cm, making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Wall Brown primarily feeds on nectar from flowering plants such as the daisy, thistle, and knapweed.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs singly on various grasses, with the caterpillars then feeding on these host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult Wall Browns have a short lifespan of only 2-3 weeks, but their full life cycle from egg to adult spans 4-5 months.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae feed on various grass species like bents (Agrostis spp.), fescues (Festuca spp.), and meadow grasses (Poa spp.).

With its striking appearance and intriguing lifestyle, the Wall Brown butterfly is an essential part of the diverse ecosystem in Northern Ireland.

Grayling (Hipparchia semele)

The Grayling butterfly is a fascinating species native to Northern Ireland.

Grayling butterfly

Its unique characteristics make it stand out among the 30 different butterfly species found in the region.

Let’s take a closer look at this intriguing creature:

  • Habitat: Graylings prefer dry, coastal areas, heathlands, dunes, and limestone grasslands. They can also be found in clearings and woodland edges with suitable vegetation.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is distinguishable by its distinct eye spots on the closed wings, along with its cryptic brown and gray coloration which helps it blend into its surroundings.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 50-62 mm, Graylings are medium-sized butterflies.
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on nectar from flowers like thistles, knapweeds, heather and bramble, while caterpillars prefer different grass species.
  • Reproduction: Graylings have a single generation each year, with females laying eggs on the food plant where caterpillars can easily feed.
  • Lifespan: Adult Graylings live for about 2-3 weeks, while the entire life cycle from egg to adulthood takes approximately 1 year.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed mainly on grasses, such as fescues, sheep’s fescue, and red fescue.

The Grayling butterfly is an interesting, well-adapted species that can be found in various habitats across Northern Ireland.

Its distinct appearance and valuable role as a pollinator make it an essential member of the region’s butterfly community.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

The Meadow Brown is a common butterfly species in Northern Ireland.

Meadow Brown butterfly

Its subtle coloration and patterns make it often overlooked, but this butterfly has several interesting characteristics you might want to know more about:

  • Habitat: These butterflies prefer grasslands such as meadows, verges, waste ground, and urban parklands.
  • Appearance: Meadow Browns have brown wings with orange patches and a small black eye-spot on each forewing. The females usually have a lighter coloration than the males.
  • Size: They have a wingspan of approximately 4 to 5 cm, making them medium-sized compared to other butterfly species in the region.
  • Diet: Adult Meadow Browns feed on nectar from various flowers, while their caterpillars mostly feed on grasses.
  • Reproduction: The mating season typically occurs between July and August. Females lay their eggs singularly on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult Meadow Browns have a relatively short life of around two to four weeks.
  • Host Plants: They mainly lay their eggs on grasses such as Fescues, Bents, and Bluegrasses, providing a nutrient-rich food source for their caterpillars.

By learning more about Meadow Browns, we can appreciate their importance in maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)

The Ringlet butterfly is a widely distributed and common species in Northern Ireland, exhibiting a unique charm that cannot be overlooked.

Ringlet Butterfly

This fascinating species showcases distinct circles on its wings, making it easily identifiable.

Let’s explore the features of Ringlet butterflies in more detail:

  • Habitat: Usually found in damp, lush grasslands, Ringlets also thrive in hedgerows and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: Featuring dark-brown wings with white-edged eye-spots, this butterfly is easily distinguished from other species.
  • Size: With a wingspan of approximately 35-42mm, Ringlets are considered small to medium-sized butterflies.
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar, while caterpillars consume a wide range of grasses.
  • Reproduction: Ringlets mate during mid-summer, and females lay hundreds of eggs on grass stems or leaves.
  • Lifespan: The adult butterflies have a short lifespan of only two to three weeks.
  • Host Plants: As caterpillars, Ringlets primarily feed on various grasses, such as Cock’s-foot, Creeping Soft-grass, and False Brome.

With their highly adaptable nature and simplistic beauty, Ringlet butterflies add a touch of wonder to the rich biodiversity found in Northern Ireland.

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

The Small Heath is a fascinating butterfly species that you’ll likely come across while exploring the beautiful landscapes of Northern Ireland.

Small Heath Butterfly

Let’s have a closer look at some key aspects of this charming little creature:

  • Habitat: Small Heath butterflies are typically found in open grasslands, including meadows, heaths, and even sand dunes.
  • Appearance: With its brown and orange wings adorned with black and white spots, the Small Heath is both distinctive and eye-catching. Its underwings also feature a cryptic pattern that helps it blend into its surroundings.
  • Size: The wingspan of a Small Heath butterfly is fairly modest, measuring between 25 and 35 millimeters across.
  • Diet: As adults, these butterflies feed primarily on the nectar from a variety of flowering plants such as clover and thistles.
  • Reproduction: Small Heath butterflies lay their eggs singly on grass blades, from which the caterpillars emerge to feed on a range of grass species.
  • Lifespan: With a typical lifespan of just a few weeks, the Small Heath is a short-lived species, though it is known to produce multiple generations each year.
  • Host Plants: The main host plants for the Small Heath caterpillar are a variety of grass species, including fescues and bents.

Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia)

The Marsh Fritillary is an eye-catching butterfly species native to Northern Ireland. It’s known for its vibrant colors and intricate wing patterns.

Marsh Fritillary butterfly

This butterfly plays a vital role in ecosystems, making it an essential species to protect and conserve.

Here’s what you should know about this fascinating butterfly:

  • Habitat: Marsh Fritillaries prefer wet, grassy meadows, coastal dunes, and marshy areas. They can be found in a range of habitats, as long as their host plants are present.
  • Appearance: They have intricately patterned wings with varying shades of orange, brown, and yellow. Additionally, there are numerous black spots and markings on the wings.
  • Size: The wingspan of Marsh Fritillaries ranges between 38-50 mm (1.5-2 inches).
  • Diet: As adults, they feed on the nectar of various flowers found in their habitat.
  • Reproduction: Mating takes place in spring after adults emerge from their pupal stage. Females lay hundreds of eggs in clusters on the underside of host plants.
  • Lifespan: The adult Marsh Fritillary has a lifespan of around 4 weeks in the wild.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plant for this species is the Devil’s Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis). But they can also use other plants in the Scabious genus as alternative host plants.

Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia)

The Silver-washed Fritillary is one of the most fascinating butterfly species found in Northern Ireland. These butterflies are known for their stunning beauty and distinctive flight pattern.


Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly

Let’s explore some of the key features of the Silver-washed Fritillary:

  • Habitat: Silver-washed Fritillaries typically inhabit deciduous or mixed woodlands, particularly those with some sun-drenched clearings and edges.
  • Appearance: The males have bright orange wings with dark markings, while females showcase a more muted, pale orange color. Both sexes have a silver-streaked underside with black spots.
  • Size: The wingspan of a Silver-washed Fritillary can range between 54 and 70mm, making it a relatively large butterfly.
  • Diet: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of violets, while adults prefer nectar from thistles, bramble, and other flowers.
  • Reproduction: Adult females lay their eggs during the summer, and the caterpillars will hatch in the following spring.
  • Lifespan: The Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly has a relatively short lifespan of around 3 weeks during its adult stage.
  • Host Plants: The main host plants where the Silver-washed Fritillary caterpillars are found include common dog-violet and dark red helleborine, which are essential for their survival.

Dark Green Fritillary (Speyeria aglaja)

The Dark Green Fritillary is a beautiful butterfly species that can often be found in Northern Ireland.

Dark Green Fritillary butterfly

This particular fritillary is known for its stunning appearance and its unique habitat preferences.

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

  • Habitat: Prefers grasslands, chalk or limestone hills, sand dunes, and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: Sports a deep orange color with dark spots on the upperside of its wings. The underside displays a green coloring with fine white lines and silver spots.
  • Size: Wingspan ranging from 54 to 62 mm.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on nectar from various flowers such as thistles, knapweeds, and vetches.
  • Reproduction: Males patrol territories searching for females, and mating takes place in July or August.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for up to four weeks.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed on various species of violets, including dog violet and marsh violet.

The Dark Green Fritillary is an attractive butterfly species that thrives in various habitats in Northern Ireland.

Keep an eye out for these striking creatures during your next walk in the outdoors; their beauty is bound to captivate you!

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

The Comma butterfly is a captivating species found in Northern Ireland.

Comma Butterfly

Let’s learn more about this fascinating butterfly:

  • Habitat: Preferring woodland, gardens, and hedgerows, the Comma butterfly can be found in various habitats across Northern Ireland.
  • Appearance: Sporting jagged, scalloped wings, this butterfly has orange-brown upper wings decorated with black markings. Its brown underwings feature a small white marking, resembling a comma, earning it its name.
  • Size: Adult Comma butterflies typically have a wingspan of around 45-55mm.
  • Diet: As adults, they mainly feed on overripe fruits and nectar from various flowers, while the caterpillars munch on leaves.
  • Reproduction: Comma butterflies lay their eggs on leaves, mainly on nettles and hops, from spring to summer. The eggs develop into spiny black caterpillars with white spots.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a short life, typically living for only a few weeks, while some may hibernate and live up to a year.
  • Host Plants: Their primary host plants include nettles and hops, but they will also use elm and willow as secondary hosts.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

The Brimstone butterfly, also scientifically referred to as Gonepteryx rhamni, is a colorful and fascinating butterfly species found in Northern Ireland.

Brimstone Butterfly

Here are some key aspects of its biology and natural history:

  • Habitat: Brimstones are usually found in woodlands, hedgerows, and grasslands, where they can easily access their host plants and nectar sources.
  • Appearance: This butterfly species typically sports a vibrant yellow color, resembling the color of a lemon. The wings have a distinctive leaf-like shape, aiding in camouflage while resting among foliage.
  • Size: Brimstone butterflies are medium-sized, with a wingspan ranging between 60 and 68 millimeters.
  • Diet: The adult butterflies primarily feed on nectar from flowers such as purple loosestrife, lavender, and ivy. The caterpillars prefer to munch on the leaves of their host plants.
  • Reproduction: Brimstone butterflies have one generation per year, with females laying eggs singly on the host plants. The eggs hatch into caterpillars, which eventually pupate and transform into adult butterflies.
  • Lifespan: The adult Brimstone butterflies have a relatively long lifespan, living up to 13 months in the wild.
  • Host Plants: The main host plants for Brimstone caterpillars are buckthorns (Rhamnus) and alders (Frangula), which provide the necessary resources for their development and growth.

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

The Gatekeeper, also known as the Hedge Brown, is a common butterfly species in Northern Ireland.

Gatekeeper Butterfly

This small and charming butterfly can be easily spotted during its flight season between June and August.

Let’s explore some fascinating facts about the Gatekeeper:

  • Habitat: Gatekeepers are typically found in hedgerows, woodland clearings, and grassy meadows. They prefer areas with a diverse range of nectar sources.
  • Appearance: Their wings have a beautiful dark brown color with orange patches on the upper side. The underwings have a distinct white spot, resembling an eye, and a brown pattern.
  • Size: The Gatekeeper has a wingspan of about 3.8-4.1cm, making it a relatively small butterfly.
  • Diet: The adult Gatekeeper primarily feeds on nectar from various flowers, such as thistles, ragworts, and wild privets.
  • Reproduction: Female Gatekeepers lay their eggs, one at a time, on or near the host plants.
  • Lifespan: The Gatekeepers have a relatively short adult life, usually about 2-3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The main host plants for the caterpillars are different species of grasses, such as Yorkshire Fog and False Brome.

Now that you know more about the Gatekeeper butterfly, keep an eye out for these beautiful creatures fluttering around the lush landscapes of Northern Ireland.

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)

The Small Skipper is one of the many remarkable butterfly species found in Northern Ireland. This delicate creature can often be spotted in various habitats, flying gracefully from flower to flower.

Small Skipper Butterfly

In this section, you’ll learn more about the fascinating characteristics of the Small Skipper.

  • Habitat: Small Skippers prefer open grassland habitats, such as meadows, verges, and hedgerows.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is characterized by its distinctive golden-brown color, with hints of orange on the upper wings.
  • Size: The Small Skipper has a wingspan between 27 and 34 mm, making it one of the smaller butterflies in Northern Ireland.
  • Diet: These butterflies primarily feed on nectar from flowers, particularly those belonging to the pea family.
  • Reproduction: Mating takes place in June and July, with females laying their eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: As adults, Small Skippers typically live for around 4-7 days.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants for Small Skippers are grasses such as Yorkshire Fog, Tufted Hairgrass, and Meadow Foxtail.

Now that you know more about the fascinating Small Skipper, keep an eye out for these charming butterflies during your next visit to Northern Ireland’s grasslands.

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)

The Large Skipper is an enchanting butterfly species that you’ll often encounter in Northern Ireland.

Large Skipper Butterfly

This butterfly is fascinating for various reasons:

  • Habitat: The Large Skipper thrives in grassy areas, such as meadows, gardens, and woodland clearings. They prefer sunny locations with tall grasses, providing them with ample shelter and food.
  • Appearance: Known for their vibrant orange and brown wings, these butterflies feature unmistakable chequered patterns on the wings. Additionally, the males flaunt a unique black sex brand on their forewings.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 28-34 mm, the Large Skipper is true to its name as one of the larger members of the skipper family.
  • Diet: As a nectar-loving species, these butterflies enjoy feeding on a variety of flowers – thistles, knapweeds, and scabious are among their favorites.
  • Reproduction: The mating season typically happens in early summer, and the females lay their eggs on host plants, specifically on grass.
  • Lifespan: Adult Large Skippers live only for around 3 to 4 weeks. However, the entire life cycle, from egg to adult, extends over 10 to 11 months.
  • Host Plants: The larvae primarily feed on grass species, such as Yorkshire fog, cock’s-foot, and creeping soft grass.

Keep an eye out for this captivating butterfly when you’re next exploring Northern Ireland’s abundant green spaces.

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi)

The Green Hairstreak is a captivating butterfly species native to Northern Ireland.

Green Hairstreak

Its striking appearance makes it easy to spot among the vast assortment of butterflies inhabiting the region.

Below, you’ll find a snapshot of the Green Hairstreak’s unique characteristics:

  • Habitat: Their preferred habitat is heathland, moorland, woodland clearings, and coastal areas.
  • Appearance: The Green Hairstreak has iridescent green wings with a series of small white spots along the edges.
  • Size: These small butterflies have a wingspan of about 26-34 mm.
  • Diet: They primarily feed on flower nectar, particularly from gorse, hawthorn, and blackthorn.
  • Reproduction: Mating takes place in May, followed by egg-laying on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for around two weeks, while the entire life cycle takes roughly one year to complete.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on a variety of plants, including gorse, broom, bird’s-foot trefoil, and bilberry.

As you explore Northern Ireland’s beautiful countryside, keep an eye out for the striking Green Hairstreak butterfly.

Not only will you have the chance to appreciate its exquisite beauty, but you’ll also gain a deeper understanding of its role within the local ecosystem.

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages)

The Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) is an interesting butterfly species found in Northern Ireland.

Dingy Skipper Butterfly

Its subtle and understated appearance is quite unique, making it a fascinating species to observe.

Here’s a quick overview of this captivating butterfly:

  • Habitat: They mainly inhabit open, sunny, sheltered areas like woodland clearings, railway lines, and quarries.
  • Appearance: Dingy Skippers have a mottled greyish-brown appearance with pale wing margins and a few orange scales on the hindwings.
  • Size: They are quite small, with a wingspan of 26-34mm.
  • Diet: Adults mainly feed on nectar from flowers such as vetches, clovers, and bird’s-foot trefoil.
  • Reproduction: Female Dingy Skippers lay their eggs among the food plants, where the larvae will feed upon hatching.
  • Lifespan: Adult Dingy Skippers live for around two to four weeks.
  • Host Plants: The main host plants for the larvae are bird’s-foot trefoil, horseshoe vetch, and other members of the pea family.

The Dingy Skipper is a remarkable butterfly species that you can encounter in Northern Ireland.

With its distinctive appearance and intriguing life cycle, it’s definitely worth looking out for during your next nature walk.

Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus)

The Purple Hairstreak is a fascinating butterfly species found in Northern Ireland. This elusive and beautifully colored butterfly is definitely worth learning about.

Purple Hairstreak butterfly

Here are some key features:

  • Habitat: Purple Hairstreak butterflies are mostly found in woodlands, specifically oak woodlands, as they heavily depend on oak trees.
  • Appearance: The upper side of their wings is a stunning purple-blue color, with bold white markings on the underwings. Males are usually more vibrant than females.
  • Size: These butterflies are relatively small, with a wingspan ranging from 34 to 40mm.
  • Diet: Adults feed on honeydew produced by aphids, which are found on oak leaves. They occasionally visit flowers for nectar.
  • Reproduction: Mating occurs in the evenings and females lay eggs on oak buds. The eggs spend the winter on the tree, and caterpillars hatch in spring.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies live for about 3 weeks during their flight period, which generally lasts from late June to early August.
  • Host Plants: Oak trees, specifically the pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea), are essential for the Purple Hairstreak’s lifecycle.

Now that you know more about the Purple Hairstreak, keep an eye out for this dazzling butterfly during your next woodland walk.

White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album)

The White-letter Hairstreak is a fascinating butterfly species native to Northern Ireland.

White-letter Hairstreak butterfly

Named for the unique white “W” markings on the undersides of its wings, this elusive butterfly can be challenging to spot.

Let’s dive into some intriguing details about the White-letter Hairstreak:

  • Habitat: Found in woodland areas and along hedgerows, where elm trees are present, as these are their primary host plants.
  • Appearance: Brown wings with a white zig-zag pattern, resembling the shape of a “W” on the underside.
  • Size: Small with a wingspan of roughly 30-35 mm.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on the honeydew excreted by aphids, while the caterpillars primarily consume elm leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on young elm shoots, creating a single generation each year.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for about 2-3 weeks during the summer months.
  • Host Plants: Elm trees, specifically the wych elm (Ulmus glabra) and English elm (Ulmus procera) are the preferred host plants for the White-letter Hairstreak.

Next time you find yourself walking through a wooded area in Northern Ireland during summertime, keep your eyes peeled for this rare and elusive butterfly species.


In conclusion, Northern Ireland is home to a diverse range of butterfly species, each with unique characteristics and habitats.

By learning about these beautiful creatures, we can better appreciate and protect the rich biodiversity around us.

What’s your favorite butterfly species in this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Butterflies   Updated: June 20, 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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