Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood Butterflies
The Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) or Fáinneog in Irish is a common butterfly and can be found this month in all parts of the country. (1a;1b) It is dark brown in colour with yellow fringed eyespots on the forewings and hindwings. Its name is derived from these. The female lays eggs on meadow grasses such as Cock’s foot and Scutch grass. The caterpillars feed on the grass leaves until October and then become dormant before commencing feeding again in March only at night. This dormancy is called a diapause. They pupate for two weeks in June.
The Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) or Donnóg fhéir in Irish is another common brown butterfly which can be seen in July. Each forewing has a large eyespot. It occupies the same habitats as the Ringlet but is larger and can be seen on the wing in August and September as well. The caterpillars start feeding on meadow grasses in August and in the winter become dormant for a short period. From March onwards they feed at night like the Ringlet caterpillars and pupate in June. (2)
The Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) or Breacfhéileacháin coille in Irish is another brown that is widespread in Ireland. (3) This butterfly with its eight black eyespots with white centres surrounded by yellow circles and with creamy blotches on its wings lays eggs on meadow grasses too. It can be seen flying from April to September. Larvae become dormant for periods in winter, but some pupate.
Because brown butterflies depend on species-rich meadows for their larvae and for nectar for themselves, the creation of mini-meadows in gardens and parks and the proper management of roadside and field verges is important for their conservation. (4a;4b;4c)