Small and orange and brown, like a tiny fritillary. Undersides of hind wings have rows of white spots. Lives in small colonies on grassland or woodland clearings.

This small butterfly frequents scrubby grassland and sunny woodland clearings, typically in very low numbers. The adults rarely visit flowers and most sightings are of the territorial males as they perch on a prominent leaf at the edge of scrub. The females are elusive and spend much of their time resting or flying low to the ground looking for suitable egg-laying sites.

The Duke of Burgundy is found in England only with a stronghold in central-southern areas and more isolated colonies in the southern Lake District and the North York Moors.

It has declined substantially in recent decades, especially in woodlands where it is reduced to fewer than 20 sites.

Size and Family

  • Family: Riodinidae “metalmarks”
  • Size: Small
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 29-32mm

Conservation status

  • Section 41 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in England
  • UK BAP status: Priority Species                               
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: High                                    
  • European status: Threatened                            
  • Protected under Schedule 5 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act (for sale only)

    Caterpillar Foodplants

    The main food plants are Cowslip (Primula veris) and Primrose (P. vulgaris). It occasionally uses the so-called "False Oxlip", the hybrid of these two Primula species.



    The butterfly can be found on two main habitats; chalk and limestone grassland with plenty of shelter from scrub or slopes or clearings on ancient woodland sites.


    • Countries: England.
    • Much reduced over recent decades, with its remaining strongholds in central southern England. Many colonies, particularly the few remaining in North Yorkshire and around Morecambe Bay, are the subject of intense effort by conservationists to prevent this species from becoming extinct.
    • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s in Britain: -52%

    Duke of Burgundy by Andrew Cooper

    Duke of Burgundy (male/upperwing)

    Duke of Burgundy (male/underwing) - Adam Gor

    Duke of Burgundy (male/underwing)

    Duke of Burgundy (female/upperwing) - Mark Searle

    Duke of Burgundy (female/upperwing)

    Duke of Burgundy (female/underwing) - Bob Eade

    Duke of Burgundy (female/underwing)

    Duke of Burgundy (male & female) - Bob Eade

    Duke of Burgundy (male & female)

    Duke of Burgundy (egg) by Jim Asher

    Duke of Burgundy egg

    Eggs are laid in small batches underneath the leaves of Primrose (Primula vulgaris) and Cowslip (P. veris) plants. They take seven to 21 days to hatch depending on weather conditions.

    Duke of Burgundy (caterpillar) by Peter Eeles

    Duke of Burgundy caterpillar

    Duke caterpillars stay hidden during the day, emerging to feed on leaves at dusk. Even after six weeks of feeding they remain smaller than 2cm long. Conditions during this stage are critical to their survival, with summer droughts posing a huge threat.

    Duke of Burgundy (pupa) by Peter Eeles

    Duke of Burgundy chrysalis

    Caterpillars will leave the foodplant to pupate in grass tussocks. This species remains as a chrysalis until the following spring.