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The Outstanding Beauty Of The UK Butterflies

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 – These large and familiar garden insects are recognisable from their black/brown colouring with orange-red bands and white spots near the tips of their forewings.

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

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

Brown argus – A small, brown butterfly that can be identified by the rows of orange spots on the edges of its outer forewings and hindwings. When the sun hits it at certain angles it has a blue lustre.

Comma – These orange and brown butterflies have ragged-looking wings. Comma-shaped white markings on their undersides are what give them their name.

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