Species of the month

Species of the Month: Brimstone butterfly

Brimstone © Austin Morley

Help us with our wildlife surveys

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 

Identification

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

Diet

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. 

 

Behaviour

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

Your details will only be used by Dorset Wildlife Trust and we will never give your information to other organisations to use for their own purposes. You can change your communications preference at any time by contacting us on 01202 692033. When you have completed the form, please click the Send button.

Please tick to confirm you are happy for us to keep details of your sighting on our database. In filling in this form and providing us with your email address you are consenting to us contacting you about your sighting.
Where appropriate we would like to pass on the details of your sighting to the Dorset Environmental Records Centre in order for it to be of use in local and national conservation projects. Please tick if you are happy for us to do this.
We will never give your information to any other organisation to use for their own purposes.
Please click here to see our privacy policy and cookies.
Please click here if you would like to change your contact preferences.
Thanks!

Support Dorset's wildlife through our shop

Shop for wildlife

Blue tit © Stewart Canham