Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Small Heath:
Small Heath
Coenonympha pamphilus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Small Heath egg.
ova
  Small Heath caterpillar.
larva
  Small Heath chrysalis
pupa
Small Heath
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Nomenclature
Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Nymphalidae: Subfamily Satyrinae : Genus Coenonympha: Species pamphilus:
Description
The Small Heath rarely settles more than a meter above ground. They are most often seen flying low to the ground among grass in sunshine. It always settles with Its wings closed as shown in the photo right. Adult butterflies may be seen continuously from late April to September on some sites in southern England but numbers peak throughout the UK in July and August.

The Small Heath is a Priority Species for conservation due to the continued loss of habitat and resulting drop in population.
Habitat
This species occurs on grassland where there are fine grasses especially in dry well-drained situations where the sward is short and sparse. The largest colonies occur on downland, heathland, and coastal dunes. Smaller populations occur in many other locations including roadside verges, waste ground, woodland rides and glades, moorland, and parkland.
Distribution
This Small Heath is a fairly widespread butterfly which occurs in a wide range of habitat types. Its range has changed little but many colonies have disappeared in recent decades due to loss of habitat through road building large scale housing and industrial developments.
Where to see the Small Heath in the British Isles
This Small Heath is a fairly widespread butterfly which occurs in a wide range of habitat types. Its range has changed little but many colonies have disappeared in recent decades due to loss of habitat through road building large scale housing and industrial developments.
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
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Flight chart
JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Small 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
--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.
Near Threatened Near Threatened

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

4More information about IUCN categories.
Wingspan
33-37mm
UK status
Resident
Larval foodplants
The larvae of the Small Heath feed on a wide variety of fine grasses especially fescues (Festuca spp.) meadow-grasses (Poa spp.), and bents (Agrostis spp.).
British subspecies
Coenonympha pamphilus ssp. pamphilus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Occurs in England, Ireland, Scotland (except the Isle of Rum) and Wales.
Coenonympha pamphilus ssp. rhoumensis (Harrison, 1948)
Confined to the Isle of Rum, Scotland.
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 down by -29%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 down by -52%

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 Small 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 Small 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*
Small Heath can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Small Heath can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Small Heath
Image ID BB2013 - Small Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB2013 ©
Image ID BB1925 - Small Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB1925 ©
Image ID BB1620 - Small Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB1620 ©
Image ID BB1619 - Small Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB1619 ©
Image ID BB1588 - Small Heath - © Debbie Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB1588 ©
Image ID BB1575 - Small Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB1575 ©
Image ID BB1574 - Small Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB1574 ©
Image ID BB1573 - Small Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB1573 ©
Image ID BB1572 - Small Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB1572 ©
Image ID BB1402 - Small Heath - © Steven Cheshire
Small Heath (imago)
BB1402 ©
There are 15 photographs of the Small Heath in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Small Heath as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 14 named aberrant forms of the Small Heath currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. alba - Prüffer 1920
ab. albata - Goodson 1955
ab. albescens - Robson & Gardner 1886
ab. anticastanea - Leeds 1950
ab. anticrassipuncta - Leeds 1950
ab. antilacticolor - Leeds 1950
ab. antirufa - Leeds 1950
ab. brunnescens - Leeds 1950
ab. detersa - Verity 1913
ab. major - Agassiz 1900
ab. nolkeniana - Strand 1917
ab. obsoletissima - Leeds 1950
ab. ocellata - Tutt 1896
ab. transiens - Caruel 1944