Species of the month

Species of the Month: Brimstone butterfly

Brimstone © Austin Morley

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Our Species of the Month species surveys are an important way you can help us.  Records are sent to DERC (Dorset Environmental Records Centre) who collate this information to build up a picture of the of the state of Dorset's wildlife. So please help us help wildlife by filling in the form below. Thank you!

April Species of the Month: Brimstone butterfly

Scientific Name: Gonepteryx rhamni 


The brimstone is a fairly large, pale yellow butterfly, with distinctive, leaf-shaped wings. The males have a slightly brighter yellow tone, whereas the females are paler green toned. Both have a small orange-brown spot on each wing. 

The larvae are also green and well camouflaged to leaves.  

Brimstone © Austin Morley

Brimstone © Austin Morley


Using their especially long proboscis, brimstones consume nectar from flowers that are beyond the reach of many other butterflies, generally having a preference for purple flowers. 

The foodplants of the larvae are Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn. 



Unlike many butterflies, brimstone can hibernate through cold weather in adult form. They may be seen flying on warm days throughout the year, although they are most common in the spring. 

Did you know?

Some believe that the origin of the word 'butterfly' comes from the yellow colour of male Brimstones. 

When picked up, the brimstone becomes stiff and hides its legs from view in order to increase its leaf-like appearance and decrease its chances of being recognised. 

Where can they be found?

Found across most of England, Wales and Ireland. They can be found in damp woodlands, along sunny, woodland rides and mature hedgerows, and in large gardens. 

You may see a brimstone at one of our reserves, including: 

Ashley Wood Nature Reserve 

Upton Heath Nature Reserve 

Sopley Common Nature Reserve 

Wildlife gardening tips

To attract brimstones to your garden, plant buckthorn for the larvae to eat. 

It is a good idea to plant ivy and allow it to climb around trees or structures to provide them with safe areas to hibernate. 

Plant nectar-rich borders for them to feed along. 


Species of the Month sightings form

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Blue tit © Stewart Canham