Our UK butterfly identification guide

If you plan on exploring the great outdoors of Great Britain this summer, you will likely encounter a variety of different butterflies

There are 59 butterfly species to be found in the UK, divided into five distinct families. To help you identify the ones you see, here’s a handy field guide.


Red admiral screen

One of the UK’s most commonly seen butterflies

These large and familiar garden insects are recognisable from the orange-red bands and white spots near the tips of their forewings

Swallowtail screen

Wings are pale yellow with black veins

The UK’s largest species of butterfly, swallowtails can be distinguished by the red spot on their rear and the distinctive tail they’re named after

Peacock screen

Spots give the illusion of large, glaring eyes

Peacock butterflies are easily recognised by their scarlet colour and the dramatic eyespots on their wings, which are used to scare off predators

Marbled white screen

Black and white wings

The high-contrast white and black markings on this medium-sized butterfly mean that it is difficult to mistake it for any other British species

Painted lady screen

Identified by its black and white wingtips

Painted ladies are famous for their long migrations. Their orange-brown wings with black and white-spotted forewings are a common sight in gardens

Purple emperor screen

Orange-ringed eyespots differentiate it from similar species

Only male emperors possess the deep purple sheen that gives this species its name, but both genders have white banded wings and small orange eyespots

Small blue screen

Faint blue dusting on brown upper wings

The UK’s smallest butterfly isn’t obviously blue – this insect’s most prominent colour is a dusky shade of brown. Its underside is pale blue with black spots

Brown argus screen

Orange markings distinguish it from the northern brown argus

A small, brown butterfly that can be identified by the rows of orange spots on the edges of its outer wings

Comma screen

Frayed appearance of wings helps it to blend in with leaves

These orange and brown butterflies have ragged-looking wings, distinguishing them from similarly coloured species. Comma-shaped white markings on their undersides give them their name


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Image from www.flickr.com/photos/stuutje