Coenonympha pamphilus | Small Heath | Fraochán beag

Pre 2017

2017 - 2021


Conservation status

Ireland: Near Threatened (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 Small heath is not afforded legal protection in Ireland.

Native status


Species Biology


Key identification features include:

  • Small size, wingspan: 33 - 37 mm
  • Absence of light streak (distinguishes it from the Large Heath)
  • No black eye-spots on underside of hindwing


Generalist, found on: unimproved dry grassland, coastal grey dunes and machair. Adults favour areas of grassland with low sward height and abundant flowers and isolated scrub. Roosting adults are occasionally found on flowerheads (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Flight period

Univoltine: from May to September.  Adults seen in August or September may represent a partial 2nd generation more commonly recorded in southern counties.

Life cycle

Eggs are laid singly on the blades of a wide range of wild grasses, apparently sometimes on dead plant material. Autumnal larvae hatch in September and feed until April of the following year, feeding also in mild weather during winter, while summer-brood
larvae feed in July. Pupation usually occurs about late April and again in late July, the pupa being suspended from a silken pad spun in grass or from a plant stem (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Food plants

Generalists, the larvae feed on a variety of grasses, but more commonly on Meadow-grasses (Poa spp.) and Fescues (Festuca spp.).

Flowers visited

Generalist, adults nectar sources include: Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).


World distribution(GBIF)

Occurs throughout North Africa and Europe, extending eastwards into Asia (Nash, et al. 2012)

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.