Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz



Adults diurnal; medium sized to large; relatively short-bodied; relatively slender-bodied (wingspan more than 15 times the thoracic width) to medium built (wingspan more than 8 and less than 15 times the thoracic width); wings in repose apposed vertically over the back.

Head rough. Antennae of medium length; extending to about 0.32–0.48 times the length of the forewing; inserted markedly less than one half the width of the head apart; clubbed. The club gradual, or abruptly terminal (curved or straight, flattened or not). Antennae of males simple; non-ciliate. Eyes hairy, or glabrous. Ocelli absent. Chaetosemata present. Maxillary palps much reduced; 1 segmented. Labial palps ascending; 3 segmented. Proboscis fully developed; not scaly.

Wingspan 29–64(–70) mm; 13–21 times the thoracic width. Forewings broad; (1.2–)1.4–1.8(–2.3) times as long as wide. The outer and hind margins angled at 91–110 degrees. The outer margin slightly concavely curved (rarely), or convexly curved to more or less straight; forewings apically blunt; ground colour predominantly light brown, or dark brown (or fuscous), or orange-brown, or white or cream (rarely); forewings eye-spotted above (usually), or without eye-spots above (but then usually eye-spotted underneath); forewings eye-spotted underneath near the tip (except in some forms of A. hyperanthus). Hindwings broadly rounded; similar in breadth to the forewings; the upper surfaces conspicuously patterned above (with contrasting fasciae and/or eye-spots), or plain; with the conventional lepidopterous lines and discal marks lacking or more or less obscured by conversion into bands, blotches or rows of spots; without a frenulum.

Neuration of forewings and hindwings dissimilar. Forewings 12(–13) veined; with vein 12 basally dilated or vesicular; with 1 anal vein, or with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only, or comprising 1b and 1c. Forewings lacking a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the forewings simple. Discal cell of the forewings without a tubular media (M) vein. Hindwings usually 9 veined (10 in Lasiommata maera); with 2 anal veins (usually), or with 3 anal veins (in L. maera). The anal veins of the hindwings comprising 1a and 1b, or comprising 1a, 1b and 1c. Hindwings exhibiting vein 1a; lacking a tubular vein 1c; with a praecostal spur, or without a praecostal spur. The hindwing cell emitting more than six veins. 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another (mostly), or 3+4 proximally joined (on the cell, e.g. Lasiommata, Pararge). Vein 8 of the hindwings arising from the upper margin of the cell (from near its base); not approximating to vein 7.

Adults having only 4 fully developed legs (the vestigial fore-legs brushlike, one-jointed in the males and two-jointed in the females). Fore-legs of female useless for walking. Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Tympanal organs absent.

Eggs, larvae and pupae. Eggs not flattened (hemispherical, sub-globular or barrel-shaped); smooth or minutely pitted, or ribbed and/or reticulate, or with projections. Larval prolegs 10. Larvae not densely long-hairy (mostly short-haired); without bristly spines; mostly exposed feeders (sometimes concealed in Hipparchia); not feeding in communal tents. All on Gramineae, a few also on Cyperaceae.

Pupae smooth and rounded; conspicuously patterned, or plain; without shining-metallic spots; exposed, with no coccoon (usually), or concealed; usually suspended from the tail (cremaster), with no median silk girdle; when ‘concealed’, on the surface of the ground (and unattached), or subterranean (occasionally).

British representation. Genera 9; 14 species (including 3 adventives). Aphantopus hyperanthus (Ringlet), Arethusana arethusa (False Grayling, adventive), Chazara briseis (Hermit, adventive), Coenonympha hero (‘Plastead's Brown Ringlet’, adventive), Coenonympha arcania? (‘Plastead's Tawny Ringlet’, adventive), Coenonympha pamphilus (Small Heath), Coenonympha tullia (Large Heath), Erebia aethiops (Scotch Argus), Erebia epiphron (Mountain Ringlet), Erebia ligea (Arran Brown), Hipparchia semele (Grayling), Lasiommata maera (Large-eyed Wall Brown, adventive), Lasiommata megera (Wall Brown), Maniola jurtina (Meadow Brown), Melanargia galathea (Marbled White), Pararge aegeria (Speckled Wood), Pyronia tithonus (Gatekeeper).

Classification. Butterflies. Suborder Ditrysia. Superfamily Papilionoidea.

Comments. Mostly sombrely coloured in shades of brown or fuscous, the flight usually irregular but rapid.

Illustrations. • Satyridae (1): Newman. • Melanargia galathea (Marbled White: Giles Watson, photos). • Pararge aegeria (Speckled Wood: photos, Giles Watson). • Satyridae (2): Newman. • Satyridae (3): Newman. • Aphantopus hyperantus (The Ringlet: Giles Watson, photos). • Aphantopus hyperantus (The Ringlet: Giles Watson, photo). • Satyridae (4): Newman. • Coenonympha hero (‘Plastead's Brown Ringlet Butterfly’ - mainland-European, presented by Mr. Plastead: B. Ent. 205). • Coenonympha hero: B. Ent. 205, legend+text. • Coenonympha hero (dissections: B. Ent. 205). • Coenonympha hero: B. Ent. 205, legend+text. • Coenonympha hero (B. Ent. 205, text cont.. • Mainland-European Coenonympha arcania ('Plastead's Tawny Ringlet Butterfly'): B. Ent. 205*. • Coenonympha arcania. B. Ent. 205*, legend+text. • Coenonympha arcania. B. Ent. 205*, text cont.. • Mainland-European Coenonympha glycerion, as Hipparchia iphis. Stephens 1828. • Maniola jurtina (Meadow Brown: Hübner/Curtis). • Melanargia galathea (Marbled White: Hübner/Curtis). • Lasiommata (Pararge) megera (Wall Brown: Hübner/Curtis). • Lasiommata megera and Pararge aegeria: Kirby. • Lasiommata maera (Large-eyed Wall Brown: Kirby). • Arethusana arethusa (False Grayling: Hübner). • Maniola, Pyronia, Erebia, Aphantopus (Browns: Coleman). • Coenonympha, Erebia, Pararge, Hipparchia (Eumenis) Browns: Coleman). • Chazara briseis. • Larvae and pupae of assorted Satyridae (Duponchel, 1849).

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera. Version: 8th June 2016.’.