Brimstone Butterfly

Brimstone ©Jim Higham


Scientific name: Gonepteryx rhamni
One of the joys of a spring day is watching a fluttering, lemon-yellow Brimstone alight on a flower - an early sign that the seasons are changing. It is commonly spotted in gardens, woodland and parks.

Species information


Wingspan: 6.0-7.4cm

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The Brimstone is a fairly large, pale yellow butterfly, with distinctive, leaf-shaped wings. Adults hibernate through cold weather, so may be seen flying on warm days throughout the year, although they are most common in the spring. Usually seen in ones or twos, they are never very common, but are widespread. They can be found in damp woodlands, along sunny, woodland rides and mature hedgerows, and in large gardens. The foodplants of the larvae are Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn. Both shrubs are found in wet woodland, while Buckthorn also occurs on dry chalk and limestone soils.

How to identify

The Brimstone is a large butterfly with a greyish body and characteristically veiny and pointed wings. Males are lemon-yellow, while females are greenish-white with orange spots in the middle of each wing. Brimstones rest with their wings closed.


Found across most of England, Wales and Ireland.

Did you know?

It is thought that the bright yellow colour of the male Brimstone's wings inspired the name 'butter-fly'.

How people can help

To attract butterflies, such as the Brimstone, into your garden, plant nectar-rich borders for them to feed along and climbing Ivy and shrubs for overwintering insects. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started. To buy bird and animal food, feeders and homes, visit the Vine House Farm website - an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm which gives 5% of all its takings to The Wildlife Trusts.