The Dunsmore woodlands play host to several iconic woodland specialist butterflies.
The most spectacular is the Purple Emperor Apatura iris, the second largest species in the UK and extremely elusive, flying high in the tree-tops where it feeds on aphid honeydew and sap runs, only occasionally venturing to the ground floor to collect salts from mud and decaying matter. Low but consistent records of this species have been found in predominantly Ryton, but also Wappenbury Wood.
The Silver-Washed fritillary is a large, fast flying butterfly of glades and sunlit rides. It is not a species of conservation concern, but relies on regularly cut and maintained open spaces within woodland, where the main larval foodplant Common Dog-violet Viola riviniana is found in close proximity to oak.
The Wood White is a dainty species and a weak flier, dependent on sensitively managed rides with an abundance of larval food-plants such as Greater Birds-foot trefoil Lotus pedunculatus. Records for this species exist in Ryton Wood only.
The White Admiral, a third UK BAP Priority Species, has declined massively in the last 20 years, for reasons as yet unknown. It is a relatively shade tolerant butterfly found along woodland edge and rides. The sole food plant for the caterpillar is honeysuckle.