Meadow Brown
Maniola jurtina

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Maniola jurtina

Male, Switzerland, June 2013

Maniola jurtina

Male, Switzerland, July 2014

Maniola jurtina

Male, Suffolk, UK, June 2019

Maniola jurtina

Female, Suffolk, UK, July 2020

Maniola jurtina

Female, Switzerland, July 2014

Maniola jurtina

Female, Switzerland, June 2017

Maniola jurtina

Male, Italy, June 2017

Maniola jurtina

Male, Switzerland, July 2014

Maniola jurtina

Male, Suffolk, UK, June 2020

Maniola jurtina

Female, July 2013 (anomalously, with twin eye-spot)

Maniola jurtina

Male, Málaga, March 2019 (the earliest I have ever seen this species)

Female, Switzerland, June 2011

Meadow browns in August 2006, Switzerland

Male, Switzerland, June 2007

Female, Val d'Aran

Maniola jurtina larva

Final instar caterpillar, Switzerland, May 2015

Maniola jurtina distribution

Distribution

A common grassland species throughout the whole of Europe except northern Scandinavia, the meadow brown is the herald of summer. The first individuals appear towards the end of May, as the grasses grow tall, and there are still butterflies around in September, as summer comes to a close. I did see one at the end of March 2019 in Málaga, in an exceptionally early year, but in most of Europe this species waits for spring to be over before putting in an appearance. It can be seen wherever grasses grow, in gardens, woods, allotments or at the beach, flying up to about 1600m in mountainous areas.

Both sexes are medium-large butterflies - the female generally noticeably bigger - with a rather floppy flight quite unlike the swooping flight of grayling species, which often fly in the same areas. The male is brown above with a sooty sex brand and a single white-pupilled eyespot in the apex of the forewing, usually set in at least a little orange. There is considerable variation here. The spot is occasionally blind, and the surrounding orange may be absent. I don't think I've ever seen an individual lacking a spot altogether, though. The female is similar, but with much more orange on the forewing and occasionally twin white pupils in the apical spot. In Spain and the Canaries - subspecies hispulla - females are almost completely orange above, with dark borders (rather than dark, with orange patches).The underside hindwing of the male usually has one or more small, blind spots set in orange rings - the individual from Italy I illustrate above is exceptional in the size of these spots and the fact two of them have white pupils. The female has a paler underside hindwing, with a wavy line separating the darker basal region from the paler outer region. She usually lacks hindwing spots.

The caterpillars feed on a wide range of grasses, including meadow grasses, fescues, bent grasses, Yorkshire fog and others. It is the caterpillar that hibernates, feeding up in the spring and reaching full size by May, when it goes wandering, looking for a place to pupate. As the last picture shows, it is quite distinctive with its long, slightly wavy hairs - very different from the finer fur of other satyrids.