25 species of butterfly have been recorded on Hartlebury Common, but the most important ones are the heathland specialists. Of the five characteristic heathland butterflies, Green Hairstreak, Small Heath and Small Copper can be found on the common in good numbers, although they are not always easy to spot. June and July are the best months to see large numbers of butterflies on the wing, when Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Gatekeeper are to be found in most areas of the common. Also look out for Speckled Wood, from April through to September, and Marbled White, in July and early August.
Comma (Polygonia c-album)
The Comma gets its name from the only white marking on its underside, which resembles a comma. The Comma went into serious decline in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but since the 1960s has made a spectacular comeback, both in numbers and range. It can be seen for most of the year, but most often in July.
Peacock (Aglais io)
The Peacock’s spectacular pattern of eyespots, evolved to startle or confuse predators, make it one of the most easily recognized and best known species. It is from these wing markings that the butterfly gained its common name. Undersides of the wings are very dark and look like dead leaves. A fairly large butterfly and a strong flyer. It can be seen at any time of the year.
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
The Red Admiral is one of our most well known butterflies. It is unmistakable, with the velvety black wings intersected by striking red bands. This butterfly is primarily a migrant to our shores. They arrive in May and June from southern Europe, although there is evidence that in recent years some survive our winter and thus it can be considered a resident species.
Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)
The Small Tortoiseshell is among the most well known in Britain and Ireland. The striking and attractive patterning, and its appearance at almost any time of the year in urban areas have made it a familiar species. It is one of the first butterflies to be seen in spring and in the autumn it often visits garden flowers in large numbers.
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
The Painted Lady is a long distance migrant, which spread northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, sometimes reaching Britain and Ireland by early summer. In some years it is an abundant butterfly, frequenting gardens and other flowery places.
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
The Brimstone is a common butterfly, especially in the spring. The males are bright yellow in colour and it is widely held that the species was the inspiration for the name ‘butterfly’. The females are more greenish white in colour, with an orange spot in the centre of each wing. They can be seen across the whole common for most of the year.
Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
This butterfly is often the first to emerge in the spring. It easy to identify because of the orange wingtips on the male, but also because the male is a ‘patroller’, who spends much of the day wandering the countryside searching every bush for a mate. They can be seen from early April until the end of June.
Green-veined White (Pieris napi)
This is a common butterfly that can be seen from spring to autumn across the Common. It is difficult to distinguish from the Small White, especially in flight. It has greenish veins on the hind wing.
Small White (Pieris rapae)
The Small White has brilliant white wings, with small black tips to the forewings and one or two wing spots. The undersides are a creamy white. The Large White is similar but larger, and has a larger black tip to the forewing that extends down the wing’s edge. It is also difficult to distinguish from the Green- veined White when flying. It can be seen from May to June and in August and is one of the most frequently recorded butterflies on the common.
Large White (Pieris brassicae)
A large, strong flying butterfly. The brilliant white wings have black tips to the forewings, extending down the wing edge. Females have two spots on the forewings, which is not present in males. The undersides are a creamy white with a black spot. It can be seen in May and June and again in August and September.
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
The wings of the Holly Blue are bright blue and the female has black wing edges. The undersides are pale blue with small black spots, which distinguish them from the Common Blue. They can be seen from April through May and again from July into September.
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
This is the commonest of the blue butterflies found in Britain. The male has bright blue upperside wings, while the female’s are mainly brown with a little blue. They can be seen across the Common in the second half of May and June and then late July to September.
Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
This is another of the Heathland specialist butterflies. The Small Copper is usually seen in ones and twos, from May to October. Males are territorial, often choosing a piece of bare ground or a stone on which to bask and await passing females. They behave aggressively towards any passing insects, returning to the same spot when the chase is over.
Brown Argus (Aricia agestis)
Both male and female are primarily brown with beautiful orange spots. Look out for them from May until September. The adults have a silvery appearance as they fly low to the ground and they stop frequently either to perch or feed on flowers. It is very similar to the female Common Blue, which also has brown upperwings, but usually with some blue at the base.
Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi)
This is another butterfly that does particularly well on lowland heath. Nationally it has declined by 27% in the last 10 years, and is now relatively rare in Worcestershire. However, it has been increasing in number on the Common in recent years and is one of the butterflies we hope will continue to increase as a result of the conservation work being done by Worcestershire County Council. Look out for this butterfly from the end of April until the beginning of July. This is the only British butterfly with green wings.
Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus)
This is one of the commonest hairstreaks in England, but because adults spend most of their lives in tree tops (especially Oaks), they are easy to overlook. However, the adults are occasionally seen basking at lower levels, on various small trees, shrubs and bracken. On Hartlebury Common they are to be found in the wooded areas of the common, in July and August.
Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)
The aptly named Speckled Wood flies in partially shaded woodland with dappled sunlight, although on the common it can be found anywhere there is a bit of shade. The male usually perches in a small pool of sunlight, from where it rises rapidly to intercept any intruder. It can be seen between April and October.
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)
Although once a widespread butterfly of heaths, dunes, and downs, the Small Heath has been declining in numbers for the last 20 years or so, and is now a UK Priority Species. It is very important that sites like Hartlebury Common, where the Small Heath is relatively common, are preserved as heathland. They are about from May until September
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
The Meadow Brown is one of our commonest and most widespread butterflies, and is a familiar sight on the Common. It can be found in all the grassy areas in July and August.
Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)
The Marbled White butterfly has distinctive black and white markings on the on upper- wings, the male also has black markings the under- wings, in the female they are light brown. Both sexes have eye- spots on the underside of the hind- wings.
They are usually seen flying from June to August. Active on bright sunny days, the males are always busy searching for newly emerging females, briefly resting to take nectar from Brambles, Ragwort, Thistles or Knapweed.
Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)
When newly emerged, the Ringlet has a velvety appearance and is almost black, with a white fringe to the wings. It has rings on the hindwings that give this butterfly its common name. The Ringlet only flies for a short period in late June and July but during that period is one of the most abundant butterflies on the common.
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)
The Gatekeeper, also known as the Hedge Brown, is an orange and brown butterfly that spends much of its time basking with wings open. In July and August it can be seen across the Common in large numbers, often with Meadow Browns and Ringlets.
Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)
Male Large Skippers are most often found perching in a prominent, sunny position. Both sexes may be seen feeding on flowers, Bramble being a favourite. Males have a thick black line through centre of the fore – wing. The presence of a chequered pattern on both sides of the wing distinguishes this species from the similar Small and Essex Skippers, which fly at the same time. It can be seen from late May to August.
Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)
The Small Skipper has orange/brown wings held with forewings angled above hind wings. Males have a thin black line through centre of fore-wing. It is often found basking on vegetation, or making short buzzing flights among tall grass stems. It has been declining on the Common in recent years but can still be seen between late June and early August.
Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola)
This is a fairly common butterfly in the south of England, although it seems to have declined on the Common in recent years. It is very similar to the Small Skipper, indeed it took many years for people to realise that it was a different species. It is found in grassy areas of the Common. The best way to tell it from the Small Skipper is to look for the glossy black tips on the antenna of the Essex Skipper, absent on the Small Skipper. They can be seen in July and August.