In the mountains of central and southern
Europe, this is a high-altitude butterfly, found typically from 1500m
to 2500m, though up to 3000m in places. In Scandinavia, like many
northern species, it flies much closer to sea level, and not higher
than 1000m. It is a local butterfly but widespread and relatively
common. I know several places where I can reliably expect to see it in
Switzerland. It is one of the earlier of the high mountain butterflies,
appearing on the wing as early as May in years when the snow melts
early - more commonly June - and usually over by the end of July.
Although superficially very similar to other Pyrgus
species, the alpine grizzled skipper is quite unmistakable when you are
familiar with it. On the upperside, the basal spots in ss.1 and 2 are
elongate and there is usually a third spot above them, completing the
series with the cell spot. This third spot is not always obvious in
weakly marked individuals. Males are quite heavily suffused whitish,
giving them a 'cold' appearance. The hindwing markings are diffuse and
nebulous, the submarginal spots resembling (to me) a diaphanous veil.
If you examine the second picture above I think you will see exactly
what I mean. Beneath, the markings are also cold - white on dull green.
The spots in s.1 of the hindwing are often likened to an exclammation
mark - a spot and a streak. This is not entirely apt but these markings
are distinctive nonetheless. They are sometimes joined along the inner
edge of the hindwing.
The foodplants are Potentilla species - Potentilla erecta in Switzerland. Lafranchis states that Dryas octopetala is used in Austria. The species hibernates as a caterpillar and flies in a single generation.