White-letter hairstreak butterfly

White-letter hairstreak ©John Bridges

White-letter hairstreak butterfly

White-letter hairstreak ©John Bridges

White-letter hairstreak

Scientific name: Satyrium w-album
The white-letter hairstreak gets its name from the white lines that form a 'W' shape on its underside. It is an elusive butterfly, spending much of its time in the treetops.

Species information


Wingspan: 2.5-3.5cm

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

June to August


The white-letter hairstreak is a small butterfly that breeds in elm trees in hedgerows, woodland rides and scrub. It can be hard to spot as it flutters around the treetops, but does come down to lower levels to nectar on flowers like Bramble. Adults are on the wing from June to August, and there is only one brood per year. Caterpillars are well camouflaged, looking like young buds and leaves.

How to identify

The white-letter hairstreak is a small, brown butterfly that has white, W-shaped lines on the underside of the wings. The Black Hairstreak is similar, but sports a row of black spots on the hindwings.


Found across England and Wales.

Did you know?

There are five species of hairstreak butterfly in the UK.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of butterflies, including the Pearl-bordered Fritillary. A mix of coppicing, scrub-cutting, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland wildlife to thrive. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from traditional forest crafts to surveying for butterflies.