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Ringlet Butterfly - Aphantopus hyperantus

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Lepidoptera - Family: Nymphalidae

Ringlet butterfly - upperwing view

Seen on the wing from June to the end of August, these are common butterflies of damp grassland, woodland clearings, hedgerows and scrubby wasteland.

Ringlet butterfly, upperwing view

The common name comes from the distinctive rings or eyespots on the hindwings. Forewings and hindwings are fringed with white.

Description

When freshly emerged Ringlets have dark brown (sometimes almost black) velvety wings that readily absorb warmth from sunlight; as a result, they are among the small minority of butterflies that can be seen on the wing on overcast days. Gradually the background colour of the wings becomes a paler shade of brown.

Distribution

Ringlet butterfly - underwing view, northern France

The Ringlet butterfly is found throughout Britain and Ireland, but this species is absent from northern Scotland. The specimens shown on this page were photographed in West Wales, where these butterflies are very common in summer. Elsewhere this butterfly can be seen in most of Europe except northern Scandinavia and southern parts of Portugal, Spain and Italy; its range extends across Asia to Japan.

Habitat

Wherever there are brambles or Wild Privet along a woodland edge or a hedgerow, the Ringlet butterfly is attracted to the nectar in their flowers.

Ringlet butterfly, underwing view

Lifecycle

Ringlet eggs are laid among coarse grasses, and the larval foodplants include rank grasses such as Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata) and Common Couch (Elytrigia repens) as well as the various meadow-grasses (Poa species). Initially pale yellow, the eggs turn light brown before hatching in typically two to three weeks.

Ringlet butterflies, mating, Cambridgeshire 2014

Ringlet larvae feed at night, and so to see them take a torch into rank grassland. They moult four times, and after the third moult the larvae hibernate, emerging to feed in winter only if the weather is unusually warm. In spring they resume feeding before pupating at the bases of tussocks of grass. After about two weeks the adult emerges from its chrysalis.

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