Speckled Wood

Pararge aegeria


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Pararge aegeria

Subspecies tircis, Suffolk, UK, April 2020

Pararge aegeria

Male, subspecies tircis, Suffolk, UK, April 2020

Pararge aegeria

Female, Suffolk, UK, August 2020

Pararge aegeria

Female, Subspecies tircis, Suffolk, UK, April 2014

Pararge aegeria

Male, subspecies tircis, Switzerland, August 2017

Pararge aegeria

Male, subspecies tircis, Suffolk, UK, August 2018

Pararge aegeria

Male, Switzerland, May 2015

Pararge aegeria

Subspecies tircis, Switzerland, April 2017

Pararge aegeria

Male, subspecies tircis, Switzerland, October 2013



Pararge aegeria

Female, subspecies aegeria, Spain, February 2017

Pararge aegeria

Male, subspecies aegeria, Spain, July 2017

Male, subspecies aegeria, Gibraltar, February 2007

Pararge aegeria distribution

Distribution

The speckled wood is a common and familiar butterfly throughout Europe, except for the far north, on the wing as early as February in Spain - more typically March or April further north - and flying well into the autumn. Strangely, it was entirely absent from East Suffolk during my childhood but suddenly invaded in the 1908s to become a very common butterfly. There are two subspecies in Europe, tircis and aegeria, quite different in appearance. The dividing line runs approximately NW to SE across France, just tickling west Switzerland. In Switzerland it is not uncommon to see individuals apparently with characteristics of both subspecies - cream spots and orange spots.

The northern and eastern subspecies, tircis, is dark brown above with cream blotches, a single apical ocellus on the forewing and 3-5 ocelli on the hindwing. The underside is beautifully marked in subtle shades of cream and brown with hints of violet. The male has an inconcpsicuous (but clearly visible from some angles) sex brand on the forewing. Subspecies aegeria is similar in structure and pattern but the cream is replaced with bright orange, giving a totally different appearance, superficially resembling a wall butterfly. There are no similar species in mainland Europe, but on the Atlantic Islands (the Canaries and Madeira) two further species of Pararge fly: the Canary speckled wood and the Madeiran speckled wood. The Canary speckled wood has a flat outer margin (concave in speckled wood) and a white costal flash on the underside hindwing, while the Madeiran speckled wood is larger, with orange patches on a more extensive, darker ground, and a more dramatic underside. As the speckled wood doesn't fly in the Canaries, there is no risk of confusion there, but apparently it is now a common butterfly in Madeira.

The caterpillars feed on various common species of grass. The species can hibernate as a caterpillar or pupa, so has a protracted emergence in the spring and can fly late into the autumn, producing two or three broods in between.