Gatekeeper Butterfly

The Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) is a common Butterfly in the United Kingdom. It is sometimes called the Hedge Brown. The Gatekeeper is a member of the subfamily Satyridae in the family Nymphalidae. A similar species is the Meadow Brown.

The name Gatekeeper may refer to its frequent occurrence near field gates and to the man who was responsible for the toll gates in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when butterflies were more numerous than they are today.

The larvae of Satyridae feed on grasses and are usually green or brown in color. The pupae either hang upside down or lie in a flimsy cocoon on grass. The adults are often found around blackberry plants. The characteristic eyespots (ocelli) on the forewing are supposed to lure attacking birds away from the head. The males often have a dark patch of scent scales in the middle of the forewing for courtship purposes. This dark patch is clearly visible in the male Gatekeeper.

Two similar species of Pyronia are found in southern Europe, the southern and the Spanish Gatekeeper, P. cecilia and P. bathsheba.