Butterflies and moths have many things in common. 

The main differences are that most butterflies fly in the daytime, whereas moths tend to fly at night, and butterflies are typically larger and have more colourful patterns on their wings. Moths are typically smaller with drab-coloured wings.

Moths have a frenulum, which is a wing-coupling device. Butterflies do not have frenulums. Frenulums join the forewing to the hind wing, so the wings can work in unison during flight.

The easiest way to tell the difference is that a butterfly’s antennae are club-shaped with a long shaft and a bulb at the end. A moth’s antennae are feathery or saw-edged.

See also our Moths page.

Annual Butterfly Reports compiled by Tony Jakeman and Gerry Rawcliffe


It is recommended to read this report in conjunction with the Spreadsheet logging the First and Last sightings in the park from 2019 to 2023. 

As a preface, to highlight the particular and unusual weather experienced locally from summer 2022 into early 2023:

This surely impacted upon the lifecycles and appearances of the Park butterflies in 2023:

Information compiled by Tony Jakeman, Dee Cullen, Gerry Rawcliffe, Markus Percic, Greg Smith.

The Ant Hill Meadow (ex Butterfly Meadow)

There is an area in the grounds of Alexandra Park, on the South Slope, which we call the Ant Hill Meadow (previously called the Butterfly Meadow)

This area,  just north of the lower road, is rich in knapweed and other plants which attract butterflies, but over the past two years brambles and tree saplings have smothered the grassy spaces. This area is also remarkable for the many ant hills that can be seen. These are produced by the Yellow Meadow Ant (Lasius flavus). There is an excellent youtube video going into the ecology of these ants and their ant hills produced by the London Natural History Society. Link to the video.

Butterflies and ants have an inter-dependent (symbiotic) relationship, and ants need warmth (from sunlight) to thrive.  To enable the maximum sunlight to fall on this area, the Friends are endeavouring to keep it clear of brambles, overhanging branches of shrubs, and trees. 

The larva of the Large Blue butterfly secretes pheromones that induce the red ant Myrmica sabuleti to carry it underground into the ant's nest.

For the rest of it's life, the larva eats ant grubs.  The ants obtain a sugary substance from the dorsal "honey gland" of the larva. The larva hibernates, and later pupates in the ant's nest.

The butterfly emerges from the pupa and uses another pheromone to appease the ants, then crawls along the ant tunnels to reach the surface.

Butterfly Walk - July 2022 

Butterflies like sunshine, and luckily we had lots of it. Starting in the Upper Main Meadow, our walk leaders Dee Cullen and Gerry Rawcliffe helped us to spot meadow browns and small or Essex skippers (the latter have antenna tips that are entirely black).

In the Lower Main Meadow we saw a large skipper (more heavily marked than the other two) and then marbled whites, with their gliding flight. In the park there are large, small and green-veined whites, and we saw a large white, the least common of the three, in the Anthill Meadow.

We also saw speckled woods, which like coming down onto brambles, and a six-spot burnet moth. We had to look up once we were at Cricket Scrub Corner, for the very small purple hairstreaks and whiteletter hairstreaks, as they like oaks and ashes/elms, respectively, so those of us with binoculars were at an advantage!"

Butterfly Walk July 2021

The weather had us guessing right up to the start of the walk. A few odd spots of rain, but the walk went ahead led by Gerry and Dee. We looked over the meadow areas above the Lower Path and found both Small and Essex Skippers. Gerry explained the difficulty in telling these very small, moth-like butterflies apart and what the difference is between butterflies and moths. In the same meadow we found large numbers of Meadow Browns and the odd Marbled White and Ringlet. Moving into the Butterfly Meadow, we encountered Large Skipper (pictured left), Small White, Marbled White, Ringlet and more Meadow Browns - the most populous butterfly species in the park at present. We kept an eye for the first Gatekeeper of the year, but no luck. We were shown the haunt of the White-letter Hairstreak which didn't oblige, but we did see a Peacock before finishing the walk. 

Working Party on the Butterfly Meadow, May 2014 

A Working Party continued to clear some of the brambles and saplings that are threatening to take over this valuable habitat.

We counted ten different species of trees, all trying to overwhelm the area.

We removed a considerable amount and were very grateful to pause half way through our session for a cool drink.....

Clearing the brambles in March 2014 

In mid-March, 2014,  about ten Friends of the Park gathered to tackle the growth with secateurs and loppers, and tough gloves. A couple of hours' steady work produced some satisfying clearance, with the debris collected into one of John O'Connor's trailers. 

Clearing saplings and brambles in March 2012 

Friends of Alexandra Park cleared saplings and brambles in the Butterfly Meadow, in March 2012.

The following butterflies have been spotted in the grounds of Alexandra Park: