By the end of 2014, 28 species of butterfly have been recorded in the area. Three species of Skipper are present with both Small and Essex particularly common on Wanstead Flats but together with the Large Skipper also common elsewhere  such as in Wanstead Park. There were no known records of Green Hairstreaks in the Wanstead area until a colony ws discovered on Wanstead Flats by Tim Harris in May 2013, when at least six were seen. The Purple Hairstreak, however, is quite common, although perhaps not too often noticed. There are annual colonies on the oaks towards the east end of Capel Road, and it has been observed that individuals perhaps from these colonies regularly feed on pears on a tree in a garden adjacent to nearby Manor Park Cemetery. They have also been seen in Wanstead Park and in Bush Wood. The White-letter Hairstreak has only occasionally been sighted, by the Grotto and also near Whiskers Island. Small Coppers are very common, particularly on Wanstead Flats and on the Plain in Wanstead Park. The Brown Argus is an interesting one: an individual was first recognised and distinguished from the similar-looking female Common Blue in the Sewage Works site on 4th June 2011 by Tim Harris. I saw others in the same location on 10th July and on the Plain in Wanstead Park on 19th July. However, a check through my photographs show an individual on Wanstead Flats on 8th August 2005; has this species simply been overlooked? Common Blues are common, in a variety of locations including gardens, as are Holly Blues. The Red Admiral is another common butterfly in the area, often being one of the earlier or later species seen during the year with one being seen flying in Wanstead Park on Christmas Day, 2011. Painted Lady butterflies are of course sporadic in their appearance, with only one record - on Wanstead Flats - in 2011. The Small Tortoiseshell is common enough in a variety of locations as are Peacocks and Commas, the last of which particularly so in Wanstead Park. The Clouded Yellow is another sporadic visitor, with very few sightings.  Brimstones are usually one of the first butterflies to be seen in the area, with fast-flying individuals sometimes seen in Wanstead Park. However we don't have any of the species' food-plant - buckthorn - in the vicinity. Large White, Small White and Green-veined Whites are all quite common. Orange Tips are another early species, and are relatively common. The Speckled Wood is perhaps our most commonly observed species, with a long flight-period. It is particularly frequent in Wanstead Park, and also in gardens near Manor Park Cemetery. The Wall butterfly is a rarity, the only records being of an individual seen in a back garden of Roseberry Avenue, Manor Park on 22nd July 1989 by Tim Harris and another seen by Tim Harris in Wanstead Park on 23 July 1990. The Marbled White is a distinctive butterfly and had not been recorded in the area until one was seen by Jennifer Charter in Wanstead Park by Northumberland Avenue on 4th July 2011; subsequently another sighting was at the east end of the SSSI on Wanstead Flats by Nick Croft on 6th July 2011 and another in the same location by myself on 9th July. Gatekeepers are quite common on Wanstead Flats, in the Park and in the Sewage Works, as are Meadow Browns and Small Heaths. On 20th July 2013, Kathy Hartnett and myself spotted the first ever Ringlet recorded in the area. This single specimen was on Rosebay Willowherb between the Shoulder of Mutton and Heronry ponds in Wanstead Park.

Past Records:

An interesting local record relating to the Large Tortoiseshell - which although common in Victorian times has only been recorded 150 times since 1951 and is now considered extinct in the UK. This is related in the "The Entomologist's record and journal of variation" Vol 97, 1985:

LARGE TORTOISESHELL, Nymphalis polychlorus (LINNAEUS) IN 1985 - It may be worth placing on record the recent observation by my friend Nick Mallet of a single female large tortoiseshell butterfly at a bramble flower in Wanstead Park, South Essex, [London] , on 14th July 1985. The origin of this particular insect is open to question. Certainly I have seen no others here in the last ten years which rules out a remnant breeding colony! One is left therefore with two choices: either a genuine migrant or an escape/introduction. Contact with the local butterfly breeding fraternity seems to rule out the latter choice, (although one can never be one hundred percent certain). Colin W. Plant, Passmore Edwards Museum, Romford Road, Stratford, London, El5 4LZ.


Name Species Status
Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris Common - particularly on Wanstead Flats
Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola Common- particularly on Wanstead Flats
Large Skipper Ochlodes faunus Common
Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi  A colony discovered on Wanstead Flats on 27th May 2013. Appeared to be more widespread in 2014, with specimens seen either side of Centre Road.
Purple Hairstreak Neozephyrus quercus Common, colonies in Bush Wood, by Wanstead Flats and by Wanstead Park; feeds on pear trees in Capel Road garden
White-letter Hairstreak Strymonidia w-album Occurs near the Grotto in Wanstead Park
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas Common- particularly in Wanstead Park
Brown Argus Aricea agestis Recognised by Tim Harris on 4th June 2011 in Sewage Works site. Subsequently found by Paul Ferris on 10 July in same location. However, a photograph taken on Wanstead Flats on 8th August 2005 is of this species
Common Blue Polyommatus icarus Common
Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus Common, particularly in the City of London Cemetery; common in Capel Road garden.
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta Common
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui Infrequent; on Wanstead Flats July 2005
Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae Common
Peacock Inachis io Common
Comma Polygonia c-album Common
Clouded Yellow Colias croceus Infrequent - has been seen in the old Sewage Works
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni Fairly common
Large White Pieris brassicae Common
Small White Pieris rapae Common
Green-veined White Pieris napi Common
Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines Common
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria Common to very common, in Wanstead Park and increasingly in gardens in Capel Road
Wall Lasiommata megera 22nd July 1989 an individual seen in back garden of Roseberry Avenue, Manor Park by Tim Harris; another seen by Tim Harris in Wanstead Park on 23 July 1990
Marbled White Melanargia galathea First noted by Jennifer Charter in Wanstead Park by Northumberland Avenue on 4th July 2011; subsequently by Nick Croft at the east end of the SSSI on Wanstead Flats on 6th July 2011 and Paul Ferris in same location on 9th July.
Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus Common in colonies, particularly in the Sewage Works; increasingly in gardens in Capel Road (2004)
Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina Common, particularly on Wanstead Flats
Small Heath Coenonympha pamhilus Common, particularly on Wanstead Flats and on the Plain, Wanstead Park
Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus First local specimen on Rosebay Willowherb between SOM and Heronry Ponds on 20th July 2013. Seen by Kathy Hartnett and myself