Ringlet

Aphantopus hyperantus (a-fan-TOH-puss hy-per-AN-tuss)

Ringlet Male - Woldingham, Surrey 30-June-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
 

Wingspan
Male: 42 - 48mm
Female: 46 - 52mm

Checklist Number
59.009

Family:NymphalidaeSwainson, 1827
Subfamily:SatyrinaeBoisduval, 1833
Tribe:ManioliniGrote, 1897
Genus:AphantopusWallengren, 1853
Subgenus:  
Species:hyperantus(Linnaeus, 1758)

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Introduction

This is a relatively-common butterfly that is unmistakable when seen at rest - the rings on the hindwings giving this butterfly its common name. The uppersides are a uniform chocolate brown that distinguish this butterfly from the closely-related Meadow Brown. Despite this uniformity, a newly-emerged adult is a surprisingly beautiful insect, the velvety wings providing a striking contrast with the delicate white fringes found on the wing edges. The dark colouring also allows this butterfly to quickly warm up - this butterfly being one of the few that flies on overcast days.

Variation in this butterfly is primarily focused on the rings on the hindwings, the lanceolata aberration being particularly striking, where the rings are elongated to form teardrops. Other aberrations occur where the rings are greatly reduced or completely absent. Huggins (1959) also describes a form in Kerry, Ireland, that is of normal size until 600 feet, when it starts to be replaced by a dwarf form that, at 1,000 feet, takes over completely.

This butterfly can be found throughout most of the British Isles, south of a line between the South Ebudes in the west and Banffshire in the east. It is also absent from the western parts of northern England, north-west of the Midlands, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. This butterfly forms discrete colonies where numbers vary from a few dozen to several thousand.

Aphantopus hyperantus

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Europe).

Ringlet - Five Rivers - 14-06-2014

Male
Photo © Wurzel

Ringlet Male - Woldingham, Surrey 30-June-10

Male Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

Ringlet Female - Southwater Wood, Sussex 8-July-10

Female
Photo © Vince Massimo

Ringlet (female). High and Over, Seaford. 23/7/2013.

Female Underside
Photo © badgerbob

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Conservation Status

This is one of the few species that is doing well, with evidence of increases in both distribution and population. It is not, therefore, a priority species for conservation efforts.

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Not Listed
Stable+8
Increase+25

The table above shows the distribution and population trends of species regularly found in the British Isles. The distribution trend represents a comparison between data for the periods 1995-1999 and 2005-2009. The information provided is taken from the Butterfly Conservation report The State of the UK's Butterflies 2011. The UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

A variety of habitats is used, although sites characterised as being sheltered and damp are preferred, such as woodland clearings, woodland edges and rides, meadows, hedgerows, road verges and country lanes, where the full heat from the summer sun can be avoided and where the foodplant is lush. The butterfly is not typically found in open areas, such as grassland or heathland.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

There is one generation each year, with adults emerging in the second half of June, peaking in mid-July, with a few individuals continuing into August. The flight period is relatively-short when compared with its close relatives.

The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.

Imago

Male and female are almost identical in appearance, although it is just possible to make out the feintest of sex brands on the forewings of the male, which contains special scent scales used in courtship. Males adopt an exclusive strategy of patrolling for mates and are often seen in ones and twos fluttering among the grasses that typify their habitat.

A mated female lays her eggs in a somewhat-chaotic fashion, typically perched on a grass stem and ejecting a single egg at random, often into the air, causing it to land in the vegetation. Both sexes take nectar from a variety of sources, Bramble and Thistle being particular favourites.

Adults feed primarily on Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Privet (Ligustrum vulgare), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.).

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Ovum

Eggs are a pale yellow when first laid, but soon turn a pale brown. The stage lasts between 2 and 3 weeks.

Ringlet - ovum - Unknown location - Unknown date (2) [REARED] [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

Ringlet - ovum - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

1-Ringlet ovum 2

Photo © Tony Moore
Photo stack of ovum obtained from caged female - only took a couple of hours for her to produce the goods - she is now safely back in her field.
14-Jul-2015

Ringlet - ovum - Thatcham - 05-Jul-11 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles

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Larva

The larva is nocturnal and hides by day at the base of a grass tussock, emerging at night to feed on the tenderest parts of the foodplant. The larva hibernates while in the 3rd instar, but will feed on particularly warm evenings during the winter. Regular feeding resumes in the spring when the larvae can be found by torchlight feeding on grass stems, although they will fall to the ground with the slightest disturbance. There are 4 moults in total.

The primary larval foodplants are Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata), Common Couch (Elytrigia repens), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Meadow-grasses (various) (Poa spp.) and Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa).

Ringlet, 08/05/2015, Noar Hill

Photo © Pauline
08-May-2015

Ringlet - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date (2) [REARED] [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

Ringlet - larva - Thatcham - 17-May-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-May-2005

Ringlet, 08/05/2015, Noar Hill

Photo © Pauline
08-May-2015

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Pupa

The pupa is formed in a flimsy cocoon, comprising just a few strands of silk, at the base of a grass tussock. This stage lasts around 2 weeks.

Ringlet - pupa - Thatcham - 06-Jun-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Jun-2005

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Aberrations

Description to be completed.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

Similar Species

No similar species found.

Videos


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Boisduval (1833) Boisduval, J.A. (1833) Icones historiques des Lépidoptères d'Europe nouveaux.
Grote (1897) Grote, A.R. (1897) Die Schmetterlingsfauna von Hildesheim. - Mitt. Roemer-Museum, Hildesh.
Huggins (1959) Huggins, H.C. (1959) A Naturalist in the Kingdom of Kerry. Proceedings of the South London Entomological and Natural History Society.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Swainson (1827) Swainson, W. (1827) A Sketch of the Natural Affinities of the Lepidoptera Diurna of Latreille. The Philosophical magazine : or Annals of chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, natural history and general science.
Wallengren (1853) Wallengren, H.D.J. (1853) Skandinaviens Dagfjärilar. lepidoptera Scandinaviæ Rhopalocera, disposita et descripta.