Meadow Brown Butterfly - Western Isles - Hebrides Insects

Meadow Brown Butterfly -Outer Hebrides

Meadow Brown Butterfly - Western Isles
Maniola jurtina

One of Scotlands most familiar butterflies. Meadow browns are common almost everywhere in Scotland and throughout the UK. They can be seen in fields, roadsides and woodland margins. These lovely butterflies are plentiful in The Western Isles.

Absent in The Shetlands
These lovely butterflies are however absent in The Shetlands.

Bright Orange - Brown Patches
Meadow brown butterflies are a dull brown colour with bright orange-brown patches on their fore- and hind wings and a distinctive dark eyespot on their forewings.

The Meadow Brown butterfly has light brown bands across the underside of the hind wing. The underside of the forewing is light brown (at the edge) and tan/orange with a single white spot in a black eyespot. The upperside of the male is dark brown.

Females are orange and brown on the upperside. Males are less colourful, with smaller eyespots and much reduced orange areas on the upper forewings. A variable number of smaller eyespots are usually found on the hind wing undersides. These may number up to 12 per individual butterfly, with up to 6 on each wing.

Similar Species

It is most likely to be confused with the Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus. However, the Meadow Brown never has an orange-brown patch or eyespot on its hind wing and typically has a single, not double, white pupil in the eyespot on its forewing.

Medium Sized with a 50 mm wingspan

The male meadow brown butterflies are much more active and range far about, while females fly less and often may not away from the area where they grew up. This species, the meadow brown butterflies will rest with its wings closed but will open and close them rapidly, flashing their bright colours to confuse and alarm predators.

Meadow browns are common almost everywhere in the UK and are found in fields, roadsides and woodland margins from sea level to 1,800m. It favours lush, grassy and sheltered spots, including verges and hedgerows, cliffs and woodland glades. It rarely ventures into cultivated gardens, preferring to remain close to its breeding sites.


The caterpillars are yellowish-green with a darker line down the back and a narrow white stripe along each side.

A wide range of grasses is used. Those with finer leaves such as fescues, bents, and meadow-grasses are preferred, but some coarser species such as Cock's-foot, Downy Oat-grass, and False Brome are also eaten by larger larvae. Other species of grass are also believed to be used The caterpillars are yellowish-green with a darker line down the back and a narrow white stripe along each side.

Meadow brown butterflies mate during July and lay their eggs on grasses. This butterfly can be found in meadows, where its larvae feed on grasses, such as Sheep's Fescue. Eggs are laid over a prolonged period between July and September on a variety of grasses. The young caterpillars emerges shortly afterwards, over winters in grass tussocks before completing its development and pupating in late May or June. Adults emerge in late June or July.

Butterfly Overview - Meadow Brown Butterfly
Latin name
Maniola jurtina

The Meadow Brown Butterfly has regional variations with various distinctively different spots on the wings. In Ireland and northern Scotland the Meadow Brown is larger in size to its southern counterparts

The Meadow Brown is mainly brown with orange patches on the forewings. The combination of its relatively large size, orange patches on the forewings only, one eyespot on the forewing and none at all on the hindwings, is unique to the Meadow Brown. The Meadow Brown also has only one small white 'pupil' in the eyespots ( A similar butterfly the "Gatekeeper has two pupils in the eyespots).

The male Meadow Brown butterfly is mainly brown with a hint of orange and two small black eyespots.

The female Meadow Brown is lighter, brighter than the male, and has more orange on the wings and larger eyespots with larger white "pupil". It can be similar to a Gatekeeper ( as mentioned earlier) but, unlike the Gatekeeper, the Meadow Brown almost always has only one white "pupil" in the eyespot. From the side, if it has spots on the lower wing, they are always black (and the Gatekeeper always white spots). However, rarely, some Meadow Browns have two white "pupils" in their eyespot (but any other small spots are black).

Size Medium size - Male Wingspan is 40 - 55mm - Female Wingspan is 42 - 60mm

The Meadow Brown Butterfly likes grasslands, including; downland, heathland, coastal dunes, under cliffs, hay meadows, roadside verges, hedgerows, waste ground and and woodland rides and clearings. Also occurs in gardens, parks and cemeteries.

The primary larval food plants of the Meadow Brown butterfly are fine grasses

March to late October. Normally, , its main flight period is from mid-June to late August, by which time the surviving insects can look extremely tatty. The date of peak numbers varies from year-to-year depending on weather conditions, but generally occurs in the second half of July.
The eggs of the Meadow Brown are difficult to find, but are laid singly on a range of fine-leaved grasses, or sometimes even casually dropped on them. During the late summer the emerging caterpillars feed amongst grasses before hibernating and continuing their development the following spring. In total the caterpillars live for about 10 months before entering the chrysalis stage for a further few weeks.

Misc. Info
In Scotland currently there is no indication that the status of the Meadow Brown is under any threat providing that a few areas of semi-natural grassland remain available for its survival - perhaps this is why we see quite a lot of these lovely butterflies in THe Western Isles.
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