Butterflies to look out for in Hampshire

PUBLISHED: 16:29 02 May 2014 | UPDATED: 16:29 02 May 2014

Comma by Amy Lewis

Comma by Amy Lewis


The beautiful butterfly wafting along a spring breeze is a highlight at this time of year and we have an abundance of species here in Hampshire

Brimstone by Kevin FacrellBrimstone by Kevin Facrell


If you are visiting the Wildlife Trust reserves of Noar Hill, St Catherine’s Hill or Pamber Forest from early July, you could be treated to brimstones flying among the flowers. The females are cream and the males are yellow – in fact, they are believed to be the original inspiration for the name ‘butterfly’. Brimstones are scarce in northern Britain but are common in most habitats in our region. Their caterpillars grow on buckthorn and alder buckthorn and the butterflies like the nectar of a range of flowers, especially bugle and primroses.

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood by Ed MerrittSpeckled Wood by Ed Merritt

The speckled wood, as its name might suggest, is common in woodlands and shady gardens. The larvae feed on a range of grasses in dappled shade while the adult male butterflies can be quite territorial by ‘owning’ a patch of sunshine and chasing off rivals. You can spot the butterflies in April and May courtesy of their brown wings and cream spots. There is no real pressure on numbers as long as our woodlands are maintained. They can be spotted at the Trust’s Roydon Woods and Pamber Forest.

Holly Blue

If you spot a blue butterfly flying over your head in springtime it’s probably a holly blue. To be certain, look for silvery-blue undersides with small black dots. Holly blues are common in urban areas in southern England, especially in places where there is plenty of holly and ivy growing for the larvae. People’s tendency to cut down ivy from around trees is very damaging for the holly blue, which is also at risk from a parasitic wasp that kills large numbers of its larvae. They can be spotted flying on most Wildlife Trust reserves between late March and mid-June.

Holly Blue by Rachel ScopesHolly Blue by Rachel Scopes


No doubt you have seen peacocks in your garden as they are among the most common butterflies in the country. If you don’t have much of a garden, then head to any Wildlife Trust reserve between early spring and June and you are bound to spot them. Look for their black undersides and prominent eye markings. If they are resting and are disturbed they flash these ‘eyes’ and rub their wings together to make a noise to ward off any predators. Peacocks are prone to occasional population crashes caused by parasites, but they are common enough not to need special management.


The comma can be seen on the wing between early spring and mid-May, especially in woodland areas. You can also spot them in your garden – just look for the distinctive ‘ragged’ outline of its wings. Like the peacock, the comma is a common species that does not require any special management, although it helps if you plant flowering sallows (its favourite blossom) in your gardens. The greatest threats to comma populations are actually our warmer winters, which can cause damaging breaks in hibernation patterns.

Orange Tip

The males of this species are easy to spot thanks to their orange wing tips. The females are noticeable for the mottled markings on the undersides of their hindwings. They can be spotted on any spring flowers and will be on the wing between April and June. The Wildlife Trust helps them by managing damp grassland sites and they can be seen at most reserves, although Winnall Moors is a particularly good location. You might be surprised to know that the caterpillars are cannibalistic. If more than one egg is laid on a flower spike, the first to hatch will eat any 
smaller larvae.

Adonis Blue

The Adonis blue is a UK BAP species, which means it requires conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. It is confined to the south-facing chalk downs of southern England including parts of the Isle of Wight. It feeds on a range of flowers but needs short turf, which means precise grazing regimes need to be put into place to support surviving colonies. They fly between mid-May and the end of June and can be recognised by their incredibly bright blue wings with chequered edges.

Duke of Burgundy

The Duke of Burgundy is a very rare species that has suffered heavy losses in southern England because of habitat degradation. It likes to feed on partially shaded plants and the Wildlife Trust is working hard to maintain habitats on its reserves. Currently, the only reliable reserve to see the species is Noar Hill. You will need to visit in May and June although April is a possibility if it’s warm enough. Look for a small orange chequered butterfly with two bands of white marks on the underwing.

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