Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Large Heath:
Large Heath
Coenonympha tullia (Müller, 1764)

Large Heath egg.
ova
  Large Heath caterpillar.
larva
  Large Heath chrysalis
pupa
Large Heath
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Nomenclature
Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Nymphalidae: Subfamily Satyrinae : Genus Coenonympha: Species tullia:
Description
The adult Large Heath butterfly always sits with its wings closed. They will fly in dull weather so long as the temperature is higher than 14ºC and its not too windy. The size of the under wing spots of the Large Heath vary depending on its location in the UK. The heavily spotted form sub-species davus is found in lowland England and Cumbria while a virtually spotless race scotica occurs in northern Scotland. An intermediate race polydama occurs elsewhere.

The Large Heath is a Priority Species for conservation due to the continued loss of habitat and resulting drop in population.
Habitat
The Large Heath breeds in open wet areas where the larval food plant and abundant Cross-leaved Heath the main adult nectar source can be found. Lowland raised bogs, upland blanket bogs and damp acidic moorland are preferred.

In Ireland, the Large Heath occurs where manual peat extraction has lowered the surface of the bog, creating damp areas with local concentrations of larval and adult food plant.
Distribution
The Large Heath is only to be found on sites consisting of wet boggy habitats in northern Britain and Ireland with a few isolated sites in Wales and central northern England. It has declined seriously in many European countries. In the UK its continued decline is due to habitat loss through land drainage or peat cutting for use as garden compost.

In Scotland, the Large Heath is still widespread and locally common in the north and west. Colonies tend to be lost due to the loss of lowland raised bogs through drainage, peat extraction and forestry.
Where to see the Large Heath in the British Isles
The Large Heath is only to be found on sites consisting of wet boggy habitats in northern Britain and Ireland with a few isolated sites in Wales and central northern England. It has declined seriously in many European countries. In the UK its continued decline is due to habitat loss through land drainage or peat cutting for use as garden compost.

Key sites for the Large Heath include:
Shropshire: Whixall Moss.
Cumbria: Meathop Moss.
Ayrshire: Corsehouse Reservoir.

In Scotland, the Large Heath is still widespread and locally common in the north and west. Colonies tend to be lost due to the loss of lowland raised bogs through drainage, peat extraction and forestry.
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
larvaelarvaelarvaelarvaelarvaepupapupaadultadultovaadultovalarvaelarvaelarvaelarvae
 
Flight chart
JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Large Heath 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
Vulnerable Vulnerable

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

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

4More information about IUCN categories.
Wingspan
35-40mm
UK status
Resident
Larval foodplants
The main foodplant of the Large Heath is is Hare's-tail Cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum). Larvae may also feed on Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium) and Jointed Rush (Juncus articulatus).
British subspecies
Coenonympha tullia ssp. davus (Fabricius, 1777)
Occurs in north-west England only.
Coenonympha tullia ssp. polydama (Haworth, 1803)
Occurs in northern England, Wales and Ireland.
Coenonympha tullia ssp. scotia (Staudinger, 1901)
Occurs in northern Scotland only.
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
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 up by 58%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 down by -26%

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 candidate priority species (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site jncc.defra.gov.uk.

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map



Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Large Heath 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 Large Heath on the NBN Gateway web site.
Powered by NBN Gateway.
References
For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

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

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Photographs of the Large Heath
Image ID BB25 - Large Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Large Heath unknown (imago)
BB25 ©
Image ID BB24 - Large Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Large Heath unknown (imago)
BB24 ©
Image ID BB23 - Large Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Large Heath unknown (imago)
BB23 ©
Image ID BB22 - Large Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Large Heath unknown (imago)
BB22 ©
Image ID BB21 - Large Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Large Heath unknown (imago)
BB21 ©
There are 5 photographs of the Large Heath in our stock photo library.
Aberrations and forms
There are 6 named aberrant forms of the Large Heath currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. addenda - Lempke 1936
ab. cockaynei - Hopkins 1955
ab. exterfusca - Verity 1953
ab. lanceolata - Arkle 1913
ab. macrocellata - Lempke 1957
ab. parviocellata - Pionneau 1937