Gatekeeper (or Hedge Brown) butterfly

Pyronia tithonus

family - Satyridae

Image of Gatekeeper butterfly

The Gatekeeper butterfly has orange-brown wings. Near the edge of the forewing is a black spot containing 2 white pupils. The underside of the hindwing has white-centered spots.

My personal observations of the Gatekeeper butterfly

months seen in my garden: July and August

garden plants that attract this species:

Buddleia, Candytuft, Ceanothus, Field Scabious, Golden Rod, Hebe, Helichrysum, Heliotrope, Hyssop, Lantana, Lobelia, Marigold, Marjoram, Mint, Pot Marigold, Sedum, Verbena

butterfly sightings 2005:

first sighting at Badbury Rings, Dorset on 13 July
Gatekeeper (female) in Overley Woods, 16 July
Gatekeeper on Verbena bonariensis, 21 July
Mating pair of Gatekeepers on Field Scabious, 28 July
female Gatekeeper on Field Scabious, 31 July
Gatekeepers on Ragwort, 31 July
Female and male Gatekeepers on Ragwort, 31 July
Gatekeeper, 1 August
Gatekeepers on Marjoram and Field Scabious, 2 August
Gatekeepers on Marjoram, 4 August
Seen at Barrow Wake, 18 August
Gatekeeper on Thistle, Cirencester Park, 20 August

butterfly sightings 2004:

14 and 21 August - I was in hospital from 15 July for 4 months, so I missed most of the Gatekeeper butterflies in my garden but saw a few when I was let out on breaks from chemotherapy.

top 7 memorable images of 2003:

I had 33 digital images saved from 2003.

thumbnail link On Field Scabious. July 30.

thumbnail link Side view. On Field Scabious. July 30.
Note the twin pupils in the eyespot; the Meadow Brown has a single white pupil.

thumbnail link Female. Top view. On Marjoram. July 27.

thumbnail link Female. Top view. On Field Scabious. July 30.

thumbnail link Male. Top view. On Marjoram. August 2.
The male has a prominent sex-brand on the upperside of the forewing.

thumbnail link Mating pair. July 27.
I've found Gatekeepers mating in my garden once in Cirencester and once in my previous garden in Wiltshire.

thumbnail link Side view. On Field Scabious. July 27.

A selection of images from previous years:

14 August 2002 on Hyssop
10 August 2002 resting on Sedum
4 August 2002 on Verbena
22 July 2001 male
22 July 2001 mating pair
15 August 2000 on Helichrysum
6 August 1999 on Marjoram


Field Scabious and Marjoram are the main nectar plants in my garden for the Gatekeeper butterfly.

Reference Section

Size: 40-47mm (slightly smaller than Small White - see list of butterflies by size)

First Generation flight period: July-September

Larval Food Plants: Grasses
Wild Nectar Plants: Field Scabious, Ragwort, Yarrow

Family Group: Satyridae- see list of butterflies by family

This page last updated: 9 December, 2005