Tree Grayling

Hipparchia (Neohipparchia) statilinus


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Hipparchia statilinus

Male, Aragón, Spain, July 2017

Hipparchia statilinus

Female, Switzerland, October 2016

Hipparchia statilinus

Female, left, male, right, Switzerland, September 2014

Hipparchia statilinus

Female, Switzerland, October 2013

Hipparchia statilinus

Female, Switzerland, September 2012

Hipparchia statilinus

Male (on left) with meadow brown, Switzerland, September 2017



Mating couple, male on left, Switzerland, September 2012

Hipparchia statilinus

Male, Switzerland, August 2018

Hipparchia statilinus

Female, Switzerland, November 2017

Hipparchia statilinus

Feeding on grape mush, Switzerland, October 2013

Hipparchia statilinus

Feeding on rotting apples, Switzerland, October 2010 (note the grayling, Hipparchia semele, on the right of the group)

Hipparchia statilinus

Any fermented beverage will do ... Switzerland, October 2016



Female, Switzerland,September 2012



Male (on left) being rejected (I think) by female, Switzerland, September 2011



The same couple



Females, Switzerland, September 2012



Male, Switzerland, October 2011



Male, October 2011

Hipparchia statilinus

Distribution

I first encountered tree graylings in the Sierra Nevada in July 1983, when I was working in Gibraltar. The Spanish border was then closed to non-residents and even as a resident I wasn't allowed to take my camera into Spain, so I got no pictures. My next encounter was in 2004, in the Rhône Valley of Switzerland. Since then, I have seen them there every year in great numbers, as well as bumping into them in North Spain from time to time. Curiously, in Switzerland they are a very late species, appearing in August and flying through into November. There, they are a butterfly of the harvest, often to be seen by the dozen on rotting grapes and mush, and on fallen apples. I think the alcohol attracts them - they are regulars on my beer cans too! In France I am told they fly much earlier and are often over by the end of August. Their European distribution is rather scattered and broken up and I suspect local populations adapt to local conditions. Changing conditions then lead to local extinctions - and this is sadly a species that has seen many of these in Central Europe.

Males have a rather well defined white band on the underside hindwing, edged inwardly in black, while the markings on the female are similar but more diffuse. On the forewing, upperside and underside, are two large eyespots, usually circled in orange and separated by two characteristic white spots. The eyespot nearest the apex is often almond-shaped. The only similar species in Europe is Freyer's grayling, Hipparchia fatua, from the Balkans. This is larger and darker, with finer markings beneath and less contrast. Male tree graylings very rarely display the upperside of the wings, but females do so quite commonly in display or rejection, and occasionally at other times. Older individuals show the upperside more frequently, especially when feeding.

This is a species of hot, dry, rocky places, exposed to direct sun - often with scattered trees and bushes but never closed or shaded. In Switzerland they are especially common in terraced vineyards. The caterpillars feed on various grasses, including brome grasses, feather grass and yellow bluestem, and hibernate while small.