Species index

Spring Ringlet

(Erebia epistygne)

 

Male 05/04/07 Drôme (26)

Underside of insect above, 05/04/07 Drôme (26)

Female 05/04/07 Drôme (26)

Underside of insect above, 05/04/07 Drôme (26)

Female 05/04/07 Drôme (26)

Male 05/04/07 Drôme (26)

The Spring Ringlet is a thoroughly remarkable species essentially by virtue of its flight period. In central/southern Europe the Erebia genus are characteristically butterflies of hills and mountains, often occurring at the highest altitudes for butterfly species. Because of this they tend to fly mainly in the summer when these habitats have warmed up enough for the adults to emerge. Some species do occur in lower hills however, and these may emerge in mid-May in some localities and fly down to as little as 300m. Now, the Spring Ringlet flies at moderate altitude but emerges at the end of March! Indeed by the end of April it is likely to be finished in France whilst the other Erebia species haven't even considered emerging!! Quite amazing!

Consequently, if you see it fly during its flight period you know instinctively what it is as confusion is impossible with any other congener. I first searched for the insect on 25th April, 2004 but was quite probably already too late. In my second year of searching I was lucky enough to observe just one individual take to the wing in the Drôme, France on 2nd April, 2005. I pursued it in flight for a while, but it flew relentlessly and eventually disappeared from view behind some thick, prickly bushes! I took a year out in 2006 before finally succeeding to find a few individuals and take some photographs in 2007. Like other Erebia it is a very dark insect and flies characteristically with rapid wing beats generally quite close to the ground although it will leap over bush cover to escape photographers! However, even in flight the rather yellow tone of the forewing patches contrasts quite sharply against the dark ground colour and makes the insect stand out as something out of the ordinary. It is reasonably large for an Erebia species and quite a strong flier too. It is an extremely local butterfly in south-eastern France though like most satyrid species, it is likely (?) to be abundant at least for a short time during the flight period. Interestingly, the species also flies further south in warmer, Spanish climes where it occurs relatively later in the spring I believe (April/May). 

Species index