Gonepteryx rhamni | Brimstone | Buíóg ruibheach

Pre 2017

2017 - 2021


Conservation status

Ireland: Least Concern (Regan et al., 2010)
Europe: Least Concern (van Swaay et al., 2010)
Climate risk category: Potential Climate Change Risk; present distribution in Europe can be explained by climate to only a limited extent (Settele et al., 2008)

Legal status

The Brimstone is not afforded legal protection in Ireland.

Native status


Species Biology


Key identification features include:

  • Large size, wingspan: 60-74 mm
  • Uniform yellow to yellow-green colour
  • Small brown 'rust' spots on the underwings
  • Angled tips to fore- and hindwing


Generalist on rich-soil scrub, floodplain alluvial forest, water-logged wooded areas and hedges. Adults of both sexes fly actively in scrub and on margins of woodland, landing and feeding on flowers, commonly purple flowers. Adults sometimes move to woodland to hibernate, and hibernating adults often choose the dense growth of ivy as an overwintering sites (Bond & Gittings, 2008). 

Flight period

Univoltine: post-hibernation adults can be seen flying from March to June, with their offspring being on wing from July to November.

Life stages

Life cycle

Eggs are laid directly on the underside of a leaf of the foodplant, but sometimes also on opening buds, or on adjacent wood before the leaves are open. Eggs can be laid at any height up to at least 4m. From late May to early July, the cryptic larva feeds on the foodplant foliage, initially leaving characteristic perforations, but later on entire leaves. Pupation occurs in July, the pupa being attached to a pad of silk by its cremaster, usually on the underside of a leaf or stem in low vegetation. This species overwinters as a hibernating adult, often in the dense foliage of ivy, holly or bramble (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Food plants

The larva feeds on primarily on Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus). Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), abundant in coastal areas, belongs to a different floral family and is not a larval foodplant.

Flowers visited

Post-hibernation adults commonly visit Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.), as well as Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Cowslip (Primula veris), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.), Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Primrose (Primula vulgaris), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Red Campion (Silene dioica), Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris), and Vetches (Vicia spp.) are also used.


World distribution(GBIF)

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.



Bond, K.G.M. and Gittings, T. 2008. Database of Irish Lepidoptera. 1 - Macrohabitats, microsites and traits of Noctuidae and butterflies. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 35. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.

Regan, E.C., Nelson, B., Aldwell, B., Bertrand, C., Bond, K., Harding, J., Nash, D., Nixon, D. and Wilson, C.J. 2010. Ireland Red List No. 4 – Butterflies. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Ireland.

Settele, J., Kudrna, O., Harpke, A., Kühn, I., Van Swaay, C., Verovnik, R., Warren, M.S., Wiemers, M., Hanspach, J., Hickler, T. and Kühn, E. 2008. Climatic risk atlas of European butterflies. Sofia-Moscow: Pensoft.

Van Swaay, C., Cuttelod, A., Collins, S., Maes, D., López Munguira, M., Šašic, M., Settele, J., Verovnik, R., Verstrael, T., Warren, M., Wiemers, M. and Wynhof, I. 2010. European Red List of Butterflies. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.