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Grayling Butterfly - Hipparchia semele

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

Grayling butterfly

Despite being widespread along the coasts of Britain and Ireland, the Grayling's cryptic pattern on its closed wings makes it a difficult butterfly to spot when it is at rest on the ground on on a tre trunk.

Description

With a wingspan of typically 5.5cm (males) to 6cm (females), the Grayling is the largest member of the so-called 'browns' that occur in Britain. Resting nearly always with its wings closed, the Grayling's distinctive forewing eyespots are helpful identification features, but often these features are overlapped and concealed by the hindwings. In flight this butterfly beats its wings in bursts interspersed with looping glides.

Distribution

Not as common as it once was, this butterfly is found mainly in dry coastal locations in Britain and Ireland, but in southern England there are colonies in the New Forest's heathland and some significant populations also in central Wales far from the sea. The Grayling butterfly is found throughout most of Europe and is recorded also in parts of Asia.

Lifecycle

The larval foodplants of Grayling butterflies are various fine grasses generally associated with dryish habitats. The eggs are laid in early to mid August and hatch after two to three weeks. The larvae grow in four or sometimes five instars before pupating in the following June or early July. The adult Grayling butterflies emerge in August and can usually be seen on the wing until late September; they take nectar from a variety of dry scrubland wildflowers including Bramble, Bird's-foot Trefoil and various thistles.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by the Countryside Council for Wales.

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