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Wicklow Mountains National Park

Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies and moths are common in the Park. Most require special habitats and food-plants. Most moths are dull coloured and fly by night. Most butterflies are brightly coloured and fly by day. Of Ireland's 36 species of butterfly, 26 have been recorded in the Park. This includes the rare Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia quercus) that is found in the canopy layer of oakwoods, and is very difficult to see. Below are profiles of some of the other butterflies and moths you may see in the Park followed by a list of the 26 species recorded to date.

EMPEROR MOTH (Saturnia pavonia)

This is very much a species of heathland and bogs. The large green caterpillar can be found feeding on heather in spring. It then spins a very noticeable cocoon, before the moth takes to the wing in May and June. Often empty cocoons may be found attached to the heather.

ORANGE TIP (Anthocharis cardamines)

This is one of our earlier butterflies and may be seen on the wing from April to June. The male is easily recognised with his orange wing tips. The female, being white, is trickier to identify, but the mottled hind wings are diagnostic. The caterpillar feeds on Lady's Smock and other crucifers. The species over-winters as a pupa.


This spectacular large butterfly is frequently seen in Glendalough in July and August. It is primarily a species of woodland clearings. On the higher heathlands you are more likely to see the Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis paphia). Fritillary caterpillars feed on violets and over-winter as a small caterpillar.

There are many other species of butterfly and moth to be seen in the National Park. The Information Office at the Upper Lake in Glendalough sells an excellent poster with pictures of all our Irish butterflies and good details of their lifecycles.

Names of butterflies

Small Tortoiseshell Ruán BeagAnglais urticae
Orange Tip Barr BuíAnthocharis cardamines
Ringlet FáinneogAphantopus hyperantus
Silver-washed Fritillary Fritileán GealArgynnis aglaja
Dark Green Fritillary Fritileán DúghlasArgynnis paphia
Green Hairstreak Stiallach UaineCallophrys rubi
Holly Blue Gormán CuilinnCelastrina argiolus
Small Heath Fraochán BeagCoenonympha pamphilus
Clouded Yellow Buíóg ChróchColias croceus
Small Blue Gormán BeagCupido minimus
Painted Lady ÁilleánCynthia cardui
Dingy Skipper DonnánErynnis tages
Grayling Donnóg AilleHipparchia semele
Peacock PéacógInachis io
Wall Brown Donnóg BhallaLasiommata megera
Wood White Bánóg ChoilleLeptodea sinapsis
Small Copper Copróg BheagLycaena phlaeas
Meadow Brown Donnóg FhéirManiola jurtina
Speckled Wood BreacfhéileacánPararge aegeria
Large White Bánóg MhórPieris brassicae
Green-veined WhiteBánóg UainePieris napi
Small WhiteBánóg BheagPieris rapae
Common Blue Gormán CoiteannPolyommatus icarus
Gate KeeperGeatóirPyronia tithonus
Purple HairstreakStiallach Corcra Quercusia quercus
Red AdmiralAimiréal Dearg Vanessa atalanta

Silverwashed Fritillary

Butterfly Guide

A field guide to the butterflies of Ireland is available at the Upper Lake Information Office for €3.25