40 - 47mm
The Gatekeeper is a medium sized orange and brown butterfly of the hedgerows, the male being about 40mm in wingspan and the female larger, with 47mm. The upper wings have a large central area of bright orange encased in a deep brown border. A prominent double black eyespot with small double white pupils is found towards the outer edge of the front forewing, and the male has dark sex brands across the forewing. The upper hind wing has brown colouring in the area next to the body, then a prominent orange band with eyespots along its back edge; this is less marked in the female which tends to have only one noticeable eyespot. All wings end with pale fringing crossed with the dark vein markings and with a certain amount of scalloping. The underside of the forewing is very orange with less noticeable bordering, but with the double eyespot very evident in both sexes. The hind underwing is of a more camouflaged patterning, the usual brown and yellow 'dead-leaf' mix with small white-centred eye-spots showing. The Meadow Brown, which can be confused with the Gatekeeper does not have these white spots.
The Gatekeeper flies from mid-July until the end of August and on into September. In years of hot, dry weather it can emerge up to ten days early.
The Gatekeeper is particularly fond of Bramble blossoms, Marjoram, Thistles, Ragwort, Scabious, Fleabane and will feed communally.