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Small Heath

Coenonympha pamphilus

  • Family: Brushfooted Butterflies – Nymphalidae
  • Subfamily: Browns – Satyrinae
  • Wing span: Small, 22–32 mm (0.86–1.25 in.). Females larger than males.
  • Wing upper side: Yellowish beige, forewing tip with small eyespot (often only unclear dark blotch), edges dark with unclear border.
  • Wing underside: Forewing yellowish beige to reddish brown, margin grey, at apex with black eyespot, with white centre surrounded by a yellow ring. Hind wing brownish grey, basal half of margin darker. Intermittent light-coloured lateral stripe between wing base and margin. Edge of hind wing with row of often unclear, light-centred, brown-edged eyespots.
  • Habitat: Dry meadows and grazing land.
  • Flying time: Mid-June–mid-July. Second generation possible (mid-August–mid-September) but rare and very few and far between.
  • Overwintering form: Caterpillar.
  • Larval foodplant: Different grasses (Poaceae), e.g. tufted hair-grass (Deschampsia caespitosa) and sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum).
  • Endangerment: Near threatened.

The small heath always rests with its wings pressed together, which makes the upper side difficult to study without catching it. The species is highly reminiscent of other small graylings and the chestnut heath and the large heath. The chestnut heath’s hind wings have a brownish red margin, a shiny silvery stripe and a row of eyespots that are not present on small heath.

The small heath can be found in almost all of Finland but it is not very common. Males defend their territory as they wait for females in bushes and trees. The females lay their eggs individually among straw, close to the foodplant. It overwinters as a semi-grown caterpillar.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same subfamily

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