The Brimstone has spread in recent years, mainly in northern England. When this butterfly roosts among foliage, the angular shape and the strong veining of their wings closely resembles leaves.

There is a view that the word 'butterfly' originates from the yellow colour of male Brimstones. The wings of the female are very pale green, almost white, males have yellow-green underwings and yellow upperwings.

Size and Family

  • Family: Whites and Yellows 
  • Size: Large
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 60mm

Conservation Status

  • Butterfly Conservation Priority: Low           
  • Europan Status: Not threatened                  
  • Fully protected under the Northern Ireland 1985 Wildlife Order

Caterpillar Foodplants

The larvae feed on leaves of Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), which occurs mainly on calcareous soils, and Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus), which is found on moist acid soils and wetlands.



Occurs in scrubby grassland and woodland. The butterfly ranges widely and can often be seen flying along roadside verges and hedgerows.


  • Countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland
  • Common in England and Wales, less common in Ireland and very rare in Scotland
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = +20%.

Brimstone (male/underwing) - Tamás Nestor

Brimstone (male/underwing)

Brimstone (female/underwing) - Allan Drewitt

Brimstone (female/underwing)

Brimstone (male/underwing) - Adam Gor

Brimstone (male/underwing)

Brimstone (underwing) - Iain Leach

Brimstone (underwing)

Brimstone (male/underwing) - Bob Eade

Brimstone (male/underwing)

Brimstone (mating pair) - Rob Blanken

Brimstone (mating pair)

Brimstone (female/egglaying) - Matt Berry

Brimstone (female/egglaying)

Brimstone (egg) - Dean Morley

Brimstone (egg)

Brimstone (egg) - Gilles San Martin

Brimstone (egg)

Brimstone (young caterpillar) - Dean Morley

Brimstone (young caterpillar)

Brimstone (caterpillar) - Gilles San Martin

Brimstone (fully grown caterpillar)

Brimstone (pupa) by Peter Eeles

Brimstone (pupa)