Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Gatekeeper:
Pyronia tithonus (Linnaeus, 1771)

Gatekeeper egg.
  Gatekeeper caterpillar.
  Gatekeeper chrysalis
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Nymphalidae: Subfamily Satyrinae : Genus Pyronia: Species tithonus:
The Gatekeeper or Hedge Brown as many people prefer to call it is most often found as these names suggest in gateways and hedgerows. It is often seen in association with Meadow Brown and Ringlet. Of these three butterflies, the Gatekeeper is probably the most attractive with its bright orange/brown wings fringed with a wide earthy/grey brown and distinctive black and white eyespot.

The colour and patterning of the wings can be very variable and there are several named aberrations. They are particularly fond of feeding on Bramble and Ragwort.
The Gatekeeper occurs anywhere where tall grasses grow close to hedges trees or scrub, especially along hedgerows and woodland rides where there is a plentiful nectar source. It tends to avoid open grassland with short vegetation and areas where Bramble does not occur.
It is widespread in southern Britain and its range has extended northwards in recent years. Its range is far more localized in southern Ireland.
Where to see the Gatekeeper in the British Isles
It is widespread in southern Britain and its range has extended northwards in recent years. Its range is far more localized in southern Ireland.
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Gatekeeper in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Least Concern Least Concern

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
Various grasses are used with a preference for fine grasses such as bents (Agrostis spp.) fescues (Festuca spp.), and meadow-grasses (Poa spp.). Common Couch (Elytrigia repens) is also used. The full range of other species used is not known.
British subspecies
Pyronia tithonus ssp. britanniae 

Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
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Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 down by -5%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 down by -12%

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status not listed (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Gatekeeper except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Gatekeeper on the NBN Gateway web site.
Powered by NBN Gateway.
For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Gatekeeper can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Gatekeeper can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Gatekeeper
Image ID BB2302 - Gatekeeper - © Debbie Cheshire
Gatekeeper male (imago)
BB2302 ©
Image ID BB2227 - Gatekeeper - © Steven Cheshire
Gatekeeper male (imago)
BB2227 ©
Image ID BB2226 - Gatekeeper - © Steven Cheshire
Gatekeeper male (imago)
BB2226 ©
Image ID BB2225 - Gatekeeper - © Steven Cheshire
Gatekeeper male (imago)
BB2225 ©
Image ID BB1774 - Gatekeeper - © Steven Cheshire
Gatekeeper male (imago)
BB1774 ©
Image ID BB1773 - Gatekeeper - © Steven Cheshire
Gatekeeper male (imago)
BB1773 ©
Image ID BB1761 - Gatekeeper - © Steven Cheshire
Gatekeeper (imago)
BB1761 ©
Image ID BB1760 - Gatekeeper - © Steven Cheshire
Gatekeeper (imago)
BB1760 ©
Image ID BB796 - Gatekeeper - © Steven Cheshire
Gatekeeper female (imago)
BB796 ©
Image ID BB795 - Gatekeeper - © Steven Cheshire
Gatekeeper male (imago)
BB795 ©
There are 23 photographs of the Gatekeeper in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Gatekeeper as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 14 named aberrant forms of the Gatekeeper currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. addenda - Leeds 1950
ab. albinotica - Goodson 1960
ab. antipallidula - Leeds 1950
ab. depupillata - Goodson 1960
ab. excessa - Tutt 1896
ab. mincki - Seebold 1892
ab. multiocellata - Oberthür 1909
ab. obscurior - Schultz 1928
ab. pallidemarginata - Oberthür 1909
ab. postlanceolata - Leeds 1950
ab. postquadriexcessa - Leeds 1950
ab. semi-obscura - Hosp 1916
ab. subalbida - Verity 1904
ab. unipuncta - Tutt 1910