Large Heath

Coenonympha tullia (SEE-no-nymph-uh TOO-lee-uh)

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 13-June-11 03C8780
Photo © IainLeach
 

Wingspan
35 - 40mm

Checklist Number
59.004

Family:NymphalidaeRafinesque, 1815
Subfamily:SatyrinaeBoisduval, 1833
Tribe:CoenonymphiniTutt, 1896
Genus:CoenonymphaHübner, [1819]
Subgenus:  
Species:tullia(Müller, 1764)
Subspecies:davus (Fabricius, [1777])
 polydama (Haworth, 1803)
 scotica Staudinger, 1901

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Introduction

Found in the north of the British Isles, the Large Heath is unique in that it is more or less confined to boggy areas. The Large Heath lives on the British mainland in isolated colonies from central Wales in the south to Orkney in the north, and also in scattered colonies throughout Ireland. It is absent from Shetland. The best colonies can be very large in good years, where the number of adults emerging is measured in thousands. Large colonies used to exist in the mosses around Manchester and Liverpool, but these have long since disappeared.

The eye spots on the underside of this species vary considerably. Those in the north have almost no spots at all with adults looking like a large Small Heath, while those in the south have very distinctive spots. This has given rise to 3 named subspecies. Those with the least distinct spots are referred to as ssp. scotica, those with the most distinct spots as ssp. davus and those that are intermediate as ssp. polydama. This species forms a typical cline and, unsurprisingly, intermediates occur between the 3 named subspecies. For example, Ford (1945) writes: "It appears that in the island of Islay scotica predominates, but that the intermediate sub-species tullia [= polydama] is not uncommon and that even specimens closely approaching philoxenus [= davus] occur".

Ford (1945) also describes the situation in Ireland: "The sub-species philoxenus [= davus] does not occur, but scotica and tullia [= polydama], with their intermediates, fly together in the same location". Nash (2012) concurs with Ford (1945) that both scotica and polydama are found in Ireland. Riley (2007), however, suggests that only polydama is found in Ireland, although no explanation is given for this position.

Brakefield (1992) describes, in detail, the reason for this variation, which is believed to be natural selection based on predation by birds. The cooler climate in the north, along with fewer hours of daylight, results in less-active adults whose plain undersides make them difficult to find while at rest. Adults further south, on the other hand, are much more active and are more-likely to attract the attention of birds as a result. In this case, the distinct eye spots deflect the bird's attention away from the body.

Coenonympha tullia ssp. tullia

The species was first defined in Müller (1764) as shown here (type locality: Frederiksdal, Copenhagen, Denmark). The nominate subspecies has not been recorded in the British Isles.

Coenonympha tullia ssp. davus

This subspecies was first defined in Fabricius (1777) as shown here (type locality: Germany).

This subspecies can be found in north-west England and central England near the border with Wales. This is the darkest and most colourful of the subspecies.

Coenonympha tullia ssp. davus (Fabricius, 1777)

Original (Latin)

alis integerrimis fuluis: anticis ocellis duobus, posticis sex coecis, subtus pupillatis.

Habitat Hamburgi Dr. Schulz, Kilonii Sehestedt.

Medius. Alae anticae supra fuluae ocellis duobus atris coecis tertioque minutissimo vix distincto; subtus fascia alba ocellis duobus pupilla alba. Posticae obscuriores ocellis quinque aut sex coecis; subtus griseae fascia interrupta alba ocellis sex atris pupilla alba posteriore didymo.

Translation

Wings entire, reddish yellow: the forewings with two eyespots, the hindwings with six, blind (above), pupilled beneath.

Lives in Hamburg (Dr Schulz), Sehestedt in the Kiel region.

Medium. Forewings yellowish red above with two blind, black eyespots and a tiny, barely discernible, third one; a white band beneath with two eyespots with white pupils. Hindwings dark with five or six blind eyespots; grey beneath with a broken white band, with six black, white-pupilled eyespots, the last one double.

Large Heath - Whixall Moss 2-July-2011

Male
Photo © ronniethepoo

Large Heath - male - Meathop Moss - 19-Jun-14-2

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath female - Whixall Moss 10-July-2013

Female
Photo © MikeOxon

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 19-June-11 03C2778

Female Underside
Photo © IainLeach

Photo Album ...


Coenonympha tullia ssp. polydama

This subspecies was first defined in Haworth (1803) as shown here (type locality: Yorkshire, England).

This subspecies is found in parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. In Wales it is found in central and north-west areas. It is also found in the north of England in Cumberland, North Northumberland, South Northumberland, North-east Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. It is found in southern Scotland from the border with England up to a line that runs between Renfrewshire in the west to South Aberdeenshire in the east, being replaced further north by the subspecies scotica. In Ireland this widespread in the north, but more isolated elsewhere.

This subspecies is considered to be intermediate between davus and scotica. It differs from the subspecies davus in being somewhat paler on both upperside and underside, and with fewer eyespots on the underside. Those eyespots that are present are smaller in size and often lacking the white pupil.

Coenonympha tullia ssp. polydama (Haworth, 1803)

Original (Latin)

P.D.F. (The Marsh Ringlet) Alis fulvis, anticis subtus ocellis duobus; posticis 6 albo cinctis quarum 3 dimidiatis.

Pap. Polydama Scop. Carn. 434?

HABITAT rarissime comitatu Eboracense. Semel capta et ad me missa amicissimo meo P.W. Watson. Imago mense Junio Paludosis.

EXPANSIO alarum 1 unc. 7 lin.

DESCRIPTIO. Imago. Alae antlcae griseo-fulvae ocellis duabus posticis caecis. Alae posticae fuscae sed ad latus interius late albicantes, puncto ocellari caeco parvo postico versus angulum ani. Subtus anticae fulvo-fuscae, basi nigricantes, apice cinereae, fascia postica albida abbreviata transversa; inter hanc et marginem posticum ocelli 2 remoti pupilla obsoleta alba, iride nigra albo cincta. Posticae basi fascia lata nigricante extus dentata, fasciola albida irregulari terminata; pone hanc cinereae; ocellis 6 parvis quarum 3 dimidiatis et fere obliteratis, omnibus circulo albo cinctis.

OBS. Simillima praecedenti magnitudine et statura; differt supra magis fulva, subtus magis cinerea; ocelli minores inaequales albo nec fulvo cincti.

Translation

P.D.F. (The Marsh Ringlet) Wings reddish yellow, the forewings with two spots beneath; the hindwings with 6, circled in white, of which three are reduced.

Pap. Polydama Scop. Carn 434?

Very rare in the county of Yorkshire. I was once sent one captured by my very good friend P.W. Watson. Adult in the month of June, in bogs.

WINGSPAN 1 inch. 7 lin.

DESCRIPTION. Adult. Forewings greyish-fulvous with two blind eyespots towards the outer [edge]. Hindwings dark but whitening broadly towards the inside, with a small, blind, eyelike rear spot towards the anal angle. Beneath, the forewings are dark reddish yellow, blackish towards the base, grey at the apex and with a short, white transverse band; between this and the outer margin are 2 distant eyespots with vestigial white pupils, the iris black, encircled in white. Hindwings with a broad, blackish region at the base, outwardly toothed, bounded by a white, irregular strip; beyond this [they are] grey; with 6 small eyespots of which 3 are reduced and almost lost, all of them encircled with white.

OBS. Similar to the previous one in size; differs above by having more reddish yellow and beneath by more grey; eyespots smaller and unequal, circled with white not reddish yellow.

Large Heath - Steng Moss, Harwood Forest, Northumberland 6-July-2014

Male
Photo © citybirding

Large Heath - male ssp. polydama - Thatcham - 17-Jul-16 [REARED]

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Female

Large Heath - female ssp. polydama - Thatcham - 17-Jul-16 [REARED]-3

Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album ...


Coenonympha tullia ssp. scotica

This subspecies was first defined in Staudinger (1901) (type locality: Scotland).

This subspecies is found in northern Scotland, north of a line between the Clyde Isles in the west and North Aberdeenshire in the east. It is found in most of the western isles and is also present in Orkney. As described above, Ford (1945a) considers both polydama and scotica to occur in Ireland, as does Nash (2012). However, Riley (2007) suggests that only polydama is found in Ireland and that, therefore, scotica is absent. Whatever the correct status, if scotica does occur in Ireland, then it follows the distribution of polydama and is widespread in the north, but more isolated elsewhere.

In comparison with the subspecies polydama this subspecies is paler with minute, often absent, underside eyespots. Apart from its larger size, it appears very similar to its close cousin, the Small Heath.

Coenonympha tullia ssp. scotica (Staudinger, 1901)

Original (Latin)

al. supra [al. post. latius] cinereo-marginatis, subt. obscurior ocellis subnull.

Translation

Wings grey margined above [the hindwings more broadly], the eyespots on the underside being more obscure, virtually absent.

Male

Large Heath ssp. scotica - male - Glen Loy - 10-Jun-16-2

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Female

Large Heath (ssp. scotica) - Braemore, Wester Ross  5-July-2012

Female Underside
Photo © nomad

Photo Album ...


History

The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

YearNameReference
1795Manchester ArgusLewin (1795)
1795Manchester RingletLewin (1795)
1797Scarce Meadow BrownDonovan (1797)
1803Large HeathHaworth (1803)
1803Scarce HeathHaworth (1803)
1853Heath ButterflyMorris (1853)

Conservation Status

There has been a moderate decline of this species over the long term and it is therefore a priority species for conservation efforts. The primary cause of this decline has been the drainage of its habitat for industry or agriculture, rendering such sites unsuitable for this species.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Priority Species
Click here to access the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for this species.
Large Decrease-58
Large Increase+261
Stable-5
Decrease-49

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

This butterfly is found in flat wetland areas such as bogs, waterlogged peat mosses and damp moorland where the foodplant, normally Hare's-tail Cottongrass, and appropriate nectar sources are also found. Sites are often clothed in Heather.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

There is one generation each year, with adults emerging from as early as the end of May at some sites, peaking in the second half of June and early July. In northern Scotland, where the subspecies scotica flies, emergence is in the second half of June, peaking the first half of July.

Coenonympha tullia ssp. davus

Coenonympha tullia ssp. polydama

Coenonympha tullia ssp. scotica

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.

 

Imago

Despite its slow and lumbering flight, the butterfly can be difficult to follow due to the boggy ground underfoot. Furthermore, when disturbed, the butterfly will launch itself into the air, often flying some distance before landing again. All in all, this is not always the easiest species to see, let alone photograph!

The adults remain somewhat active even in dull weather, but will remain tucked away in vegetation in strong winds and cold weather. Males are more-often seen than females, which tend to stay hidden away in grass tussocks unless nectaring or egg laying. Adults always rest with their wings closed and regulate their temperature by orientating their wings at an appropriate angle to the sun. Both sexes take nectar, Cross-leaved Heath being a particular favourite that often grows alongside the food plant.

Adults feed primarily on Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix), Hawkweeds (Hieracium/Hypochoeris), Heather (Calluna vulgaris / Erica spp.), Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) and White Clover (Trifolium repens).

Coenonympha tullia ssp. davus

Large-Heath-davus- 5D30931 Whixall Moss July 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 13 June 2011  03C8490

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 13 June 2011  03C8618

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-davus- 5D31586 Whixall Moss July 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath ssp. davus - Whixall Moss Shropshire 04.07.2012

Photo © Neil Freeman
04-Jul-2012

Large Heath - Meathop Moss 10.06.16

Photo © Neil Freeman
10-Jun-2016

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 13-June-11 03C8731

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 19-June-11 03C2591

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath - Whixall Moss 2-July 2011

Photo © ronniethepoo

Large Heath female - Whixall Moss, Shropshire 19-June-2010

Photo © Neil Hulme
19-Jun-2010

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 19-June-11 03C2842

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 19-June-11 03C2804

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath - imago - Meathop Moss - 29-Jun-06 (0433)

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Jun-2006

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 19-June-11 03C2658

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath ssp. davus - Whixall Moss Shropshire 04.07.2012

Photo © Neil Freeman
04-Jul-2012

Large-Heath-davus- 5D31439 Whixall Moss July 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath - Meathop Moss 10.06.16

Photo © Neil Freeman
10-Jun-2016

Large-Heath-davus Whixall Moss 19-June-11 03C2778

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath - Meathop Moss Cumbria 14.06.2014

Photo © Neil Freeman
14-Jun-2014

Large Heath ssp. davus - Whixall Moss Shropshire 04.07.2012

Photo © Neil Freeman
04-Jul-2012

Photo Album (35 photos) ...


Coenonympha tullia ssp. polydama

Large-Heath-polydama-Crowle-23-June-2010- 03C2213

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-polydama- 5D34991 Crowle, Lincs 21 June 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath - Mullenakill Bog, Peatlands Park, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland 25-June-2011

Photo © Dave McCormick
25-Jun-2011

Large Heath - imago - Peatlands Country Park, Northern Ireland - 14-Jun-06 [Graham Smith]

Photo © Graham Smith

Large-Heath-polydama-Crowle-23-June-2010- 03C2416

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-polydama- 5D35360 Crowle, Lincs 21 June 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-polydama-Crowle-23-June-2010- 03C3651

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-polydama- 5D35138 Crowle, Lincs 21 June 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Large-Heath-polydama- 5D35687 Crowle, Lincs 21 June 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath ssp polydama Upperwings Rothbury, Northumberland 28th June 2011

Photo © Graham Beckwith
28-Jun-2011

Large Heath - female - Thatcham - 13-Jul-13 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jul-2013

Large-Heath-polydama- 5D34661 Crowle, Lincs 21 June 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath, Dogden Moss, Berwickshire, Scotland. July 1st 2011.

Photo © IAC
01-Jul-2011

Large Heath - Steng Moss, Harwood Forest, Northumberland 6-July-2014

Photo © citybirding
06-Jul-2014

Large Heath - male ssp. polydama - Thatcham - 21-Jul-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2016

Large-Heath-polydama- 5D35605 Crowle, Lincs 21 June 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath - female ssp. polydama - Thatcham - 17-Jul-16 [REARED]-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2016

Large-Heath-polydama-Crowle-23-June-2010- 03C3127

Photo © IainLeach

Large Heath - female ssp. polydama - Thatcham - 17-Jul-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2016

Large-Heath-polydama- 5D35723 Crowle, Lincs 21 June 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Photo Album (37 photos) ...


Coenonympha tullia ssp. scotica

Large Heath - imago - Creag Meagaidh, Inverness - Unknown date [Adrian Riley]

Photo © Adrian Riley

Large Heath (ssp. scotica) - Braemore, Wester Ross  5-July-2012

Photo © nomad
05-Jul-2012

Large Heath (ssp. scotica) - Fannich Mountains, Wester Ross 5-July-2012

Photo © nomad
05-Jul-2012

Large Heath (ssp. scotica) - Fannich Mountains, Wester Ross 5-July-2012

Photo © nomad
05-Jul-2012

Large Heath ssp. scotica 11th July 2014  Nr Loch Garten Scotland  imago 1

Photo © Reverdin
11-Jul-2014

Large Heath ssp. scotica 11th July 2014  Nr Loch Garten Scotland  imago 2

Photo © Reverdin
11-Jul-2014

Large Heath - Glen Loy 08.06.16

Photo © Neil Freeman
08-Jun-2016

Large Heath - Glen Loy 10.06.16

Photo © Neil Freeman
08-Jun-2016

Large Heath ssp. scotica - male - Glen Loy - 09-Jun-16-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2016

Large Heath ssp. scotica - male - Glen Loy - 09-Jun-16-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2016

Large Heath ssp. scotica - male - Glen Loy - 09-Jun-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2016

Large Heath ssp. scotica - male - Glen Loy - 10-Jun-16-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2016

Large Heath ssp. scotica - male - Glen Loy - 10-Jun-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2016

Photo Album (13 photos) ...


Ovum

The spherical eggs are laid singly on the foodplant, often on dead leaves at the base of the plant, and are pale yellow when first laid, although brown blotches develop after several days, the egg growing even darker as the larva develops within. This stage lasts around 2 weeks.

"On July 21st, 1903, the late Mr. F. G. Cannon observed a female C. tiphon deposit a single egg on a dead stalk of beaked rush (Rhynchospora alba), which he kindly sent direct to the author. The egg hatched on August 5th, remaining fifteen days in the egg state. At the same time he also sent some living females from the same locality, viz., Witherslack. These deposited about six dozen eggs during the following week, which hatched between August 8th and 14th ... The egg is large for the size of the butterfly, being 0.80 mm. high, of an elliptic-spheroid form, with a swollen micropyle which has a very fine reticulated surface, the reticulations increasing in size over the rest of the crown and developing into irregular longitudinal keels down the side, which disappear on rounding the base, and number about fifty altogether. The spaces between the keels are finely ribbed transversely. The colour when first laid is whitish-ochreous-green, which gradually turns to a pale straw-yellow, and pale ochreous-brown spots appear under the shell, which gradually become more pronounced and form an irregular pattern of small blotches, and a more or less broken band forming an irregular zone. The shell then becomes opalescent, having a bluish reflection in the high light. The egg is laid singly on the blade or stem of grass." - Frohawk (1924)

Large Heath - ovum - Unknown Location - Unknown Date (2) [REARED] [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

Large Heath - ovum - Meathop Moss - 19-Jun-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jun-2014

Large Heath - ovum - Thatcham - 05-Jul-14 [REARED]-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
05-Jul-2014

Large Heath - ovum - Thatcham - 29-Jun-14 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Jun-2014

Large Heath - ovum - Thatcham - 29-Jun-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Jun-2014

Large Heath - ovum - Thatcham - 29-Jun-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - ovum - Thatcham - 26-Jun-16 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
26-Jun-2016

Large Heath - ovum - Thatcham - 26-Jun-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
26-Jun-2016

Photo Album (8 photos) ...


Larva

The larva feeds on the tender leaf tips of the foodplant and remains hidden away deep within the tussock when not feeding. The larva hibernates while in the 3rd instar and it has been known for larvae to pass two winters before pupating, particularly in northern colonies. The larva can also survive long periods under water and even being frozen - both distinct possibilities in their boggy habitat. There are 5 instars in total.

The primary larval foodplant is Hare's-tail Cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum). Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium) and Jointed Rush (Juncus articulatus) are also used.

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 17-Apr-05 (3) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Apr-2005

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 17-Apr-05 (4) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Apr-2005

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 28-May-05 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-May-2005

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 28-May-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-May-2005

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 07-Sep-12 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 22-Aug-12 (55) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 10-May-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 10-May-13 (6) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 18-May-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 18-May-13 (6) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 25-May-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 25-May-13 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 25-May-13 (5) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 25-May-13 (6) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 27-Apr-13 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 27-Apr-13 (13) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 07-Aug-14 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Aug-2014

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 07-Aug-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Aug-2014

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 12-Jul-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2014

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 19-Jul-14 [REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2014

Photo Album (20 photos) ...


1st Instar

"The larva escapes from the egg by eating away the shell in a line for about two-thirds of the circumference just below the crown; it then forces itself out, the crown acting like a lid. Directly after emergence the larva measures 2.5 mm. long. The body is slightly attenuated posteriorly and strongly wrinkled transversely, each of the abdominal segments having six sub-divisions, the first on each being the widest. There are five longitudinal dull amber-coloured lines, one medio-dorsal and two on each side, i.e., one sub-dorsal and one immediately above the spiracles; between these last two is a very fine and rather broken-up line of the same colour; the lateral ridge is somewhat whiter than the dorsal surface, which is a pale pearly-ochreous; the ventral surface is rather darker ochreous. The anal points end in a short, slightly curved bristle. On the side of each segment are five minute, dusky, claw-like points, all projecting backwards, two between the dorsal lines, one just above the spiracle and two just below it; on the claspers, legs and last three segments are simple white spines. The spiracles are dull olive-brown. The head is large and globular, light ochreous in colour, beset with tiny white points; eye spots black. The young larva feed during daytime. The first moult, August 24th. Before the first moult, twelve days old, it measures 3.6 mm. long. The ground colour is then greenish-ochreous, but almost pure green over the greater part of the anterior half, due to the food showing through its semi-transparent body. The amber stripes of its earlier life are now. of a darker hue, being drab, bordered below by a whitish line along the edge of the side stripes." - Frohawk (1924)

Large Heath - larva (1st instar) - Thatcham - 05-Jul-14 [REARED]-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
05-Jul-2014

Large Heath - 1st instar larva - Thatcham - 11-Jul-16 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-Jul-2016

Large Heath - 1st instar larva - Thatcham - 11-Jul-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-Jul-2016

Photo Album (3 photos) ...


2nd Instar

"Before second moult it measures 6.3 mm. long, ground colour green with darker green medio-dorsal, sub-dorsal and spiracular longitudinal stripes; the first is bordered on each side by a fine whitish line; the sub-dorsal is bordered above by a broader and more conspicuous whitish stripe and bordered below by a darker line than the ground colour. The spiracular stripe is bordered below by a conspicuous and comparatively broad white stripe. The head is pale yellow-green, granulated, and beset with minute black points; eye spots black. The body is sprinkled with black claw-like points similar to the last stage." - Frohawk (1924)

Large Heath - larva (2nd instar) - Thatcham - 20-Jul-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2016

Photo Album (1 photos) ...


3rd Instar

"Several moulted the second time during the first week of September, and entered into hibernation during the latter half of the month, resting on the basal stems of grass. After second moult, after hibernation, about 190 days old, it is 7 mm. long, which is only a trifle longer than the previous stage, but a good deal stouter. Excepting the stripes, which are bolder, the colouring and pattern are the same as before moulting; the hook-like points are more developed. On March 6th the writer examined the plants upon which the larva hibernated and found eighteen had survived the winter; a few of these were moving slowly about. The following day, being warm and sunny, three had crawled up the fine festuca blades and were eating the extreme tips in the sunshine. They continued feeding through March, usually during the morning, when the sun had sufficiently warmed the temperature." - Frohawk (1924)

Large Heath - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 10-Jan-17 [REARED]-11

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jan-2017

Large Heath - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 10-Jan-17 [REARED]-18

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jan-2017

Photo Album (2 photos) ...


4th Instar

"Most of the larva moulted the third time during March. After the third moult, nine months old, it measures 12.7 mm. long. The whole colouring and markings are clearly defined; the head is clear green, granular, and sprinkled with minute white points; the body is likewise granular and studded with whitish warts, each bearing a thorn-like point. In movements they are most sluggish, gliding along with a very slow, slug-like motion. Upon the slightest disturbance they fall from the plant. On April 1st the first one fixed itself for the fourth and last moult." - Frohawk (1924)

Large Heath - L4 - Thatcham - 17-Mar-17 [REARED]-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Mar-2017

Photo Album (1 photos) ...


5th Instar

"After the fourth and last moult, fully grown, it measures 25.4 mm. long. It is rather slender and slightly attenuated anteriorly, and more so posteriorly. The head is globular, granulated, and covered with extremely minute hair-like points, which develop into whitish hairs in front. The segmental divisions of the body are ill-defined, and each has six sub-divisions, forming transverse wrinkles. The surface, like the head, is granular and sprinkled all over with minute whitish warts, each bearing a very minute claw-like point. The ground colour is grass-green, striped longitudinally with a very dark velvety green medio-dorsal band, palest at each end; this is bordered with a fine whitish line; a sub-dorsal white stripe tinged with lemon-yellow which terminates in the anal point; a sub-spiracular stripe rather whiter; all the stripes are equidistant. Between the sub-dorsal and sub-spiracular stripes is a dark green subcutaneous irregular line; the anal points are rose-pink and white. The head is green, mouth parts and eye spots brownish; legs and claspers also green. The first one spun up for pupation on May 10th, and pupated 6 a.m. May 13th, 1912. Another larva suspended for pupation on May 28th, and pupated 7 a.m. May 30th, 1911. This specimen was found by Mr. F. Littlewood at night, May 18th, by searching at Witherslack, who very kindly sent it direct to the writer." - Frohawk (1924)

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 16-Jun-13 (4) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jun-2013

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 12-May-16 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-May-2016

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 12-May-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-May-2016

Large Heath - larva - Thatcham - 27-May-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-May-2016

Large Heath - L5 - Thatcham - 12-May-17 [REARED]-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-May-2017

Photo Album (5 photos) ...


Pupa

The pupa hangs head down, attached by the cremaster to the foodplant or other vegetation. This stage lasts around 3 weeks.

"The pupa greatly resembles C. pamphilus, but has the abdomen less curved and is rather larger. It measures 11 mm. long, and is elegantly proportioned. Lateral view: Head angular, thorax slightly keeled and swollen dorsally; abdomen tapering and rather swollen towards the base and curving to the anal segment, which terminates in a knobbed cremaster amply provided with a dense cluster of amber-coloured hooks, similar in construction to C.pamphilus. Ventral surface: The wings swollen near apex, the outline then slightly concave to the head. Dorsal view: Head broad and truncated, angular at base of wings; abdomen swollen at middle, then tapering to anal extremity. The colour at first is a vivid translucent green over the head, thorax and wings; abdomen yellower green, which gradually becomes greener. After a day old to the end of the fourth clay it is of a most intense, brilliant, clear emerald-green, finely freckled with greenish-white, very faint at first, which becomes more distinct after the fourth day. A dull olive-green streak runs along the inner margin of the wing, which forms a slight ridge bordered along the inner edge with a whitish streak; these streaks are continued in front of the head, but broken through by the antennae and eye; two other streaks run parallel to the nervures, one median, the other near the apex. The tip of the tongue is dark green, gradually fading away about the middle, a dusky green medio-thoracic longitudinal streak, and a dull purplish lateral streak on the anal segment. The third, fourth and fifth abdominal segments have each a sub-dorsal yellowish-white wart. After the fourth day the green assumes a duller and rather deeper hue, and the white freckles show up in stronger contrast. Some specimens are very boldly marked with black. The colour then remains unchanged for a fortnight, after which time the wings assume a more ochreous tinge and become dull orange on the twenty-first day. The colouring of the imago then rapidly develops, changing to purplish-brown on the twenty-second day, while the head and abdomen remain dull green; and the imago emerged on the following day, the pupal state occupying twenty-three days. Another, which pupated May 25th, 1912, emerged on June 17th, 1912, this also being twenty-three days in the pupa." - Frohawk (1924)

Large Heath - pupa - Lincs - Jun-00 [REARED] [Graham Smith]

Photo © Graham Smith

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 16-Jun-13 (4) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jun-2013

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 19-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jun-2013

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 29-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Jun-2013

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 10-Jun-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2016

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 10-Jun-16-2 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jun-2016

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 13-Jun-16 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2016

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 13-Jun-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2016

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 21-Jun-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jun-2016

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 26-Jun-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
26-Jun-2016

Large Heath - pupa - Thatcham - 27-May-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
27-May-2016

Photo Album (11 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

Similar Species

Small Heath

Description to be completed.

Videos

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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Boisduval (1833) Boisduval, J.A. (1833) Icones historiques des Lépidoptères d'Europe nouveaux.
Brakefield (1992) Brakefield, P.M. and Shreeve, T.G. (1992) Case Studies in Evolution. The Ecology of Butterflies in Britain.
Donovan (1797) Donovan, E. (1797) The Natural History of British Insects (Vol.6).
Fabricius (1777) Fabricius, J.C. (1777) Genera Insectorum.
Ford (1945) Ford, E.B. (1945) Butterflies.
Frohawk (1924) Frohawk, F.W. (1924) The Natural History of British Butterflies.
Hübner (1819) Hübner, J. (1819) Verzeichniss bekannter Schmettlinge.
Haworth (1803) Haworth, A.H. (1803) Lepidoptera Britannica.
Lewin (1795) Lewin, W. (1795) The Papilios of Great Britain.
Müller (1764) Müller, O.F. (1764) Fauna insectorum Fridrichsdalina: sive Methodica descriptio insectorum agri fridrichsdalensis .
Morris (1853) Morris, Rev.F.O. (1853) A History of British Butterflies.
Nash (2012) Nash, D., Boyd, T. and Hardiman, D. (2012) Ireland's Butterflies: A Review.
Rafinesque (1815) Rafinesque, C.S. (1815) Analyse de la nature ou Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés.
Riley (2007) Riley, A.M. (2007) British and Irish Butterflies: The Complete Identification, Field and Site Guide to the Species, Subspecies and Forms.
Staudinger (1901) Staudinger, O. (1901) Catalog Der Lepidopteren Des Palaearctischen Faunengebietes.
Tutt (1896b) Tutt, J.W. (1896) The Classification of British Butterflies. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation.