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Butterfly taxonomy (classification) The skippers The swallowtails The whites The hairstreaks, coppers and blues. Includes the Duke of Burgundy. The nymphalids, fritillaries and browns. Includes the Monarch.
Gatekeeper male - Ryton Wood Warwickshire 14.07.2012
Wingspan
Male: 37 - 43mm
Female: 42 - 48mm
Photo © nfreem
Gatekeeper

Pyronia tithonus
Number: 59.011
B&F No.: 1625
Family:Nymphalidae (Swainson, 1827)
Subfamily:Satyrinae (Boisduval, 1833)
Tribe:Maniolini (Grote, 1897)
Genus:Pyronia (Hübner, 1819)
Subgenus: 
Species:tithonus (Linnaeus, 1771)
Subspecies:britanniae (Verity, 1915)
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  Introduction  

The Gatekeeper, also known as the Hedge Brown, is a golden butterfly that provides a welcome sight in the middle of summer, when the fresh adults start to emerge. This butterfly spends much of its time basking with wings open, when the sexes are easy to tell apart - only the male has the distinctive sex brands on the forewings. In England and Wales this common and widespread species is found south of a line between Westmorland in the west and South-east Yorkshire in the east. In Ireland it is confined to coastal areas of the south and south-east counties. The butterfly is also found in the Channel Islands, but is absent from Scotland and the Isle of Man. The habitat this butterfly requires is found over most of the British Isles, and so we can only assume that the restriction to its range is governed primarily by climate. Colonies vary greatly in size, depending on the available habitat, ranging from a few dozen individuals to several thousand.

Pyronia tithonus ssp. tithonus

The species was first defined in Linnaeus (1771) as shown here (type locality: Germany). The nominate subspecies has not been recorded in the British Isles.

Pyronia tithonus ssp. britanniae

This subspecies was first defined in Verity (1915) as shown here (type locality: England). Records from the British Isles are of this subspecies.


Gatekeeper male 27.07.2012 Babbs Mill West Midlands
Male
Photo © nfreem
Gatekeeper- 03C7238 Nottingham 24 July 2010
Male Underside
Photo © IainLeach
Gatekeeper (female), Hog Wood (23 July 2011)
Female
Photo © Mark Colvin
Gatekeeper - Ovington Park, Hampshire 2010
Female Underside
Photo © Mike Young

  Phenology  

There is one generation each year, with adults emerging in July, peaking in early August, with only a few adults remaining until the end of the month. In contrast with its close relative, the Meadow Brown, this butterfly has a relatively-short flight period.


The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.


  Habitat  

This species can be found wherever shrubs grow close to rough grassland. In fact, some of the largest colonies can be found at field edges and along hedgerows and we can expect to find this butterfly in scrubby grassland, woodland rides, country lanes, hedgerows and the like anywhere within its range.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplants are Bents (various) (Agrostis spp.), Fescues (various) (Festuca spp.) and Meadow-grasses (various) (Poa spp.). Common Couch (Elytrigia repens) is also used.

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), Privet (Ligustrum vulgare), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.), Thyme (Thymus polytrichus) and Water Mint (Mentha aquatica).

  Imago  

Males set up small territories, often centred on a particular shrub or bush, and will fly up from their perch to investigate passing butterflies in the hope of finding a mate. Pairing occurs without any obvious courtship and, once mated, a female will typically lay between 100 and 200 eggs.

Although both sexes feed from honeydew, they will also feed from whatever nectar sources are available - Bramble and Ragwort being particular favourites.


Gatekeeper Male - Southwater Wood, Sussex 8-July-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
08-Jul-2010
Gatekeeper Female - Ifield, Crawley, Sussex 3-Aug-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
03-Aug-2010
Gatekeeper pair - Crawley, Sussex 23-July-05
Photo © Vince Massimo
23-Jul-2005
Gatekeeper - imago - Bentley Wood - 09-Jul-04 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2004
Gatekeeper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 16-Jul-08 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2008
Gatekeeper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 23-Jul-08 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2008
Gatekeeper - Stockbridge Downs - 12-7-09
Photo © Gwenhwyfar
12-Jul-2009
Gatekeeper Male - Southwater Wood, Sussex 8-July-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
08-Jul-2010
Gatekeeper Female - Ifield, Crawley, Sussex 3-Aug-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
03-Aug-2010
Gatekeeper - Larkhill 22-07-2013
Photo © Wurzel
22-Jul-2013
Gatekeeper - Park Wood 22-July-2011
Photo © sahikmet
Gatekeeper Male - Chaldon, Surrey 19-July-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
19-Jul-2011
Gatekeeper (female), Hog Wood (23 July 2011)
Photo © Mark Colvin
23-Jul-2011
Gatekeeper- 03C5647 Nottingham 17 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Gatekeeper- 03C7238 Nottingham 24 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Gatekeeper- 03C1913 Nottingham 23 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Gatekeeper- 03C2719 Nottingham 23 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Gatekeeper male - Ryton Wood Warwickshire 14.07.2012
Photo © nfreem
14-Jul-2012
Gatekeeper male 27.07.2012 Babbs Mill West Midlands
Photo © nfreem
28-Jul-2012
15.7.2012   Male Gatekeeper, Chiddingingfold Wood, Surrey
Photo © hideandseek
15-Jul-2012
Gatekeeper female - Shadowbrook Meadows Solihull 26.07.2013
Photo © nfreem
26-Jul-2013
Gatekeeper female - Solihull West Midlands 27.07.2013
Photo © nfreem
27-Jul-2013
Gatekeeper - Ovington Park, Hampshire 2010
Photo © Mike Young
Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper mixed pairing - West Somerset 6-Aug-2013
Photo © William
06-Aug-2013
Gatekeeper - male - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jul-14
Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jul-2014
Gatekeeper. 6/7/2014. Seaford. East Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
06-Jul-2014
Hedge Brown - The Devenish - 30-06-2014
Photo © Wurzel
Gatekeeper male - Knepp Estate, Sussex 8-July-2014
Photo © Neil Hulme
08-Jul-2014
Gatekeeper female - Solihull West Midlands 26.07.2014
Photo © nfreem
26-Jul-2014
Gatekeeper female - Solihull West Midlands 26.07.2014
Photo © nfreem
26-Jul-2014

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

Click here to see a full list of aberrations for this species.

Unclassified Aberrations


Male Gatekeeper - "one eye" Garston Wood, 09-07-2011
Photo © Wurzel
Male Gatekeeper, one eye on hind wing
Gatekeeper, male, ab. Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey 29-June-2014
Photo © hideandseek
RSPB Arne reserve, Isle of Purbeck, Dorset - 07-Jul-14 [Ian Reeve]
Photo © Ian Reeve
Gatekeeper male, reduced eye-spots - Solihull West Midlands 20.07.2014
Photo © nfreem
20-Jul-2014

ab. antiparvipuncta (Leeds.Proc.S.Lond.Ent.& N.Hist.Soc.(1948-49)1950.p.91.pl.5.f.3.)

The apical spot of the forewing small.


Gate Keeper (ab.) - Hall Lee Brook, Westhoughton, Lancs 20th August 2012 RSCN9169
Photo © Goldie M
20-Aug-2012

ab. brunnescens (Leeds.Proc.S.Lond.Ent.& Nat.Hist.Soc.(1948-49)1950.p.90.)

The ground colour brown instead of fulvous. Fig.Frohawk Brit.Butts.pl.38.f.14.


Gatekeeper - very dark - 23-07-2011 - Godshill
Photo © Wurzel
Very dark gatekeeper - almost black on the open wings

ab. excessa (Tutt.Brit.Butts.1896.p.408.)

= antiexcessa Leeds.Proc.S.Lond.Ent.& N.Hist.Soc.(1948-9)1950.p.92.

On the upperside of the forewings there are one, two, three or even four extra spots, usually small and blind, sometimes large and ocellated.


Gatekeeper Female (ab.) - Crawley, Sussex 26-July-05
Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Jul-2005
Gatekeeper Female (ab.) - Crawley, Sussex 26-July-05
Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Jul-2005
Gatekeeper
Photo © Zonda
ab. excessa
07-Jul-2009
Gatekeeper - aberration - Lansdown nr Bath - 04-Aug-05 [Graham Smith]
Photo © Graham Smith
Gatekeeper - aberration - Blakemere Moss-9-July-09 [Rory Ravenswater]
Photo © Rory Ravenswater
20-Jul-2009
Gatekeeper - aberration - Nr Basingstoke - 21-Jul-10 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jul-2010
Gatekeeper - aberration - Nr Basingstoke - 21-Jul-10 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jul-2010
Male Gatekeeper - 25-07-2011 - Five Rivers
Photo © Wurzel
Single additional spot on fore wings
Female Gatekeeper - 02-08-2011 - Ffosyffin (Ceredigion)
Photo © Wurzel
Single additional spot on fore wings
Male Gatekeeper - 03-08-2011 - Ffosyffin (Ceredigion)
Photo © Wurzel
Multiocellata? Also very heavily marked on the underside
Male Gatekeeper - odd number of additinal spotting on fore wings - 03-08-2011 - Ffosyffin (Ceredigion)
Photo © Wurzel
One spot on left fore wing, 2 spots on right fore wing
Gatekeeper- 03C2090 Nottingham 23 July 2010
Photo © IainLeach
Hedge Brown - female - Ffos-y-ffin - 06-08-2013
Photo © Wurzel
06-Aug-2013
Male Gatekeeper - 21-7-2013 - Hampshire
Photo © Maximus
21-Jul-2013
Gatekeeper male (ab.) - Bernwood Forest 6-July-2014 [Miles Attenborough]
Photo © Miles Attenborough
06-Jul-2014
Hedge Brown - The Devenish - 30-06-2014
Photo © Wurzel

ab. infra-unicolora (Lempke.Lamb.1934.34.p.156.)

Underside of the hindwings of a unicolorous dark brown, without the normal light area.


Gate Keeper (dark underside) Hall Lee Brook, Westhoughton, Lancs. 20th August 2012 RSCN9163
Photo © Goldie M
20-Aug-2012

ab. pallidemarginata (Oberthur.Lep.Comp.1909.3.p.389.)

The ground colour normal with the margins pale instead of brownish, but the apical eye remaining black with a white pupil. Similar to albinotica Goodson which however has the eye-spot lacking in black pigment. Oberthur's form is not an albino.


Gatekeeper - aberration - Bath - 28-Aug-06 [Graham Smith]
Photo © Graham Smith

ab. partimtransformis (Leeds.Proc.S.Lond.Ent.& N.Hist.Soc.(1948-9)1950.p.90 & p.82.)

Portions of a wing or wings with a pale or bleached patch or streaks. A pathological form which does not deserve a name.


Gatekeeper ab. partimtransformis - Mill Hill, Sussex 19-July-11
Photo © Colin Knight
19-Jul-2011
Gatekeeper - aberration - Lansdown nr Bath - 04-Aug-05 (3) [Graham Smith]
Photo © Graham Smith

ab. subalbida (Verity.Entom.1904.37.p.56.pl.4.f.10.)

= pallidus Frohawk.Vars.Brit.Butts.l938.pl.8.f.2-3.
= lacticolor Leeds.Proc.S.Lond.Ent.& Nat.Hist.Soc.(1948-49)1950.p.89.

The ground colour yellowish-white. Frohawk's pallidus had the wings yellowish-white. Leed's lacticolor had the wings "paler than pallidula" which was yellow-ochreous.


Gatekeeper (m) ab. subalbida; Stanwell Moor (Middlesex) 9th July 2011
Photo © millerd
09-Jul-2011

  Ovum  

Eggs are laid singly, usually in shade underneath a shrub, either on the foodplant, on nearby vegetation or at random - ejected into the air over a suitable patch of foodplant. Eggs are pale yellow when first laid but soon develop brown patches, giving a mottled effect. They darken further as the larva develops within the egg. This stage lasts between 2 and 3 weeks.


Gatekeeper - ovum - Unknown location - Uknown date (2) [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Gatekeeper - ovum - Unknown location - Uknown date [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry

  Larva  

The larva eats its eggshell on hatching and proceeds to feed on the tenderest parts of the foodplant by day, before hibernating after its first moult at the base of a grass clump, usually within a withered grass blade. Larvae resume feeding in the spring and typically only feed at night. There are 2 colour forms of the larva - light brown and green and there are 4 moults in total.


Gatekeeper - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Brian Clegg]
Photo © Brian Clegg
Gatekeeper - larva [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
21-Apr-2014

  Pupa  

The pupa is formed low down in vegetation, hung upside down and attached by the cremaster. This stage lasts around 3 weeks.


Gatekeeper - pupa - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Brian Clegg]
Photo © Brian Clegg

  Similar Species  

Meadow Brown

Description to be completed.

  Videos  

Video © Roger Wilmshurst
Gatekeeper male
Video © DAVID ELEMENT
Gatekeeper Butterflies Pyronia tithonus

  Sites  

Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Arnside Knott, Ashampstead Common, Aspal Close, Attenborough Nature Reserve, Aylesbeare Common, Badbury Rings, Banstead Woods, Beachy Head, Bedfont Lakes Country Park LNR, Bentley Wood, Bryncelyn Hall, Chatteris, Darlands Banks LNR, Durlston NNR, Fleam Dyke, Forest Farm Meadows, Gait Barrows, Higher Hyde, Hockley Woods, Horsenden Hill, Hounslow Heath LNR, Howardian Local Nature Reserve, Hyde, Latton Woods, Laughton Common Wood, Mansmead wood, Mayford Pond, Millenium Arboretum, Moors Valley Country Park, Moss Field, Mount Caburn, Mynydd Marian, Old Down, Basingstoke, Pulborough Brooks (RSPB), Rathruane Beg, Raven NNR, Redscar and Tunbrook Woods, Rinneen Forest, Rookery, Roudsea Wood NNR, Ryton Woods Meadows, Shirkin Island, Strumpshaw Fen, Tophill Low, Uffmoor Wood, Whitbarrow Scar, Windover Hill, Winsdon Hill

  Conservation Status  

This butterfly is relatively stable in terms of both distribution and population and it is not currently a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusDistribution TrendPopulation Trend
Not ListedStableDecrease

From The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


  Links  

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

  References  

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Linnaeus (1771) Linnaeus, C.: Mantissa plantarum altera generum editionis. 1771.
Verity (1915) Verity, R.: Contributo allo studio della variazione nei Lepidotteri. Bollettino della Societa Entomologica Italiana. 1915.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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