Grayling

Hipparchia semele (hi-PAR-kee-uh se-MEE-lee)

Grayling-Arneside Knott 3 July 2011 03C0539
Photo © IainLeach
 

Wingspan
Male: 51 - 56mm
Female: 54 - 62mm

Checklist Number
59.013

Family:NymphalidaeRafinesque, 1815
Subfamily:SatyrinaeBoisduval, 1833
Tribe:SatyriniBoisduval, 1833
Genus:HipparchiaFabricius, 1807
Subgenus:ParahipparchiaKudrna, 1977
Species:semele(Linnaeus, 1758)
Subspecies:semele (Linnaeus, 1758)
 scota (Verity, 1911)
 thyone (Thompson, 1944)
 atlantica (Harrison, 1946)
 clarensis Lattin, 1952
 hibernica Howarth, 1971

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Introduction

This butterfly, the largest of our 'browns', is a master of disguise - although fairly conspicuous when in flight, it can mysteriously disappear as soon as it lands, perfectly camouflaged against a background of bare earth and stones, always resting with its wings closed. When it first lands, and when disturbed, the butterfly will raise its forewings for a second or so, revealing dark eye spots that stand out against a beautiful spectrum of browns. This butterfly also has a curious technique for regulating body temperature by leaning its wings at different angles to the sun.

This butterfly is known for the variation between geographically-isolated populations, with 6 named subspecies occurring within the British Isles. This butterfly forms discrete colonies and, while some colonies are inland, the overall distribution of this butterfly would suggest that this is primarily a coastal species, at least in the British Isles. This butterfly is found on the Isle of Man and in the Channel Islands, but is absent from Orkney and Shetland. Colonies vary considerably in size, the smallest containing a couple of dozen and the largest several thousand - especially those found on large expanses of land, such as the heathlands of the New Forest.

Taxonomy Notes

Verity (1924) uses the name f. anglorum to describe the race from England, having a darker-than-average underside. Verity (1924) also uses the name f. angliae to describe a race that is intermediate between scota and jubaris, found in England.

Hipparchia semele ssp. semele

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

The nominate subspecies is found primarily around the coasts of England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Grayling (m) Dawney's Hill Pirbright Surrey 2nd August 2015

Male
Photo © millerd

Grayling Male - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 9-July-09

Male Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

Grayling - Door Door Dorset 02.09.2014

Female
Photo © Neil Freeman

Grayling (female), Dawney's Hill, Pirbright, Surrey (18 July 2011)

Female Underside
Photo © Mark Colvin

Photo Album ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. scota

This subspecies was first defined in Verity (1911a) as shown here and as shown in this plate (type locality: Northern Scotland).

This subspecies is generally distributed around the coast of Scotland, with the exception of the western Isles which is populated by the subspecies atlantica. It differs from the subspecies semele as follows:

  • 1. Slightly smaller size.
  • 2. Upperside fulvous markings extensive but very pale, almost yellow.
  • 3. Underside of the hindwings with extensive and very dark marbling. Dennis (1977) states that the white transverse band on the hindwing is not lacking, as its formal definition suggests, but is "variably expressed".

Dennis & Shreeve (1996) make an interesting assertion when listing scota: "= atlantica".

Hipparchia semele ssp. scota (Verity, 1911)

Original (French)

Taille très réduite (envergure : 45-50 mill., au lieu de 48-60 mill.; dessins fauves plutôt étendus, mais très pâles, presque jaunes; revers des postérieures extrèmement obscurs et sans bande blanche transversale; la marbrure est d'un noir profond et extrêmement abondante, ce qui donne à l'aile un aspect complètement différent de celui du type.

Habitat. - Ecosse septentrionale. Types : coll. Vérity.

Translation

Size much reduced (wingspan: 45-50 mm, instead of 48-60 mm); fulvous markings rather extensive but very pale, almost yellow; underside of the hindwings extremely dark and lacking a white transverse band; the marbling is deep black and very copious, giving the wings a completely different look from that of the type.

Habitat - Northern Scotland. Types: Vérity collection.

Grayling - imago - Burnmouth - 09-Jul-13-6

Male
Photo © Pete Eeles

Grayling - male - Burnmouth - 09-Jul-13-4

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Grayling - imago - Burnmouth - 09-Jul-13

Female
Photo © Pete Eeles

Grayling ssp. scota - female - St. Abbs Head  - 30-Jun-14

Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. thyone

This subspecies was first defined in Thompson (1944) as shown here (type locality: Creuddyn Peninsula, Caernarvonshire, North Wales).

This subspecies is confined to the western side of the Great Ormes Head near Llandudno in Denbighshire, North Wales. It differs from the subspecies semele as follows:

  • 1. Considerably smaller in size, a characteristic that was analysed in some detail by Dennis (1972).
  • 2. The underside has less contrast, with pale areas tinged with ochreous.
  • 3. The forewing spots are smaller, with the lower spot occasionally absent.
  • 4. It flies several weeks earlier.

Hipparchia semele ssp. thyone (Thompson, 1944)

♂. Strikingly smaller than any other British race of semele, those in my series of over 100 specimens, collected at random, averaging only 47.7 mm.

The coloration is more uniform than in typical semele, with the pale areas more ochreous. The forewing spots are smaller than in other races, with the lower of the two frequently absent, and totally obsolete specimens are not very rare. The underside has the coloration duller and less contrasting than in the type, with the white portions of the hindwings tinged with ochreous. The tendency to obsolescence is even more striking on the under surface than on the upperside.

♀. Similarly smaller than other races, those in my series averaging 51.1 mm. The comparatively unicolorous tendency is the same as in the ♂; but obsolescence is less marked, although the spots are smaller than in normal specimens. The underside presents peculiarities similar to ♂♂ of this race.

Habitat: Creuddyn Peninsula, Carnarvonshire.

Types: ♂, ♀, 2nd July 1941, in my collection.

E. semele ssp. thyone flies earlier than is usual with other races, being on the wing towards the third week in June, and disappearing by the end of July.

Male

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-17

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Female

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-13

Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. atlantica

This subspecies was first defined in Harrison (1946a) as shown here (type locality: Vatersay, Outer Hebrides, Scotland).

This subspecies is found in the western isles of Scotland and the adjacent mainland, including the Outer Hebrides, South Ebudes and the adjacent regions in Argyllshire, Mid Ebudes, West Inverness-shire, North Ebudes, West Ross and West Sutherland. Dennis (1977) says "It is certain that subspecies atlantica ... is simply an extension of the general description of subspecies scota. Subspecies atlantica differs from subspecies semele as follows:

  • 1. In general it has a brighter appearance with more contrasting colours.
  • 2. The underside is blacker and the yellow portions more orange.

Hipparchia semele ssp. atlantica (Harrison, 1946)

Well distributed on the sand dunes on Coll and Gunna. The form, which agrees racially with examples collected on Sandray, Pabbay, and Vatersay in the Outer Island and in Rhum and elsewhere in the Inner Hebrides, is separable from mainland examples by its brighter and more contrasty colouration. In particular, the under surface of the wings is blacker and the yellow portions more orange. This insect may be known as subsp. atlantica, the type, in my possession, originating in Vatersay.

Male

Grayling ssp. atlantica - male - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-7

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Female

Grayling ssp. atlantica - female - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-10

Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. clarensis

This subspecies was first defined in Lattin (1952) as shown here (type locality: County Clare, Ireland).

This subspecies is found in Ireland in the limestone pavements of the Burren in Clare and South-east Galway. Aldwell & Smyth (2015) note that "In Donegal hibernica is present but several photographs show forms which resemble clarensis".

It differs from the subspecies semele as follows:

  • 1. The upperside is relatively light, inclining to grey rather than brown, with ill-defined marginal bands.
  • 2. The male upperside has a greatly reduced androconial spot on the forewings.
  • 3. The underside is paler, appearing very light with a greyish ground colour.

Hipparchia semele ssp. clarensis (Lattin, 1952)

A series of Irish specimens from Co. Clare is different at the first glance from all the other races of this species by reason of its very divergent males. Irish males and females on the whole are richer and redder brown on the upperside, and on the underside have the black lines deeper black, and look richer in general, than English ones. But in ssp. clarensis the ground colour of the upper side is relatively light with a quite apparent incline to grey, contrary to insects from England and Germany which show a ground colour of a more pronounced brown; the very pallid marginal band is so much dusted with dark scaling that it is very ill defined from the dark proximal part of the wing. The hindwings are in general altered in a similar way, only the marginal band is more distinctly defined and shows the brick-red triangular spots on its distal part strikingly small and pale. But the most apparent characteristic of this subspecies is the great reduction of the androconial spot on the forewings of the male, this spot being relatively large in the typical form, extending from the analis to the end of the cell as an oblique band. In the Irish specimens from Co. Clare this band is confined to a few remains in the region of the lower cell border, so that at first sight one gains the impression that the androconial spot is entirely lacking. The under side has also a paler ground colour and therefore appears very light, this impression being enhanced by the broad milky white distal edging of the postmedian line, which is only relatively little dusted with dark scales. The female is differentiated more or less the same as the male, yet the difference is not so sharp because the androconial difference is lacking; from its neighbouring English and Continental populations it can be best distinguished by its strikingly greyish ground colour.

Holotype: 1 ♂, Co. Clare, 18.7.1926. L. A. E. Sabine coll.

Allotype: 1 ♀, Co. Clare, 19.7.1926. L. A. E. Sabine coll.

Paratypes: 1 ♂ 3 ♀♀, Co. Clare, 18/19.7.1926. L. A. E. Sabine coll.

All these specimens are contained in the collection Pfeiffer, München.

[In the Zoological Museum at Tring we have 2 ♂♂ and 2 ♀♀ from Co. Clare. The androconial streak, which Dr. de Lattin stresses, varies a good deal in size in both English and Irish males from other counties, but on the average it appears to be about the same in both. In the 2 Clare ♂♂ at Tring it is greyer and less conspicuous, but not actually smaller. These two ♂♂ are certainly greyer on the upper side than any others from the British Isles, and the under side is pale. The ♀♀ can be matched by aberrant examples from other places, but if all Clare examples are alike they cannot be matched by a series from elsewhere. I think Dr. de Lattin is dealing with a local race peculiar to the limestone Burren and associated with the pale ground there, which may be considered a subspecies. - E.A.C.]

Male

Grayling - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13-8

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Female

Grayling - female - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13

Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. hibernica

This subspecies was first defined in Howarth (1971b) (type locality: Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland).

This subspecies is found throughout Ireland, primarily in coastal areas, with the exception of the Burren in Clare and South-east Galway, where the subspecies clarensis is found. Dennis (1977) says "This subspecies is clearly similar to the Scottish race [ssp. scota], and only differs in its warmer brown tone and the unicoloured rather than variegated brown of the hindwing margins". Subspecies hibernica differs from the subspecies semele as follows:

  • 1. The upperside is a warmer brown, with pale markings that are reddish brown in tint.
  • 2. The upperside of the female often has some reddish suffusion.
  • 3. The underside has dark markings that are more chocolate-brown, with a darker basal area.
  • 4. The underside of the hindwings has deep uniform brown margins.

Hipparchia semele ssp. hibernica (Howarth, 1971)

The males have the upperside ground colour a warm brown with the paler markings more rufous in tint compared with English examples (ssp. anglorum Verity [Verity (1924)]). On the underside the dark markings are more chocolate-brown and the bases of the hindwings are darker.

The females differ in the same manner as the males and on the upperside of the forewing often possess the reddish suffusion in spaces 2 and 3 which sometimes extends into the discoidal cell. In several respects this newly described subspecies is rather similar to ssp. scota Verity, as one would expect, but it is generally a warmer brown and has the margins of the hindwings a deep unicolorous brown compared with the more variegated margins of scota, which have a sharply defined black inner edge.

Holotype ♂: Kerry, Killarney, P. Bouchard 64.69 (pl. 1 fig. 5).

Allotype ♀: Same data as holotype (pl. 1 fig. 6).

[Paratypes listed].

Male

Grayling - male - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-5

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-18

Female
Photo © Pete Eeles

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13

Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album ...


History

The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

YearNameReference
1699Black-eyed Marble ButterflyPetiver (1695-1703)
1703Brown Tunbridge Grayling (male)Petiver (1702-1706)
1703Tunbridge Grayling (female)Petiver (1702-1706)
1742Rock UnderwingWilkes (1742)
1766GrailingHarris (1766)
1769Black-eyed Marbled ButterflyBerkenhout (1769)
1775GraylineHarris (1775b)
1795Great ArgusLewin (1795)
1803GraylingHaworth (1803)
1853Rock-eyed UnderwingMorris (1853)
1913Tunbridge GraylingNewman & Leeds (1913)

Conservation Status

This butterfly has suffered severe declines over the long term and is therefore a priority species for conservation efforts.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Priority Species
Click here to access the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for this species.
Large Decrease-62
Large Decrease-58
Decrease-18
Increase+10

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

This butterfly is found on sheltered, sunny and dry sites where vegetation is sparse, providing the bare ground that this butterfly requires. Typical sites include heathland, sand dunes, coastal grassland and disused quarries.

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

Adults generally emerge at the start of July, peaking at the end of the month. The colonies found on the Great Ormes Head in north Wales, where individuals are much smaller in size than other colonies and are a distinct subspecies, emerge much earlier than at other sites - often at the beginning of June. This butterfly has one generation each year.

Hipparchia semele ssp. semele

Hipparchia semele ssp. scota

Hipparchia semele ssp. thyone

Hipparchia semele ssp. atlantica

Hipparchia semele ssp. clarensis

Hipparchia semele ssp. hibernica

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

The male is more-often seen than the female and is territorial, usually perching on the bare ground that typifies their habitat or, occasionally, on a tree trunk or boulder. The male flies up to investigate any passing object and, if he encounters a female, the two will land on the ground. The male lands immediately behind her before moving around to face her head on. An unreceptive female will flutter her wings while a virgin female will remain still, encouraging the male to perform an elaborate courtship.

He starts by flicking his wings upward to reveal the orange patches found on the underside of the forewings. He then flicks his wings open and shut for a short time before bowing to the female and slowly bringing his wings together, when the female's antennae are brought together over the sex brands found on the male's forewings, as the male returns to an upright position. The scent scales from the sex brands allows the male to seduce the female, allowing him to move behind the female who is then mated.

Unlike the territorial male, the female is most-often seen when egg-laying. Both sexes take nectar and will feed from a variety of plants, including Bell Heather, Thistle, Bramble and also Buddleia if found in the vicinity.

Adults feed primarily on Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Heather (Calluna vulgaris / Erica spp.), Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) and Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.).

Hipparchia semele ssp. semele

Graylings - Durdle Door Dorset 02.09.2014

Photo © Neil Freeman
02-Sep-2014

Grayling (female), Pirbright Common, Surrey (15 August 2012)

Photo © Mark Colvin
15-Aug-2012

Grayling - imago - Greenham Common - 28-Jul-07 (1101)

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jul-2007

Grayling female - Cambois, Northumberland 8-July-2014

Photo © citybirding

Grayling - Studland, Dorset 13-July-2014

Photo © ronniethepoo

Ovipositing Grayling, Chobham Common 16/8/17

Photo © bugboy
16-Aug-2017

Grayling - imago - Greenham Common - 01-Aug-10 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Aug-2010

Grayling, Dawney's Hill (25 July 2011)

Photo © Mark Colvin
25-Jul-2011

Grayling Male - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 9-July-09

Photo © Vince Massimo
09-Jul-2009

Grayling  Dawney's Hill, Pirbright, Surrey  9th August 2012

Photo © millerd
09-Aug-2012

Grayling - The Lizard, Cornwall 18-Aug-2017

Photo © Neil Hulme
18-Aug-2017

Grayling female

Photo © Rosalyn
30-Jun-2010

Grayling - Windover Hill, Sussex, Jul 22nd, 2016

Photo © Butterflysaurus rex
22-Jul-2016

Grayling pair (male on right), Point of Ayre, Isle of Man, 10.08.2012

Photo © David M

Grayling  Dawney's Hill, Pirbright, Surrey  23rd July 2011

Photo © millerd
23-Jul-2011

Grayling (mating pair) Dawney's Hill (Surrey) 9th August 2011

Photo © millerd
09-Aug-2011

Grayling mating. Windover Hill. Sussex. 18/7/2014.

Photo © badgerbob
18-Jul-2014

Grayling-Arneside Knott 3 July 2011 03C0576

Photo © IainLeach

Grayling (female), Dawney's Hill, Pirbright, Surrey (18 July 2011)

Photo © Mark Colvin

Grayling-Arneside Knott 3 July 2011 03C0176

Photo © IainLeach

Photo Album (50 photos) ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. scota

Grayling - imago - Burnmouth - 09-Jul-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - Longniddry, East Lothian, Scotland 5-July-2011

Photo © NickMorgan

Grayling ssp. scota - imago - St. Abbs Head  - 30-Jun-14-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jun-2014

Grayling - imago - Castlehill Point, Dumfries-shire - Unknown date [Adrian Riley]

Photo © Adrian Riley

Grayling - male - Burnmouth - 09-Jul-13-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - male - St. Abbs Head - 09-Jul-13-12

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - Longniddry, East lothian, Scotland 5-July-2011

Photo © NickMorgan

Grayling - male - St. Abbs Head - 09-Jul-13-9

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - male - St. Abbs Head - 09-Jul-13-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling ssp. scota - imago - St. Abbs Head  - 30-Jun-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jun-2014

Grayling ssp. scota - female - St. Abbs Head  - 30-Jun-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jun-2014

Grayling - male - St. Abbs Head - 09-Jul-13-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - male - St. Abbs Head - 09-Jul-13-18

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - male - Burnmouth - 09-Jul-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - female - St. Abbs Head - 09-Jul-13-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - imago - Burnmouth - 09-Jul-13-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - East Lothian, Scotland 20-July-2012

Photo © NickMorgan

Grayling - male - St. Abbs Head - 09-Jul-13-11

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - male - St. Abbs Head - 09-Jul-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Grayling - female - Burnmouth - 09-Jul-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jul-2013

Photo Album (25 photos) ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. thyone

Grayling - imago - Great Orme - Unknown date [Adrian Riley]

Photo © Adrian Riley

Grayling ssp. thyone - adult - Great Orme Head - July 14th 2011

Photo © Trev Sawyer

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-11

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-12

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-17

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-18

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling - imago - Great Orme, North Wales - 25-Jun-13-20

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jun-2013

Grayling ssp thyone - Great Orme 27.06.16

Photo © Neil Freeman
27-Jun-2016

Grayling ssp. thyone - male - Great Orme - 23-Jun-16-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jun-2016

Grayling ssp. thyone - male - Great Orme - 23-Jun-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jun-2016

Photo Album (15 photos) ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. atlantica

Grayling - imago - Ardnamurchan Point, Inverness-shire - Unknown date [Adrian Riley]

Photo © Adrian Riley

Grayling ssp. atlantica - female - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - female - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-7

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - female - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - female - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-9

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - female - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - female - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - male - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-7

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - male - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-9-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - male - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-9

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - male - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - male - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-11

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - male - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14-12

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Grayling ssp. atlantica - male - Arnamurchan Point, Scotland - 17-Jul-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jul-2014

Photo Album (14 photos) ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. clarensis

Grayling - imago - Craggagh, Clare - Unknown date [Adrian Riley]

Photo © Adrian Riley

Grayling - female - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013

Grayling - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013

Grayling - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013

Grayling - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13-7

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013

Grayling - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013

Grayling - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13-9

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013

Photo Album (7 photos) ...


Hipparchia semele ssp. hibernica

Grayling - imago - Dingle, South Kerry - Unknown date [Adrian Riley]

Photo © Adrian Riley

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-11

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-12

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-17

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-18

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-19

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-20

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - imago - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - imago - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - imago - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - male - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - male - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - male - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Grayling - male - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Photo Album (19 photos) ...


Ovum

Eggs are laid singly on the foodplant, or on nearby ground debris. Isolated plants, surrounded by patches of bare ground, are preferred. Eggs are white when first laid, but gradually turn pale yellow in colour. Unlike the eggs of related species, the egg of a Grayling retains a uniform colour and does not develop brown blotches as it develops. This stage lasts between 2 and 3 weeks.

"Eggs laid on August 11th, 1891, hatched on August 28th, remaining seventeen days in the egg state. Eggs deposited in the middle of September, 1894, hatched on October 1st, and others deposited during the middle of September, 1910, hatched early in October. The egg is 0.80 mm. high, of an ovate spheroid form, the apex flattened; there are about twenty-eight longitudinal ribs, which are united and reticulated on the crown; the micropyle is finely punctured; the base is very finely granulated and rounded; the ribs are somewhat irregularly formed, and occasionally become broken and diverge near the summit. The colour is milk-white and turns a pale lilac-grey before hatching." - Frohawk (1924)

Grayling - ovum - Litchett Plain nr Fleet - 02-Aug-07 [Colin Baker]

Photo © Colin Baker

Grayling - ovum - Unknown location - Uknown date [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

Grayling - ovum - Greenham Common - 22-Aug-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grayling ovum Found at Arnside Knott. 18.07.14.

Photo © Tony Moore
19-Jul-2014

Grayling ovum - Arnside Knott 18-July-2014

Photo © Tony Moore
21-Jul-2014

Grayling - ovum - Hazeley Heath - 01-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2016

Grayling - ovum - Hazeley Heath - 22-Aug-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Aug-2016

Grayling - ovum - Hazeley Heath - 28-Aug-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Aug-2016

Photo Album (8 photos) ...


Larva

The larva feeds on the tender tips of grass blades after emerging and eventually hibernates while still small, in the 3rd instar, at the base of a grass tussock. Feeding resumes in the spring and mature larvae are nocturnal, retreating deep within the base of grass tussocks during the day. There are 5 instars in total.

The primary larval foodplants are Bristle Bent (Agrostis curtisii), Early Hair-grass (Aira praecox), Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) and Sheep's-fescue (Festuca ovina). Marram (Ammophila arenaria) and Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) are also used.

1st Instar

"The young larva emerges from the egg by eating away part of the side. Directly after emergence the larva measures 1.6 mm. long. The head is large, with a granular surface; the eye spots are black with brown centres; surrounding the mouth are a number of white hairs curving downwards, and two others extremely short and curved on each lobe of the crown. The body is rather stoutish anteriorly and attenuated posteriorly, deeply wrinkled transversely and very slightly granulated. The ground colour, including the head, is pale primrose or creamy-yellow, with very faint medio-dorsal and sub-dorsal longitudinal lines of an ochreous-buff colour, and a broad super-spiracular drab-coloured band, but indistinctly defined, as the edges fade into the ground colour. There are eight longitudinal rows of small black warts, four on each side; each row consists of a single wart on each segment, except the sub-spiracular series, which has two below each spiracle; two rows are sub-dorsal and one super-spiracular; each wart emits a very minute whitish curved spine; on the ventral surface, including the legs and claspers, are other straight and finely pointed spines. The spiracles are prominent and shining black; the first and last are very large. The anal segment bears six rather long, blunt white hairs with black bases, all directed backwards. Before first moult it measures 4.2 mm. long, of a pale greenish-ochreous colour. On each segment from the fourth to eleventh inclusive is an elongated dark purplish-brown mark. Those on the anterior segments are pale and indistinct; there are three sub-dorsal, broken, faint lines, and a stripe of slightly darker shade than the ground colour, outlined with dark brown; then a fine pale spiracular line and a cream-coloured lateral stripe bordered below by brown. The ventral surface, legs and claspers are pale ochreous-green. The head is pale ochreous, dotted with brown and with dark brown eye spots. Several larvae which hatched middle of August, 1891, were turned down on a bed of wild thyme, mixed with various small plants and grasses; upon examining the bed on September 5th some of the larvae were found feeding on fescue grass, one having moulted. They appear to thrive best on Poa annua and other soft-bladed grasses, which they very readily feed upon. They are very sluggish in movement, and rest on the edge of the grass blade in a straight attitude, but fall to the ground at any slight disturbance." - Frohawk (1924)

Grayling - larva (1st instar) - Thatcham - 01-Sep-16 [REARED]-7

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2016

Grayling - larva (1st instar) - Thatcham - 01-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2016

Photo Album (2 photos) ...


2nd Instar

"The first moult (from eggs laid in September, 1910) occurred about the middle of October. After the first moult it measures 6.3 mm. long. The ground colour is pale ochreous-buff, with a pale olive-ochreous, medio-dorsal, longitudinal stripe, broken up by a series of dark brown marks from the fourth to eleventh segments inclusive, as in the previous stage; another stripe of slightly darker hue extends down the side, commencing on the head and terminating on the anal point; this is edged with brown. Then follows a milk-white, lateral, longitudinal band, bordered below by a brown band; the ventral surface, legs and claspers, pale greyish-buff. Other faint, fine sienna-brown lines run down the sub-dorsal surface. The head is granular and faintly banded with brown specks. Both head and body are sprinkled with minute club-shaped points, mostly with dark wart-like bases; these develop into short hairs on the face and are rather longer on the anal segment." - Frohawk (1924)

Grayling - larva (2nd instar) - Thatcham - 09-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Sep-2016

Grayling - larva (2nd instar) - Thatcham - 17-Sep-16 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Sep-2016

Grayling - larva (2nd instar) - Thatcham - 17-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Sep-2016

Photo Album (3 photos) ...


3rd Instar

"Several moulted the second time during the first week of December, 1910. After second moult (about seven weeks after) it measures 9.5 mm. long. It is similar to the previous stage in the general pattern and colouration, but all the markings are more clearly defined. The ground colour has a yellowish tinge, and in some the anterior segments are slightly tinged with green. The sub-dorsal stripe is light olive; both this and the medio-dorsal stripe are very finely outlined with dark brown, and bordered each side by a fine whitish line, which is likewise outlined with lighter ochreous-brown. The lateral stripe is usually cream-white, but in some specimens it is tinged with lemon-yellow. Hibernation takes place after the second moult, but they feed during the winter when the temperature is mild, both by day and night, only remaining in a torpid state during cold weather. When disturbed they fall to the ground." - Frohawk (1924)

Grayling - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 29-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Sep-2016

Photo Album (1 photos) ...


4th Instar

"The third moult of about three dozen larvae occurred from March 27th, 1892, until the end of the first week of April. After the third moult (a few days after) it measures 11 mm. in length. The head is large, wider than the body, of a pale ochreous colour, with six bands composed of minute black dots. These run continuous with the body stripes. The body gradually tapers to the anal points. The ground colour is a clear creamy-buff, with all the markings sharply defined; the medio-dorsal and super-spiracular stripes are richly decorated with black streaks along the edges. On April 25th, 1892, the majority of the larvae were 12.7 mm. long, the ground colour of a clear pinkish-buff and velvety. The medio-dorsal stripe is variegated with alternating velvet black and yellowish-drab upon each segment, the black occupying the anterior half. This checkered stripe is bordered by a broad creamy band, which is intersected by extremely fine rose-coloured striations; then follows a pale olive sub-dorsal stripe bordered by a yellowish band, also striated with rose colour; the super-spiracular stripe is olive-drab, finely outlined with black on the upper edge, increasing in depth on the sixth to tenth segments inclusive, and bordered below by a very fine whitish line; the spiracular band is pinkish-buff, but varying in different individuals. In the centre of this band are placed the intensely black spiracles, which are encircled with a light ring. The lateral line is creamy-white, bordered below by dark olive and greyish-ochreous, which colour extends over the ventral surface, legs and claspers. About sunset they crawl up the grass stems and feed during the night, and retreat to their resting-places, low down, at daybreak." - Frohawk (1924)

Grayling - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 10-Jan-17 [REARED]-9

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jan-2017

Grayling - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 10-Jan-17 [REARED]-12

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Jan-2017

Grayling - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 10-Apr-17 [REARED]-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Apr-2017

Grayling - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 24-Feb-17 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Feb-2017

Grayling - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 13-Mar-17 [REARED]-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Mar-2017

Grayling - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 24-Feb-17 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Feb-2017

Grayling - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 30-Mar-17 [REARED]-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Mar-2017

Photo Album (7 photos) ...


5th Instar

"The first larva moulted fourth and last time on April 25th, 1892; others moulted during May. After the fourth moult, fully grown, it varies in length from 28 mm. to 31 mm. The head is considerably smaller than the first segment. The body is attenuated, slightly so towards the head, but much more posteriorly. The anal segment terminates in a pair of sharp points. The general ground colour is a pale yellow, inclining to a lemon tinge. The medio-dorsal, sub-dorsal and super-spiracular stripes are pale drab, reticulated with wavy black lines. The spiracular band is pale ochreous, bordered above by wavy coppery-coloured streaks, and blackish specks in places forming short streaks. The two colours produce an irregular mottled line. The band is outlined below with blackish specks. Between this band and the super-spiracular stripe is a whitish line, and a much broader and duller lateral stripe bordered below with black frecklings. The spiracles are dark brown with rust-coloured apertures. The ventral surface, including the legs and claspers, is dull ochreous-grey. The medio-dorsal and super-spiracular stripes are richly marked with black, as in the previous stage. The spaces between the dorsal stripes are intersected with claret-red striations, varying in different individuals; in some they are much paler and duller, inclining to rust-red. The head is buff, with darker buff bands (continuous with the body stripes), which are intensified by numerous black specks. The surface is granular and covered with hairs similar to the body; the eye spots are black. The entire surface of the body is very densely clothed with most minute points, and also densely sprinkled with tiny spine-like hairs of a pale brown colour with bulbous bases. These together with the points give the surface a very fine granular texture. The larvae commenced pupating during the first week of June." - Frohawk (1924)

Grayling - larva - Thatcham - 25-May-13 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grayling - larva - Thatcham - 25-May-13 (3) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Grayling - larva - Thatcham - 20-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jun-2013

Grayling - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 21-May-17 [REARED]-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-May-2017

Grayling - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 25-Apr-17 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Apr-2017

Grayling - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 04-May-17 [REARED]-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-May-2017

Grayling - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 04-May-17 [REARED]-12

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-May-2017

Photo Album (7 photos) ...


Pupa

The pupa is formed, unattached, in a cell in the earth, just beneath the surface of the soil. This stage lasts around 4 weeks.

"The pupa measures from 15 mm. to 17 mm. long. The head is rounded and rather prominent. The thorax is full and rounded dorsally and sunken at the meta-thorax and first abdominal segment; the abdomen is swollen and largest at the third segment, it then gradually diminishes to the anal segment, which terminates in a laterally ridged cremaster without any hooks. The ventral surface is but slightly curved from the head to apex of wings; the abdomen is more so. The thoracic spiracle has a curious projecting ear-like ridge, which is black and rough in texture; the remaining spiracles are rather prominent. The colour is a rich rust-red or burnt sienna, fading into rich amber on the wings and limbs. It is without markings. During June the larva burrows just below the surface of the ground to about 12 mm. deep, and there forms a cell and spins a little silk on the walls, binding the grains of earth together, forming a comparatively smooth surface to the interior, and therein pupates without any attachment. It remains in the pupal state about one month." - Frohawk (1924)

Grayling - pupa - Thatcham - 02-Jul-17 [REARED]-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jul-2017

Grayling - pupa - Thatcham - 04-Aug-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Aug-2013

Grayling - pupa - Thatcham - 04-Aug-13 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Aug-2013

Grayling - pupa - Thatcham - 05-Aug-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
05-Aug-2013

Grayling - pupa - Thatcham - 20-Jul-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2013

Grayling - pupa - Thatcham - 20-Jul-13 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2013

Grayling - pupa - Thatcham - 03-Jul-17 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
03-Jul-2017

Grayling - pupa - Thatcham - 19-Jun-17 [REARED]-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jun-2017

Photo Album (8 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

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

Similar Species

No similar species found.

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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Aldwell & Smyth (2015) Aldwell, R. & Smyth, F. (2015) The Butterflies of Donegal.
Berkenhout (1769) Berkenhout, J. (1769) Outlines of the Natural History of Great Britain and Ireland (Vol.1 Animal Kingdom).
Boisduval (1833) Boisduval, J.A. (1833) Icones historiques des Lépidoptères d'Europe nouveaux.
Dennis (1972) Dennis, R.L.H. (1972) Eumenis semele (L) thyone Thompson (Lep. Satyridae). A Microgeographical Race. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation.
Dennis (1977) Dennis, R.L.H. (1977) The British Butterflies - Their Origin and Establishment.
Dennis & Shreeve (1996) Dennis, R.L.H and Shreeve, T.G. (1996) Butterflies on British and Irish Offshore Islands.
Fabricius (1807) Fabricius, J.C. (1807) Magazin für Insektenkunde, herausgegeben von Karl Illiger.
Frohawk (1924) Frohawk, F.W. (1924) The Natural History of British Butterflies.
Harris (1766) Harris, M. (1766) The Aurelian. Edition 1.
Harris (1775b) Harris, M. (1775) The English Lepidoptera: or, The Aurelian's Pocket Companion.
Harrison (1946a) Harrison, J.W.H. (1946) The Lepidoptera of the Hebridian Isles of Coll, Tiree and Gunna, with some remarks on the Biogeography of the Islands. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation.
Haworth (1803) Haworth, A.H. (1803) Lepidoptera Britannica.
Howarth (1971b) Howarth, T.G. (1971) The status of Irish Hipparchia semele (L.) (Lep., Satyridae) with descriptions of a new subspecies and aberrations. Entomologist's Gazette.
Kudrna (1977) Kudrna, O. (1977) A Revision of the Genus Hipparchia Fabricius.
Lattin (1952) de Lattin, G. (1952) Two new subspecies of Hipparchia semele. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation.
Lewin (1795) Lewin, W. (1795) The Papilios of Great Britain.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Morris (1853) Morris, Rev.F.O. (1853) A History of British Butterflies.
Newman & Leeds (1913) Newman, L.W. and Leeds, H.A. (1913) Text Book of British Butterflies and Moths.
Petiver (1695-1703) Petiver, J. (1695-1703) Musei Petiveriani centuria prima-decima, rariora naturae continens.
Petiver (1702-1706) Petiver, J. (1702-1706) Gazophylacii naturae et artis decas prima.
Rafinesque (1815) Rafinesque, C.S. (1815) Analyse de la nature ou Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés.
Thompson (1944) Thompson, A. (1944) A new subspecies of Eumensis semele, L.. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation.
Verity (1911a) Verity, R. (1911) Races inédites de Satyridae européens [Lep. Rhopalocera]. Bulletin de la Société Entomologique de France.
Verity (1924) Verity, R. (1924) Geographical Variation in Hipparchia semele, L.. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation.
Wilkes (1742) Wilkes, B. (1742) Twelve New Designs of English Butterflies.