List of butterflies of Great Britain

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This is a list of butterflies of Great Britain, including extinct, naturalised species and those of dubious origin. The list comprises butterfly species listed in The Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland by Emmet et al.[1] and Britain's Butterflies by Tomlinson and Still.[2]

A study by NERC in 2004 found there has been a species decline of 71% of butterfly species between 1983 and 2003.[3] Species listed in the 2007 UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)[4] are indicated by a double-dagger symbol (‡)—two species so listed for research purposes only are also indicated with an asterisk (‡*). Range expansions according to the 2010 Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland.[5]

Butterfly Conservation lists 29 of Great Britain's 58 breeding butterfly species as "High UK treat priority", with 9 of those with conservation priority status "Action urgent across UK range".[6]

Hesperiidae – skippers[edit]

Subfamily Heteropterinae

– formerly thinly distributed in south and east, now confined to western Scotland; re-establishment project ongoing (2018–2020) Rockingham Forest, England[7]

Subfamily Hesperiinae

– throughout Wales and England, except far north-east and north-west; spreading north and west
– throughout south-east England, with scattered populations in West Country and as far north as the River Humber; spreading north and west
– confined to the south coast between Weymouth and Swanage
– restricted to southern England: east Kent, east Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, north Dorset, south Wiltshire and the southern Chilterns; expanding distribution
– throughout England and Wales, and north to south-west Scotland

Subfamily Pyrginae

– thinly distributed through much of England and Wales, and in the Scottish Highlands
– southern England north to north-east Wales, and south-east Wales

Papilionidae – swallowtails[edit]

Subfamily Papilioninae

Pieridae – whites and yellows[edit]

Subfamily Dismorphiinae

Devon and west Somerset; Surrey; Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire; and Worcestershire and Herefordshire

Subfamily Coliadinae

– immigrant, though overwintering in south-west; north to River Clyde in some years
– throughout England (except north) and Wales (except south-west, central wet and far north-west); expanding range north and "infilling"

Subfamily Pierinae

– throughout, but thinly spread in north-west half of Scotland
– throughout, except far north
  • P. napi sabellicae – throughout (except for area occupied by subspecies thomsoni)
  • P. napi thomsoni – east-central Scotland
– throughout, except far north and north-west; expanding range in Scotland and "infilling" in England and Wales

Lycaenidae – hairstreaks, coppers and blues[edit]

Subfamily Theclinae

– throughout much of country
– south of River Humber, with concentrations in south-west Wales, north Devon and south-west Somerset, and west Weald. In 2009 eggs were found at Feckenham Wylde Moor reserve in Worcestershire.[8]
– throughout most of England and Wales, more thinly distributed north to River Clyde
– throughout much of England (except far south-west and north-west) and eastern Wales
– confined to heavy clay soils along Chiltern hills

Subfamily Lycaena

– throughout, except far north and north-west

Subfamily Polyommatinae

– southern and south-central England, south Wales coast, and east coast of Scotland (patchy distribution)
  • P. argus argus – south-west and south England, East Anglia coast, and north Wales and north-east Wales borders
  • P. argus cretaceus – formerly on chalk and limestone downland of south and south-east coasts, now restricted to Portland Bill
  • P. argus caernensisGreat Ormes Head (north Wales)
  • P. argus masseyi – extinct (formerly north-west England)
– throughout southern England, north to River Tees, south and north coasts of Wales; expanding range north
– evidence of hybridization with A. artaxerxes salmacis across northern England and Wales
  • A. artaxerxes salmacis (Castle Eden argus) – England from north Lancashire north
– evidence of hybridization with A. agestis across northern England and Wales
  • A. artaxerxes artaxerxes – Scotland
– throughout
– southern England
– south England; expanding range north and west
– north to Solway Firth and River Tyne; expanding range north
  • P. arion eutyphron (endemic subspecies) – extinct
  • P. arion arion – introduced to various sites in west England

Riodinidae – metalmarks[edit]

– central-south England; "pockets" in north-east, north-west and south-east England

Nymphalidae – fritillaries, nymphalids and browns[edit]

Subfamily Heliconiinae

  • B. selene selene – widespread in Wales, Scotland, southern and northern England
  • B. selene insularum – western Scotland and Inner Hebrides
– patchily distributed through southern England, Wales, north-west and north-east England, and Scotland
– patchy distribution in west England and Wales
  • S. aglaja aglaja – patchy distribution throughout, except Scotland
  • S. aglaja scotica – Scotland
– south-western half of England and Wales; (re)expanding range east, including East Anglia

Subfamily Limenitidinae

– southern England and eastern Wales

Subfamily Apaturinae

– southern England

Subfamily Nymphalinae

– resident and common immigrant throughout
– immigrant throughout
– throughout
– throughout, except Scottish Highlands and Western Isles; expanding range throughout Scotland, including Western Isles
  • CommaPolygonia c-album
– throughout England and Wales; expanding range northwards and spreading in southern Scotland
– patchy distribution, mostly in west
– southern coast of Isle of Wight and Channel Islands (formerly widespread in south-east)
– West Country and Kent; re-introduced to Essex

Subfamily Satyrinae

  • P. aegeria tircis – throughout southern third of Great Britain, Scottish Highlands; expanding range north and east in England and Scotland; has colonized Isle of Man
  • P. aegeria oblita – western Scotland and Inner Hebrides
  • P. aegeria insulaIsles of Scilly
  • WallLasiommata megera ‡*
– throughout England and Wales, southern Scotland (localized); expanding north and "infilling", but declined rapidly inland in East Anglia
  • E. epiphron mnemonCumbria
  • E. epiphron scotica – central Scotland
  • E. aethiops aethiops – Cumbria
  • E. aethiops caledonia – Scotland
– throughout south-east half of the country, including West Country, but not most of East Anglia; expanding range northwards
  • H. semele semele – much of English coast, inland in parts of south and East Anglia
  • H. semele scota – eastern Scotland (near coast)
  • H. semele thyone – Wales
  • H. semele atlanticaHebrides
– throughout southern half of country, except central Wales; expanding range northwards
  • M. jurtina insularis – throughout (except for areas occupied by other subspecies)
  • M. jurtina cassiteridum – Isles of Scilly
  • M. jurtina splendida – western Scotland, including Hebrides
– throughout, except north-west England and north-west half of Scotland; expanding range in English Midlands, western England, English–Scottish borders, and Scotland; "infilling" southern Scotland
  • C. pamphilus pamphilus – throughout, except far north and Hebrides
  • C. pamphilus rhoumensis – Hebrides
  • C. tullia davus – patchy distribution throughout northern and central England
  • C. tullia polydama – central-west and north Wales, northern England and southern Scotland
  • C. tullia scotica – rest of Scotland

Vagrant, extinct and exotic species[edit]




Species included in the Great Britain Lepidoptera numbering system, but believed never to have occurred naturally in a wild state

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Emmet, A.M., J. Heath et al. (Ed.), 1990. The Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland. The Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland Vol. 7 Part 1 (Hesperiidae to Nymphalidae). Harley Books, Colchester, UK. 370p.
  2. ^ Tomlinson, D. and R. Still, 2002. Britain's Butterflies. WildGuides, Old Basing, UK. 192p.
  3. ^ NERC, 2004.
  4. ^ Butterfly Conservation, 2007. Priority butterfly species listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan 2007. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham, UK. 1p.
  5. ^ Fox, R. and J. Asher, 2010. 2010 Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland. Butterfly Conservation, East Lulworth, UK. 68p.
  6. ^ "BC UK Conservation Strategy Appendix 3: Conservation status of threatened UK butterflies" (PDF). Butterfly Conservation. 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Back from the Brink: Roots of Rockingham". Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  8. ^ Hitchcock, James For Peat's Sake Worcestershire Life June 2013. p71.
  9. ^ Williamson, B., 2011. Plain Tiger. Butterfly Conservation Cambridgeshire & Essex Branch Newsletter 65: 15–16.
  10. ^ a b c d Eeles, Peter. "Butterfly taxonomy". UK Butterflies. Retrieved 13 March 2014.