December 12, 2017

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

A common butterfly almost anywhere shrubs meet rough grassland. Superficially pretty similar to the related Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) but a little smaller, with a larger amount of orange, particularly on the hindwings and having two white pupils instead of one in the forewing eyespots. This individual is a female, the males have a very obvious dark patch of scent scales on their forewing.

The larvae feed on grass species like Bents, Fescues, Meadow Grasses and Common Couch. The adults feed on the nectar from a wide variety of plants including Privet, and Thistles and Brambles so their ubiquity, to some extent ,must be related to their fairly catholic tastes.

The flight season is relatively short with adults having only one generation and being in flight from the second half of July up until the end of August. This is significantly less than M. jurtina which also only has one generation a year, but has a much greater flight period from mid June to late September.