Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 37–46 mm; the fringes conspicuously light-and-dark 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; not flattened (tapered to the dark tip). 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 91–110 degrees. The outer margins convexly curved to more or less straight; somewhat scalloped, or not scalloped. Uppersides of the forewings orange-brown, or orange-brown and fuscous; eye-spotted. The eye-spots 1; posterior towards the apex. Uppersides of the forewings without a discal mark; with dark fuscous margins, more broadly so terminally, and in the male a dark fuscous median fascia falling short of the costa; the single apical ocellus black, containing two white dots.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded; with the outer margins scalloped. Uppersides of the hindwings dark fuscous; conspicuously patterned. Uppersides of the hindwings eye-spotted, or not eye-spotted. The eye-spots 1; near the tornus. Uppersides of the hindwings without a discal mark; dark fuscous, with a large brownish-orange posterior blotch; sometimes with a small whitish-centred ocellus near the tornus, and vestiges of others sometimes represented by one or two black posterior dots.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings colour-patterned similarly to the uppersides but paler; eye-spotted. The eye-spots 1 (black, containing 2 or 1–2 white dots); posterior towards the apex (mirroring the one on the upperside).

Undersides of the hindwings brown with a small pale blotch at the costa and a large, curved one posteriorly, plus some tiny fairly inconspicuous pale-centred ocelli posteriorly and post-medianly in the disc; inconspicuously eye-spotted. The eye-spots several; more or less central, 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 (plus an upper vestigial one); 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, with 10 and 11 arising separately from the cell.

Hindwings 9 veined; without a praecostal spur; 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 very shortly barrel-shaped to broadly conical (broadest below the middle); longitudinally ribbed (with 15–20 ribs?). The larvae hairy (short-haired); without bristly spines. On grasses.

Pupae rather smooth and rounded; conspicuously patterned (whitish ochreous with dark brown streaks); without shining-metallic markings; exposed, with no coccoon; suspended from the tail (cremaster), with no median silk girdle (with remains of the larval skin at the tail).

British representation. 1 species. Pyronia tithonus (Gatekeeper). The adults abroad July and August.

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.

Classification. Superfamily Papilionoidea. Satyridae.

Illustrations. • Pyronia tithonus (Gatekeeper): photos. • Pyronia tithonus (Gatekeeper: photo, Giles Watson). • Pyronia tithonus (Gatekeeper): egg, larva, pupa. • Larvae of P.tithonus and other Satyridae: 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.’.