Spanish Gatekeeper (Pyronia bathseba)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

10986_male_Var_31May08 11097_female_Bouches-du-Rhône_4Jun08 5969_male_Var_29May07
6021_female_Var_29May07 25329_female_Var_28May11  

This is essentially an Iberian species extending its range eastwards across the far south of France but becoming less common as far east as Var, which is about the easterly limit of its distribution. I had only seen a few each year, and mostly females, but this may be because my visits to France prior to 2006 were in mid-July at the end of the flight period when it was mostly females that had survived that late. In subsequent years it has appeared in small numbers at several locations in late May to early June, the peak of its flight period, except in one coastal locality in 2008 where it was out in huge numbers. It is an extremely attractive butterfly for a Satyridae species, with extensive vibrant orange. In some textbooks (including T&L) it is referred to as bathsheba.

I believe that all of the specimens I have seen are of the subspecies pardilloi which occurs in its eastern distribution in the Pyrénées and southern France, which has a wider unh pale yellow discal band, with the band and the ocelli better defined (especially in the female) than the nominate form which occurs in Spain.

In 2015 I saw it in singles in a couple of locations much further east in Var than ever before, so perhaps its range may be extending.


ref sex


alt. m
10986 M

a male, following the normal pattern for Pyronia species that the male upf orange is mainly confined to the post-discal band whereas in female it extends into the basal areas.

11097 F

a female, showing the extensive orange, which is quite evident even in flight.

5969 M

a male, as indicated by the generally darker brown ground colour and the thinner white post-discal band. The white band only slightly "leaks" through the ocelli at s4 where there is no ocellus to stop it - compare the female in 6021.

6021 F

a female, as indicated by the white post-discal band "escaping" through the gap in the ocelli and heading toward the margin, as compared to the male in 5969. A beautifully marked butterfly.

25329 F a female, very fresh so that the unh grey-brown ground colour contrasts strongly with the cream post-discal band. 200