Butterflies of Britain
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - SATYRINAE
Tribe - SATYRINI
subtribe - MANIOLINA
Aphantopus hyperantus, male, Bedwyn,
is a common and widely distributed species found throughout Europe
with the exception of northern Scandinavia, peninsular Italy,
Portugal, southern / central Spain, and the Mediterranean islands.
Beyond Europe it is found across much of temperate Asia including
Siberia, Mongolia, China and Korea.
sexes are almost identical but the male has a barely visible dark
diagonal patch of androconial scales on the forewings, and the anal
claspers at the tip of his abdomen are visible when the wings are
A 'blind' Ringlet
Aphantopus hyperantus, ab
caeca, Bentley Wood, Wiltshire ©
There is considerable variation in the size and shape of the ocelli
on the underside wings. At certain sites a small percentage of the
population have the yellow rings absent, and the inner ocelli
reduced to tiny dots. This form is known as ab.
caeca. Another aberration occurs in
which the ocelli are all enlarged and extended into a tear-drop or
pear shape. This is known as ab. lanceolata.
Both forms are caused by the sporadic re-emergence of recessive
genes. A number of other named varieties occur which are
intermediate between these extremes. The number of ocelli is
constant, regardless of their size - there are 2 on each forewing
and 5 on each hindwing, hence the butterfly was known to early
entomologists as the 'Brown Seven Eyes'.
The 'Brown Seven Eyes'
or Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus,
© Adrian Hoskins
Britain the Ringlet can be confused in flight with the Meadow Brown,
but the latter always has a trace of orange suffusion on the outer
half of the forewings, and a concave outer margin. It also lacks the
distinctive white fringes of the Ringlet, and has completely
different underside markings.
Aphantopus hyperantus, ab
caeca, Stockbridge Down, Hampshire ©
Aphantopus hyperantus is found commonly
throughout most of England, but is scarcer in the north west. In
Scotland it is very common in the south west but scarce elsewhere,
and absent from the extreme north. Wales has strong populations in
the valleys and low lying areas.
Ringlet breeds primarily in damp open woodlands, inhabiting rides
and glades where grasses grow tall and lush. At these sites
populations often contain several hundred individuals. It is found
in much lesser numbers on scrubby grassland, where it occupies damp,
sheltered hollows which have escaped grazing. Other habitats used by
this species include hedgerows, ditches, railway cuttings, field
margins and narrow country lanes.
considerably in number from year to year at any given site, the
controlling factor being the weather. Most butterfly species seem to
do best when a long cold winter is followed by a warm and sunny
summer, with moderate but regular rainfall. Ringlets however fare
much better if the spring and early summer are dominated by overcast
and damp weather. This is one of the few European butterflies which
will continue to fly during light rainfall. In hot summers Ringlets
usually tend to be scarce, and it can take 2 or 3 years of wetter
summers for populations to recover.
Aphantopus hyperantus, Castle Copse,
The adults emerge in late June and
early July, but the flight season is quite short, and the butterfly
has generally disappeared by the end of July.
don't glue their eggs to leaves. Instead they drop them loosely as
they sit on a blade of grass. The eggs drop to the ground, although
most adhere to grass blades as they fall. Oviposition sites are
usually close to bushes. The eggs are shiny, almost spherical,
tapering slightly towards the top. They are pale buff in colour,
becoming darker after a few days.
caterpillars hatch after about 2 weeks and feed nocturnally on the
tender blades of cock's foot grass Dactylis
glomerata or wood false brome
Brachypodium sylvaticum. Other species used less often
include tufted hair grass
Deschampsia caespitosa, annual meadow
grass Poa pratensis, and
Agropyron repens. Additional species
are used in continental Europe. In September, when in the 2nd or 3rd
instar, they enter hibernation but awaken to feed on warmer evenings
during the winter.
March of the following year they resume feeding in earnest. They
hide during the day at the base of grass tufts, but at dusk they
crawl up to feed and can be observed by torch-light resting on grass
stems. If disturbed they roll into a ball and drop to the ground.
The fully grown larva is a dull olive-brown colour with a dark
stripe along its back, and paler lines along the sides.
pupa is formed within a very flimsy cocoon ( little more than a few
strands of silk ), at the base of a tuft of grass. It is pale brown,
marked on the wing cases with darker streaks and tiny dots.
Aphantopus hyperantus, Bentley Wood,
Ringlets are noted for their characteristic flip-flop flight over
short distances, and rarely cover more than a few metres at a time.
They are most active in warm but overcast conditions, and will fly
even during light rain. In overcast conditions they are commonly seen
basking on bracken or other low vegetation. When it is sunny they tend
to spend long periods at rest with wings closed, but in years such as
2013 when there was a long hot dry spells in early July I watched them
swarming on dozens around hazel bushes or the lower branches of oaks,
pausing only momentarily to imbibe honey-dew from the leaves. Other
commonly used food sources include bramble blossom and thistles.
Copulation takes place in
the late morning or early afternoon, and rarely lasts longer than half
an hour. When copulated the butterflies usually sit on the stems or
leaves of low herbage.
In June 2008 at Alice Holt
forest in Hampshire I witnessed an amusing incident where a confused
male spent about 2 minutes chasing a freshly emerged Red Admiral
around in tight circles. The Red Admiral has a powerful flight so
could easily have escaped, but it chose to 'play along', allowing the
Ringlet to maintain close contact throughout the sortie. On another
occasion I watched a Ringlet as it was intercepted by a territorial
male Large Skipper - to my surprise the traditionally placid Ringlet
suddenly took on a great spurt of speed and chased the skipper away.
Overnight and in rainy
weather Ringlets hide deep in vegetation, choosing spots adjacent to
Aphantopus hyperantus Monks Wood,