Belongs to: brown butterflies

Small heath Coenonympha pamphilus


Best time to see: Jun to mid Sep

Key facts

Britain's only small, light brown butterfly

Habitat: anywhere where wild fine-leaved grasses grow, such as road verges, hedgerows or heaths

Common and widely distributed throughout Britain and Ireland, but increasingly scarce in Essex

Recognition

Forewing is orange with a white-centered black eyespot; hindwing pale grey-brown; wingspan 34–38mm, 18mm closed

Always settles with wings closed, spending long periods at rest; rapid, weaving flight just above the grassheads

Complicated sequence of broods, so in Essex adults may be seen any time from mid-May to October

Lifecycle

Pale yellow, bowl-shaped eggs laid low down on fine grass blades

Green caterpillars with light stripes feed on grass clumps by day

Early broods pupate to emerge in late summer, others hibernate over winter and pupate the following spring

  • Main photo

Photo © Geoff Pyman