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Large Heath Butterfly - Coenonympha tullia

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Lepidoptera - Family: Nymphalidae

Large Heath butterfly

This is one of the so-called 'browns', and unfortunately across most of Britain, except for northern Scotland and for some parts of Ireland, it is now a localised and uncommon to rare find.

Habitat

Large Heath butterflies are restricted to wetland sites such as lowland raised peat bogs and upland blanket bogs.

Description

With a wingspan of typically 41mm, this medium-sized butterfly rests always with its wings closed. The underwing spots are variable in size depending on location: those in southern England have large spots, while in northern Scotland there is a race of Large Heath butterflies with very small and indistinct spots. Intermediate between these extremes occur in Ireland, Wales and central/northern England.

The Large Heath is one of 39 members of the Coenonympha genus that are currently listed worldwide, and of these 14 have so far been recorded in Europe.

Distribution

Localised in Britain and Ireland, the Large Heath butterfly is also recorded in many parts of northern Europe, Asia and North America.

Lifecycle

The main larval foodplants of Large Heath butterflies are Hare's-tail Cottongrass Eriophorum vaginatum and, less frequently, Common Cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium.

In Britain and Ireland, Large Heath butterflies can be seen on the wing between mid June and mid August. As in the picture on this page, Large Heath butterflies often nectar on the flowers of Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by the Countryside Council for Wales.

Studying butterflies and moths...


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