Butterflies are the most obvious and popular of our insects. As with many birds, numerous species suffered huge population declines during the twentieth century as a result of changes in agriculture, particularly loss of grasslands, and the demise of traditional woodland management.

However, we are relatively fortunate – 34 butterflies are seen regularly in Lancashire and North Merseyside. Two areas are especially important: the dune coasts of Merseyside and the Fylde, and the wooded grasslands on the Morecambe Bay limestone around Silverdale. The latter site is amongst the most significant areas for butterflies in the country. Key species may be found throughout these areas but two sites are particularly important: the National and Local Nature Reserves at Ainsdale on the Sefton Coast, and Gait Barrows NNR in the north.

In 1995, The Museum of Lancashire (Fleetwood Museum) and Butterfly Conservation came together to promote the national ‘Butterflies for the New Millennium’ project. Since then over 74,600 records have been collected from a wide range of sources. Historical records are being researched with a view to a Lancashire publication incorporating all available knowledge of butterflies within the county.

In 2019, the Society published a book on the “Butterflies and Day-flying Moths of Lancashire”. This is available from the secretary for £12 incl Postage.

Butterflies and Day-flying Moths of Lancashire
Butterflies and Day-flying Moths of Lancashire

List of Butterflies found in Lancashire and North Merseyside as of 2018

SpeciesPopulation Status in LancashireDistribution
Dingy SkipperStableSilverdale area only
Grizzled SkipperSporadic records (introductions)
Small SkipperIncreaseWidespread
Large SkipperStableWidespread
Wood WhiteSporadic records (introductions)
Orange-tipDeclineWidespread
Large WhiteProbable declineWidespread
Small WhiteProbable declineWidespread
Green-veined WhiteStableWidespread
Clouded YellowMainly coastal migrant
Pale Clouded YellowVagrant
BrimstoneIncreaseWidespread
MonarchVagrant
WallSteep declineWidespread
Speckled WoodIncreaseWidespread
Large HeathUncertainNorth Bowland and Norn-west lowland mosses
Small HeathProbable declineUplands and coastal areas
Scotch ArgusSporadic records in north
RingletIncreaseWidespread
Meadow BrownStableWidespread
GatekeeperIncreaseWidespread away from uplands
GraylingDeclineCoastal
Pearl-bordered FritillarySteep declineSilverdale area
Small Pearl-bordered FritillaryDeclineSilverdale and north
Silver-washed FritillarySporadic records mainly from Silverdale area
Dark Green FritillaryIncreaseCoastal and high moorland
High Brown FritillarySteep declineSilverdale area
Red AdmiralIncreaseWidespread
Painted LadyVariableWidespread
PeacockIncreaseWidespread
Small TortoiseshellUncertainWidespread
Camberwell BeautyVagrant
CommaIncreaseWidespread
Duke of BurgundySteep declineSilverdale area
Small CopperDeclineWidespread
Brown HairstreakRecent introductionSilverdale area
Purple HairstreakIncreaseThinly scattered
Green HairstreakDeclineUplands & Silverdale
White-letter HairstreakIncreaseMainly south of Ribble, thinly scattered
Long-tailed BlueVagrant
Holly BlueStableWidespread way from Upland areas
Brown ArgusVagrant
Northern Brown ArgusSteep declineSilverdale area
Common BlueStableWidespread but absent from high fells