Pyronia tithonus | Gatekeeper | Geatóir

Pre 2017

2017 - 2021


Conservation status

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

Legal status

The Gatekeeper is not afforded legal protection in Ireland.

Native status


Species Biology


Key identification features include:

  • Medium size, wingspan: 37 - 48 mm
  • Black apical eye-spots on forewing with two white dots
  • Often basking with wings open showing extensive orange patches on upperside of wings


Generalist, found on: tall-herb and grassy forest clearings, field margins.  At present, it is largely confined to south and east coasts. The adults favour warm, sheltered hedge banks and south-facing margins of woodland, where both sexes spend much time basking on leaves (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Flight period

Univoltine: from July to September.

Life cycle

Eggs are laid on grass blades, but often on other vegetation, or simply ejected onto the ground. The larvae feed by day on the grass-blades in still conditions up to about the end of October; it then enters diapause and recommences feeding in April and
continues until late June. Feeding after diapause is nocturnal. Pupation occurs about the end of June, the pupa being attached to the exuviae, hanging downwards from vegetation, usually close to the ground (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Food plants

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

Flowers visited

Generalist, adult nectar sources commonly include Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) and Knapweeds (Centaurea  spp.), but Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), Privet (Ligustrum vulgare), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.), Thyme (Thymus polytrichus) and Water Mint (Mentha aquatica) 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.