Hipparchia semele Linnaeus, 1758 ♀
Common names: Rock Grayling, Grayling [En], Agreste [Fr], Heivlinder [Nl], Ockerbindiger Samtfalter [De], Pardo-rubia [Es].
Rennes-le-château, AUDE ● France
Several subspecies has been described:
• H. s. semele – Europe
• H. s. atlantica – north-west Scotland, similar to the subspecies scota but with a brighter appearance.
• H. s. cadmus Fruhstorfer, 1908 – Moutainous regions of Europe.
• H. s. clarensis – Burren in Ireland; slightly smaller than the semele subspecies, slightly paler
• H. s. hibernica – throughout Ireland, with the exception of the Burren; similar to the scota subspecies, but warmer brown in colour.
• H. s. leighebi Kudrna, 1976 ou Hipparchia leighebi – Aeolians islands, Sicily.
• H. s. pellucida Stauder, 1924 – sometimes considered as a distinct species Hipparchia pellucida.
• H. s. sbordonii Kudrna, 1984 – Pontines Italian islands.
• H. s. scota – coast of Scotland, with the exception of the western Isles; smaller than the semele subspecies.
• H. s. thyone – western side of the Great Ormes Head in North Wales; smaller than the semele subspecies.
But the taxonomy is still in study and some authors thinks that H. s. sbordonii is a distinct species and some other situate Hipparchia cretica as H. s. cretica. There is also questions about Hipparchia pellucida and Hipparchia volgensis.
Description: This butterfly 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 is known for the variation between geographically-isolated populations, with 6 named subspecies occurring within the British Isles.
Biology: They rest with closed wings, forewings lowered between the hindwings as do many Satyrinae. When disturbed, they raise the forewing so that the large eyespots near its apex become visible. A predator attacking the butterfly could either be startled by the sudden appearance of the pattern, or be enticed into attacking the conspicuous spot rather than the butterfly's body (Stevens, 2005). This butterfly also has a curious technique for regulating body temperature by leaning its wings at different angles to the sun.
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.
Habitat: Coast, dunes, salt marsh, undercliffs, clifftops, dry heathland, calcareous grassland, old quarries, earthworks, derelict old spoil heaps, open woodland on stony ground, dry and well-drained soil, with sparse vegetation and plenty of bare ground in open sunny positions.
Distribution: All Europe up to 63°N, South of Russia ; absent from Albania, FYROM and Greece. In Belgium, it is considered as “critically endangered”.