Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Grayling:
Hipparchia semele (Linnaeus, 1758)

Grayling egg.
  Grayling caterpillar.
  Grayling chrysalis
View a different species

View a different family
Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Nymphalidae: Subfamily Satyrinae : Genus Hipparchia: Species semele:
The Grayling is a master of camouflage. The undersides of its wings make it almost impossible to see when at rest on stone bare ground or tree trunks. It rarely opens its wings when resting of feeding and the eyespot is generally kept consealed... except when alarmed the Grayling will flick its wings revealing the eyespot. On warm, sunny days, they will readily fly when disturbed so photography is best attempted during bright but cloudy days with intermittent sun.

The Grayling is a Priority Species for conservation due to the continued loss of habitat and resulting drop in population.
The Grayling is sometimes found inland on dry heathland or calcareous grassland. It also occurs in a variety of other habitats where it is dry well drained with plenty of bare ground.

Coastal habitats where this butterfly is most likely to be encountered include undercliffs cliff tops, dunes and salt marsh.
The Grayling is a butterfly primarily of coastal habitats and occurs around much of Briatins coastline except the far north of Scotland. It can also be found in heathy areas in southern England and Wales.
Where to see the Grayling in the British Isles
The Grayling is a butterfly primarily of coastal habitats and occurs around much of Briatins coastline except the far north of Scotland. It can also be found in heathy areas in southern England and Wales.

The Grayling can be seen on the coast around Lulworth Cove (Dorset) and Whitbarrow Scar (Cumbria).
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Grayling in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
Vulnerable Vulnerable

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Vulnerable Vulnerable

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
The primary larval foodplants of the Grayling are grasses including: Sheep's-fescue (Festuca ovina) Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) Bristle Bent (Agrostis curtisii), and Early Hair-grass (Aira praecox).
British subspecies
Hipparchia semele ssp. atlantica (Harrison, 1946)
Occurs in north-west Scotland only.
Hipparchia semele ssp. clarensis (de Lattin, 1952)
Occurs in the Burren in Ireland.Subspecies clarensis is slightly smaller than ssp. Semele.
Hipparchia semele ssp. hibernica (Howarth, 1971)
Throughout Ireland but absent from the Burren region.
Hipparchia semele ssp. scota (Verity, 1911)
Occurs in Scotland in coastal areas but is absent on the Western Isles.
Hipparchia semele ssp. semele (Linnaeus, 1758)
Occurs in England, Wales and the Isle of Man.
Hipparchia semele ssp. thyone (Thompson, 1944)
Occurs in north Wales around the Great Ormes Head area.
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 down by -41%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 down by -51%

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status candidate priority species (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Grayling except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Grayling on the NBN Gateway web site.
Powered by NBN Gateway.
For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Grayling can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Grayling can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

  Show your support for this site
Every penny helps. From web site hosting to its continued development as a free resource for all, we need money to cover these ongoing costs.

Can you help towards the running costs of

Photographs of the Grayling
Image ID BB2304 - Grayling - © Debbie Cheshire
Grayling (imago)
BB2304 ©
Image ID BB2303 - Grayling - © Debbie Cheshire
Grayling (imago)
BB2303 ©
Image ID BB2228 - Grayling - © Steven Cheshire
Grayling (imago)
BB2228 ©
Image ID BB400 - Grayling - © Steven Cheshire
Grayling unknown (imago)
BB400 ©
Image ID BB399 - Grayling - © Steven Cheshire
Grayling unknown (imago)
BB399 ©
Image ID BB398 - Grayling - © Steven Cheshire
Grayling unknown (imago)
BB398 ©
Image ID BB397 - Grayling - © Steven Cheshire
Grayling unknown (imago)
BB397 ©
Image ID BB396 - Grayling - © Steven Cheshire
Grayling unknown (imago)
BB396 ©
Image ID BB91 - Grayling - © Steven Cheshire
Grayling unknown (imago)
BB91 ©
Image ID BB90 - Grayling - © Steven Cheshire
Grayling unknown (imago)
BB90 ©
There are 11 photographs of the Grayling in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Grayling as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 4 named aberrant forms of the Grayling currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. holanops - Brouwer 1935
ab. monocellata - Lempke 1957
ab. sabrinae - Heslop 1962
ab. tripuncta - Tutt 1910