Grayling Satyridae

Hipparchia semele (Linnaeus 1758)

Description: Wingspan 51-62mm. This is a beautifully cryptic species which always rests with its wings folded and the forewing held behind the hind wing. The underside of the hindwing is a mottled grey and brown. The underside of the forewing has a large light orange panel which contains two black eyespots with white pupils. The upperside of both wings, which are only shown in flight, are light brown with large pale orange bands. Females which are on average larger than males, are paler with lighter panels on the upperside.

Similar Species: Most likely to be confused with the Wall Brown or Meadow Brown.

Key Identification Features:

Sets:  male upperside male underside

Flight Period: Strictly univoltine in N. Ireland from July to mid September.

Status: In N. Ireland the Grayling is found around virtually the entire coastline except for the Ards Peninsula, Strangford Lough and much of the north Down coast. Inland it is only present on the dry heaths of the Mournes, the Belfast Hills and the limestone hills of west Fermanagh. It also is found on Rathlin Island.

Ecology: A colonial species of dry, open habitats with sparse vegetation and much bare ground such as uncultivated grassland, heaths, sand dunes and rocky slopes. Because of these requirements the species is mainly confined to coastal localities in much of northern and western Europe, including Ireland. Males take up position on a raised perch or bare ground and will investigate any flying insect. When unmated females are encountered, a courtship ensues. Much of the adult's time is spent basking in the sun. They alter their position and area exposed to sun according to the air and body temperature. Adults feed on edges of puddles and only infrequently on flowers such as heaths Erica spp. Larvae feed on fine-leaved grasses such as Sheep's Fescue Festuca ovina and Red Fescue F. rubra. They feed on the young leaves until they reach the 3rd instar when they enter hibernation.

World Distribution: Europe north to British Isles and southern Fennoscandia. Absent from most of SE Europe and Mediterranean islands. Also in temperate Asia.

Bradley & Fletcher number: 1621 Agassiz number: 59.013

Additional information:

UK Butterflies account


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland