The butterflies you might see in your garden – and those you won’t

29 September 2013

Some butterflies are generalists, and can be seen practically everywhere, while others need specialist habitats. This is a help in identifying butterflies, as it is very unlikely you will see, for example, a Silver-spotted Skipper on your buddleia (as someone once tried to tell me they had): this butterfly needs really warm, chalky habitats with the right sort of grass for their caterpillars. If you lived right next door to a colony of them I can’t say it’s impossible, but the odds probably aren’t far off those of winning the lottery.

The butterflies you could reasonably expect to see in your garden are as follows; the headings refer to the butterfly families, but names referring to colour can be misleading – see my blog on the subject:


  • Unlikely, unless you live in a rural area, when you might see the Large or Small Skipper


Green-veined White

Green-veined White

  • Brimstone
  • Large White
  • Small White
  • Green-veined White
  • Orange Tip

Small Copper and Hairstreaks

Small Copper

Small Copper

  • Small Copper – possible
  • Hairstreaks – none – very specialist


  • Holly Blue
  • Common Blue

Emperor, Admirals and Vanessids

  • Emperor – no, very specialist and spend most of their time up in the tops of trees
  • Admirals – Red Admiral, not the White Admiral
  • Vanessids – Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Comma, Peacock


  • Highly unlikely


Gatekeeper - male (the females do not have the dark mark across the forewings)

Gatekeeper – male (the females do not have the dark mark across the forewings)

  • Speckled Wood
  • Gatekeeper
  • Meadow Brown
  • Plus Ringlet and Wall Brown, if you live in the right place.

If you want to see some of the non-garden butterflies, read up on what habitats they need so you look in the right places, and check when they are out, so you look at the right time. You may be able to find information on the intenet about particular sites for particular species – in Dorset, for example, there is information at


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