Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 50–68 mm; the fringes conspicuously light-and-dark banded. Slender-bodied to medium built; very short-bodied. The eyes hairy. Antennae reaching about halfway to the wingtips, or reaching noticeably over halfway to the wingtip. The antennal clubs abrupt; flattened (blunt, pale-tipped). Labial palps ascending. Having only 4 fully developed legs (forelegs with two tarsal joints and brushlike in males, those of females having 4 tarsal joints with short setae). Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt to pointed. The outer margins concavely curved; scalloped. Uppersides of the forewings light brown to dark brown; conspicuously eye-spotted. The eye-spots 2; posterior towards the apex and mid-posterior (the apical one smaller). Uppersides of the forewings without a discal mark; with two short subcostal orange-brown bars, an orange-brown subterminal fascia which expands towards the hind angle where it encloses a conspicous blue-centred eye-spot, and whitish makings and a small blue-centred eye-spot near the apex.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded to broadly angular; not tailed; with the outer margins scalloped. Uppersides of the hindwings light brown to dark brown; conspicuously patterned. Uppersides of the hindwings eye-spotted. The eye-spots 2; posterior towards the apex (the larger), or mid-posterior to near the tornus (the smaller). Uppersides of the hindwings with a conspicuous discal mark (orange in the female, blackish and smaller in the male); coloured like the forewings, with two blue-centred eye-spots in the orange-brown outer third.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings colour-patterned as a pallid copy of the uppersides.

Undersides of the hindwings pale greyish, with dark markings and a tiny blue-centred eye-spot near the tornus; eye-spotted. The eye-spots 1; near the tornus. Undersides of the hindwings without a discal mark.

Wing venation. Forewings 13 veined; without basally dilated veins. Forewings with 2 tubular anal veins (the upper one weaker but obvious); vein 1b simple. Forewings without a discal cell (the transverse vein lacking between veins 4 and 5). Forewing veins 3 and 4 out of 2, 10 and 11 from the upper margin of the cell, and 12 free.

Hindwings 9 veined; with a praecostal spur; with 2 anal veins; exhibiting vein 1a; the anal veins comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings without a closed discal cell; the transverse vein incomplete (lacking between veins 4 and 5). Hindwing veins 3 and 4 out of 2, with 5, 6 and 7 from a stalk.

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs broadly conical; longitudinally ribbed (with fine cross-linking ribs). The larvae with rows of bristly spines. On herbaceous dicots from several families, including Plantaginaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Verbenaceae, Gentianaceae, Compositae, Portulacaceae, Convolvulaceae.

Pupae ridged and angular; conspicuously patterned; with shining-metallic markings, or without shining-metallic markings (?); exposed, with no coccoon; suspended from the tail (cremaster), with no median silk girdle.

British representation. 1 species. Junonia (Precis) villida (Albin’s Hampstead-Eye). The adults abroad in their native regions May to October, or November to April; hibernating.

Status in Britain. Adventive. Petiver’s Papilionum Britanniae of 1717 was the first book wholly devoted to British butterflies. It included the strange-looking butterfly depicted in our accompanying illustration as "Papilio oculatus Hampstediensis ex aureo fuscus; Albin's Hampstead-Eye, where it was caught by this curious person, and is the only one I have yet seen". It has sometimes been interpreted as a variety of the Speckled Wood (q.v.), but compares better with the South-Pacific Junonia villida. Striking common features additional to the general colour-patterning are the paired eye-spots on both fore- and hindwings, and the characteristically nymphalid concave forewing termen. In any event, although “Albin’s Hampstead-Eye” has never been seen in Britain again, it remains to this day a ridiculous inclusion in British checklists.

Distribution. Dubiously southeast England. Frequenting open places. Habitats calcareous and non-calcareous.

Comments. Flight strong and irregular, cf. that of Aglais urticae.

Classification. Superfamily Papilionoidea. Nymphalidae.

Illustrations. • Junonia (Precis) villida (Albinís Hampstead Eye?): photos.

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. 2008 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies. Version: 16th May 2016.’.