Working out what species a particular butterfly is can be very difficult. This process is hampered by some species being very similar to each other. These pages are an attempt to aid the process to enable identification by first family, then genus and finally species. It is by no means reliable or complete, but it is a start! A complete list of species photographed in these pages is available here.


Emperors, admirals, tortoiseshells (24 species)

Generally of relatively large size, includes some common species likely to be seen in urban areas.

Red admiral Small tortoiseshell Peacock Comma
Fritillaries (47 species)

Generally medium to large, coloured orange with black bars and patterns of spots.

Dark green fritillary Marsh fritillary


Whites (50 species)

Medium sized, mainly white or yellow in colour.

Clouded yellow Orange tip Green-veined white



Hairstreaks (14 species)

Small fast flying, often with characteristic 'hairstreak' and 'tails'

Green hairstreak Purple hairstreak False ilex hairstreak
Coppers (12 species)

Small to medium size, fast flying, bright, copper colour often with purple.

Small copper      
Blues (89 species)

Small size, blue to black or brown colouration. Orange underside markings common.

Mazarine blue Chalk-hill blue Brown argus Common blue




All sizes in a large variety of patterns and colours. Predominantly orange to brown to black, often with eye spots.

Marbled white Southern gatekeeper Meadow brown Wall brown
Cyprus grayling Marbled ringlet    



Swallowtails, Apollos and festoons

Large size with bright colours, often with tails

Swallowtail Apollo




Small with fast 'buzzing' flight

Grizzled skipper Essex skipper




All pictures in these pages copyright to Simon Coombes. Permission must be sought and obtained for any use.