How many butterflies can you spot?

Published Wednesday 21 July 2010

There are 58 species of butterflies in Great Britain but did you know that the New Forest is home to a large variety of these?

As part of the ‘Big Butterfly Count’ from the 24 July to 1 August the New Forest National Park Authority is encouraging people to explore the New Forest to see how many butterflies they can identify.

Nigel Matthews, Head of Visitor and Recreation Services at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘The diverse habitats of the New Forest make it an ideal place to spot butterflies in July and August.

He added: ‘It’s often difficult to get good views of butterflies but early morning, late evening and cold weather are best because the butterflies rest for much longer than in hot weather.’

Some butterflies prefer the open heather-clad heaths while others thrive in woodland, especially in sunny areas where nectar-rich wild flowers attract the adult butterflies to feed. Amongst the small tortoiseshells, meadow browns, gatekeepers and speckled woods are less conspicuous and rarer species to look out for such as the small heath, grayling, silver-washed fritillary, white admiral and ringlet.

The graylings, the largest of the ‘brown’ butterflies, are fairly conspicuous when in flight but mysteriously disappear when they land, closing their wings above the body so that they are perfectly camouflaged against a background of bare earth and stones.   

The caterpillars of many butterflies are ‘fussy eaters’ and this is why they are restricted to certain habitats. For example, white admiral caterpillars will only feed on honeysuckle and fritillary caterpillars only on violets (both in woodland), while silver-studded blue caterpillars prefer heather which abounds in the open areas.

Butterflies to look out for in the New Forest this July and August:

  • Peacock
  • Small Tortoiseshell
  • Sliver-studded blue
  • Common Blue
  • Brimstone
  • Red admiral
  • White Admiral
  • Meadow Brown
  • Gatekeeper
  • Small Heath
  • Speckled Wood
  • Ringlet
  • Silver-washed Fritillary
  • Dark-green Fritillary

The ‘Big Butterfly Count’ has been launched to mark the ‘International Year of Biodiversity’. Butterflies react very quickly to a change in their environment which makes them great biodiversity indicators.

For more information and to download your spotters’ guide visit or read our wildlife calendar of what to look for when.


Media Contact:
Karen Evans, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650

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