Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

ID Guide

June - Summer Woodland Butterflies

During the summer, many of our butterflies can be found in dappled glades or rides of woodlands. These woodlands are very important for some species of butterflies as they are dependant on this habitat for the different stages of their lifecycle. Download our ID guide to summer butterflies to take with you and identify the species you see; don't forget to send us in any sightings either via Living Record.


Purple Emperor, WSBRC/ John Notman
Purple Emperor - Apatura Iris
This spectacular butterfly is rarely seen due to their liking for the lofty canopy of deciduous woodlands. Bentley Wood in July is a particularly good spot to see them. Purple Emperor’s are one of Britain’s largest butterflies with the wingspan reaching up to 85mm. It is only the male that has the iridescent purple sheen that gives the Purple Emperor its name and can only be seen at certain angles
Purple Hairstreak, Pengannel
Purple Hairstreak - Neozephyrus quercus
Found in oak woods and on single oak trees in parkland or along hedgerows, this small butterfly is unmistakeable if seen well. It is hard to spot as it spends most of its time perched on leaves at the very tops of oak trees, only very occasionally coming down to ground level. Best looked for using binoculars as the males chase each other through the tree tops.


White Admiral, John Notman/ WSBRC

White Admiral - Limenitis Camilla The white admiral is a striking butterfly, with white-banded black wings and a distinctive delicate flight: short periods of wing beats, followed by long glides. Adults are often found feeding on the nectar of bramble flowers in rides and clearings. When settled, the adults can be identified by their black uppersides with prominent white bars. Sometimes the white admiral can be confused with the purple emperor due to the white bands across the wings; yet in the white admiral the orange-ringed eyespots are absent. 


Silver Washed Fritillary,  female,  Bentley Wood , John Notman/ WSBRC
Silver Washed Fritillary - Argynnis paphia
The Silver-washed Fritillary is our largest fritillary and gets its name from the beautiful streaks of silver found on the underside of the wings. Their preferred habitat is sunny deciduous woodlands where they fly powerfully through woodlands and along rides and can be seen gliding above the tree canopy at high speed. Easily identified by their large size and their bright orange wings with dark spot which are more prominent in males than in females. The underside is green, and unlike other fritillaries, has silver streaks instead of silver spots.


Ringlet, female, at Bentley Wood, John Notman/ WSBRC
Ringlet - Aphantopus hyperantus
The ringlet is one of the few butterflies that can be seen flying on overcast days. It is unmistakable when at rest - the golden ringed eye-spots on the hindwings are easily visible, and it is these rings that give the butterfly it’s name. The uppersides are chocolate brown in colour and faint eye-spot are often visible, the wings are edged with a striking white border. Ringlets are on the wing from the end of June, and reach their peak in mid July. Their numbers fall quickly in August





Red Admiral, John Notman/ WSBRC
Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta
Red admirals can be seen in most habitats, from late May through to September, including sunny clearings in woodlands, and later in the year, they favour orchards where fruit is rotting on the ground. They are a large, easily identifiable butterfly, the most striking feature is the striking red bands o the uppersides of the wings. This is in stark contrast to the dark brown of the rest of the wings and the white spots on the tips of the forewings. With the wings closed the underside pattern provides excellent camouflage when the butterfly roosts on tree trunks.



Comma in Bently Wood, WSBRC/John Notman
Comma - Polygonia c-album
Found in woodland clearings, margins and hedgerows, the first brood are on the wing March to July, the second in late August. A very distinctive butterfly with scalloped edges to its wings that are rich orange in colour with dark brown blotches. The upperparts of the wings are a dark, rich orange colour with speckled markings. The underparts look like dead leaves with the distinctive white comma-shaped mark. Caterpillars are black flecked with white and orange, they also have the appearance of bird droppings from a large white patch on their back to help protect them from predators.





Painted Lady, WSBRC/ John Notman
Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui
The Painted Lady is a long-distance migratory butterfly that is easily recognised by its orange and black patterns and white spots. Travelling all the way from North Africa and the Middle East, the return of this large butterfly is a welcome indicator of summer ahead. The open wings have a striking pattern and colouration; the upper wings are a pale orange background colour, the forewings have black tips with white spots, the hindwings have rows of black spots. The undersides of the wings are paler with blue eyespots.
Speckled Wood, John Notman/ WWT
Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria
A common woodland butterfly that occur in shady woodland clearings and edges, hedgerows and scrub preferring areas of dappled light. Butterflies often perch in sunny spots, spiralling into the air to chase each other. The wings are dark brown with creamy white patches and numerous eye spots. Specked Wood butterflies feed on honeydew in the tree tops and are rarely seen feeding on flowers, except early and late in the year when aphid activity is low.
Brown Hairstreak, John Notman/ WSBRC
Brown Hairstreak - Thecla betulae
A small, elusive and rare butterfly that is found in hedges, scrub, and wood edges where Blackthorn is abundant. They are easily identified when their wings are closed showing their orange-brown underwings with two wavy white streaks and small tails. They spend most of their lives high in the tree canopy or hidden amongst hedgerows; they can be spotted in the canopy of Ash trees along wood edges where clusters of adults may be seen flying around a 'master' tree where they congregate to mate and feed on aphid honeydew.
Peacock, WWT/ Darin Smith
Peacock - Inachis io
Instantly recognisable by their red wings with distinctive large eyespots on tips of fore and hind wings, which earn this species its common name, and are used to frighten predators, or divert birds from attacking the body. In complete contrast the undersides of the wings are dull brown and look like dead leaves which help to camouflage the butterfly. Their preferred habitat is the shelter of woodland clearings, rides, and edges although as they are strong fliers they can be seen elsewhere in particular they visit garden buddleias in late summer. 
Brimstone male, John Notman/ WSBRC
Brimstone - Gonepteryx rhamni
The males of this common butterfly are instantly recognisable by their bright yellow, leaf shaped wings, and it is widely thought that the species was the inspiration for the name ‘butterfly’. Females have pale yellow-green wings, looking almost white in flight and both sexes always rest with their wings closed. Their preferred habitat is typically damp woodland and scrub, hedgerows and open ground where the foodplants occur.


 Don’t forget to send us any records of your sightings, along with any photos or interesting anecdotes