Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

DELTA home

L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 29–36 mm (pamphilus), or 35–40 mm (tullia); the fringes not banded. Slender-bodied to medium built; short-bodied. The eyes glabrous. Antennae reaching noticeably less than halfway to the wingtips. The antennal clubs gradual-elongate; curved; tapered and not pale-tipped flattened to not flattened (C. pamphilus), or not flattened (C. tullia). Labial palps ascending. Having only 4 fully developed legs. Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt. The outer and hind margins angled at about 100–105(–110) degrees. The outer margins convexly curved; not scalloped. Uppersides of the forewings light brown (usually), or dark brown (sometimes, in C. tullia); eye-spotted, or without eye-spots (sometimes, in C. tullia). The eye-spots 1, or 2–3; posterior towards the apex (usually), or posterior towards the apex and mid-posterior (i..e., usually eye-spotted apically and sometimes both apically and subterminally, but sometimes inconspicuously so). Uppersides of the forewings without a discal mark; plain, or darkened at the apex and around the termen; often with an apical eye-spot or eye-spotted both apically and terminally, but the ocelli usually weaker than their underside counterparts.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded; with the outer margins not scalloped. Uppersides of the hindwings light brown (mostly), or dark brown (sometimes, in C. tullia); conspicuously patterned to plain. Uppersides of the hindwings eye-spotted (often, in C. tullia), or not eye-spotted. The eye-spots when present, 1–6; mid-posterior to near the tornus, or posterior towards the apex to near the tornus. Uppersides of the hindwings with a conspicuous discal mark, or without a discal mark; resembling the forewings in colour, usually with a tornal eye-spot or a subterminal row in C. tullia.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings usually colour-patterned more strongly than the uppersides, or darker and more shaded, and with at least the apical eye-spot consistently present and conspicuous; eye-spotted. The eye-spots 1 (with a single small black, light-centred and pale ringed ocellus posteriorly towards the apex), or 1–3 (sometimes in C. tullia); posterior towards the apex, or posterior towards the apex and mid-posterior (when C. tullia exhibits ocelli additional to the apical one).

Undersides of the hindwings more complexly patterned than the uppersides, shaded fuscous to grey, with a whitish postmedian fascia, and in C. tullia with a subterminal row of conspicuous eyespots or only one or two small ones near the tornus; eye-spotted, or not eye-spotted (C. pamphilus). The eye-spots when present, 1–6; variously near the tornus (only), or mid-posterior and near the tornus, or near the mid-costa, posterior towards the apex, mid-posterior, and near the tornus. Undersides of the hindwings without a discal mark.

Wing venation. Forewings 12 veined; with basally dilated veins; vein 12 basally dilated; the lower margin of the discal cell basally dilated; vein 1b basally dilated. Forewings with 1 tubular anal vein; the anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only; vein 1b simple. Forewings with a discal cell; vein 2 departing from the cell less than three-quarters of the distance from its base (from about halfway). Forewing veins 8 and 9 out of 7, 10 and 11 separate from the cell.

Hindwings 9 veined; with a praecostal spur; probably with 2 anal veins; exhibiting vein 1a; the anal veins comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings with a closed discal cell; the transverse vein complete. 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another.

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs barrel-shaped (very shortly cylindric, with an apical concavity); finely longitudinally ribbed (the ribs very numerous). The larvae hairy (?). On grasses (C. pamphilus) or Cyperaceae (C. tullia).

Pupae smooth and rounded; conspicuously patterned; exposed, with no coccoon; suspended from the tail (cremaster), with no median silk girdle.

British representation. 2 species. Coenonympha pamphilus (Small Heath), Coenonympha tullia (Large Heath); see also Curtis’s account and illustration of Coenonympha arcania? (Plastead’s Tawny Ringlet). The adults abroad June and July (C. tullia), or May to September (C. pamphilus).

Status in Britain. Indigenous.

Distribution. Northern Scotland, southern Scotland, northern England, English Midlands, East Anglia, Wales, southeast England, central southern England, southwest England, Isle of Wight, and Ireland. Frequenting open places. Habitats calcareous and non-calcareous.

Comments. Imagines of the ‘Large Heath’ (C. tullia) exhibit considerable morphological variation, and the species is represented by a number of rather distinct local forms which have been variously interpreted as varieties, subspecies or even separate species.

Classification. Superfamily Papilionoidea. Satyridae.

Illustrations. • Coenonympha pamphilus (Small Heath): photos. • Coenonympha pamphilus (Small Heath): egg, larva, pupa. • Coenonympha tullia (Large Heath): photos. • Coenonympha tullia (Large Heath): egg, larva, pupa. • Satyridae (4): Newman, 1871. • Coenonympha hero (‘Plastead's Brown Ringlet Butterfly’, probably alien): B. Ent. 205. • Coenonympha hero (dissections: B. Ent. 205). • Coenonympha hero: B. Ent. 205, legend+text. • Coenonympha hero (dissections): B. Ent. 205. • Mainland-European Coenonympha arcania ('Plastead's Tawny Ringlet Butterfly'): B. Ent. 205*. • Coenonympha arcania. B. Ent. 205*, legend+text. • Coenonympha arcania. B. Ent. 205*, text cont.. • Mainland-European Coenonympha glycerion, as Hipparchia iphis. Stephens 1828. • Larvae and pupae of C. arcania and C. pamphilus: Duponchel (1849).

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2008 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies. Version: 16th May 2016.’.