Widespread and common throughout Britain and Ireland. The Gatekeeper is generally smaller and more orange with a row of tiny white dots on the hind underwings. 

The Meadow Brown is the most abundant butterfly species in many habitats. Hundreds may be seen together at some sites, flying low over the vegetation. Adults fly even in dull weather when most other butterflies are inactive.

Regional variations in the spotting pattern on the wings have led to it being studied extensively by geneticists over many years. Larger forms occur in Ireland and the north of Scotland.

It is one of our most widespread species, but many colonies have been lost due to agricultural intensification.

Size and Family

  • Family: Browns
  • Size: Medium
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 50-55mm

Conservation Status 

  • Butterfly Conservation priority: Low                          
  • European status: Not threatened

Caterpillar Foodplants

A wide range of grasses are used. Those with finer leaves such as fescues (Festuca spp.), bents (Agrostis spp.) and meadow- grasses (Poa spp.) are preferred, but some coarser species such as Cock's- foot (Dactylis glomerata), Downy Oat-grass (Helictotrichon pubescens), and False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) are also eaten by larger larvae. Other species of grass are also believed to be used.



Grasslands, including; downland, heathland, coastal dunes, undercliffs, hay meadows, roadside verges, hedgerows, waste ground and woodland rides and clearings. Also occurs in gardens, parks and cemeteries.


  • Countries: England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland
  • Throughout Britain and Ireland
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = -3%

Meadow Brown - Andrew Cooper

Meadow Brown (female/upperwing)

Meadow Brown (female/upperwing) - Pete Withers

Meadow Brown (female/upperwing)

Meadow Brown (male/upperwing) - Tim Melling

Meadow Brown (male/upperwing)

Meadow Brown (male/upperwing) - John Money

Meadow Brown (male/upperwing)

Meadow Brown (underwing) - Andrew Cooper

Meadow Brown (underwing)

Meadow Brown (underwing) - Rob Blanken

Meadow Brown (underwing)

Meadow Brown (underwing) - Vlad Proklov

Meadow Brown (underwing)

Meadow Brown (underwing) - Tamás Nestor

Meadow Brown (underwing)

Meadow Brown (young caterpillar) - Gilles San Martin

Meadow Brown (young caterpillar)

Meadow Brown (caterpillar) - Andrew Cooper

Meadow Brown (caterpillar)

Meadow Brown (caterpillar) by Peter Eeles

Meadow Brown (caterpillar)

Meadow Brown (pupa) - Bob Eade

Meadow Brown (pupa)