Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper ©David Longshaw

Gatekeeper

Scientific name: Pyronia tithonus
The Gatekeeper is on the wing in summer on grasslands, in woodlands and along hedgerows. Look out for the large, distinctive eyespot with two 'pupils' on each forewing.

Species information

Statistics

Wingspan: 3.7-4.8cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

July to August

About

The Gatekeeper, also known as the 'Hedge Brown', is a medium-sized, brown butterfly that is on the wing in July and August. It is a butterfly of grassland, hedgerows and woodland edges and can be seen feeding on Wild Marjoram, Bramble and ragworts. It avoids areas of short, open grassland. The foodplants of the caterpillars are a variety of grasses such as fescues and bents.

How to identify

The Gatekeeper is brown above, with large orange patches in the middle of the wings. The best way to identify the 'brown' butterflies is by looking at the eyespots on their wings. The combination of bright orange wing patches, one large eyespot on the forewing and one smaller eyespot on the hindwing, is unique to the Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper also has two small white 'pupils' in the eyespots, instead of one like the Meadow Brown.

Distribution

Found across England and Wales.

Did you know?

The colour and patterns of the wings of the Gatekeeper are variable and about a dozen aberrations (a variation in wing pattern to the normal form) have been named. Aberrations can occur for a number of reasons, including extremes in temperature, particularly while the butterfly is developing in its chrysalis.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland and woodland habitats sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of butterflies, including the Gatekeeper. Careful grazing with traditional breeds, hay-cutting at the right time, scrub clearance and coppicing are just some of the ways grasslands and woodlands are kept in good condition - supporting invertebrates and, in turn, the larger animals that prey on them. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.