This family is now included in the Nymphalidae by some. In the U. K. these are small - medium sized butterflies often found in grassy places. They have conspicuous eyespots on the wings. The spots are usually black with a white centre. The wingspan ranges from 25 - 73 mm, and as the common name suggests, the adults tend to be drably coloured. Their flight is rapid and jerky. The caterpillars often feed on grasses, and all U. K. species are grass feeders. The pupae are suspended from plants by tail hooks only, or are found on the ground.
Above is a female Meadow brown, Maniola jurtina. It is one of the most abundant European butterflies, and can be found all over the UK. the Canary Islands, North Africa, through Europe, Asia Minor and into Iran.
The adult is found in a variety of habitats, and flies from mid June to mid August. Its wingspan is 40 - 60 mm forewing 22 - 25 mm.
The scent emitted by the female to attract the male cannot be detected by humans, however the scent emitted by the male once he has found a receptive female can. It is said to smell faintly like an old cigar box.
The caterpillar is green and feeds on grass at night and hides in the grass roots during the day, so is seldom seen. It overwinters as a larva, and pupates the following summer.
The Ringlet, Aphantopus hyperantus (above) is common in western, central and northern Europe, and east as far as North-eastern Asia. It is found in damp meadows, along paths, light woodland and woodland edges from sea level up to 1500 m. There is usually one generation a year.
Eggs are scattered in grasses in July and August, and hatch in 2 or 3 weeks.
The caterpillar is fawn coloured with black spots, a brown head and a pale stripe down each side. It feeds at night on grasses and hides at the base of grasses during the day. It hibernates through the winter, although it will feed during mild spells. It continues to feed the following spring. Body length is up to 21 mm long.
Pupation takes place in the ground near the foodplants in June, and adults emerge around 2 weeks later.
Adult wingspan is 40 - 52 mm, forewing 20 - 24 mm, the females are larger than the males with more distinct eye spots on the underside of the wing. The characteristic ringed spots appear on both upper and undersides of both wings, and the underside is paler brown so the spots are more conspicuous. The spots vary in size, especially the yellow ring.
Adults are seen in July and August, and have a ponderous flight.
Note that both the one above and on the below have damaged wings, probably due to a bird attack. And this just goes to show how effective the eyespots are at attracting the attention of predators to attack a relatively unimportant part of the body.
The Speckled wood, Pararge aegeria, has 2 broods per year in the U. K., with adults flying in April and May, and also in late summer. The second brood is often darker than the first, and the white patches can vary in colour reaching yellow. The individual in the top photograph has been attacked by a predator, probably a bird, and has part of its rear wing missing, but is still able to fly well. The one below it was found sunning itself on a woodland path in late August. It is widely distributed throughout Europe except for the far north.
Eggs are laid singly on grass, and hatch after ten days.
It overwinters as a caterpillar or Pupa. The caterpillar feeds on grasses. Caterpillar length is up to 27 mm. The pupa is suspended from grass stems and is a greenish colour.
Its range extends from Western Europe through Asia Minor, Syria, Russia into Central Asia in shady areas from sea level to 1200 m and as high as 1700 m in warmer areas. As its common name suggests it is a butterfly of woodlands, the adults are most commonly seen in patches of sunlight. The one below was found on a woodland path. Wingspan is 36 - 56 mm, forewing 19 - 22 mm.