Great Banded Grayling (Brintesia circe)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

4045_female_Var_31Aug06 25143_male_Var_25May11 21093_sex?_Var_24Jun10
16606_sex?_Var_24Jun09 16682_sex?_Var_25Jun09 9612_female_Var_10Sep07
   
35261_sex?_Var_5Jun14    

A quite magnificent butterfly, which could easily mistaken for a Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) on a first fleeting sighting because of its huge size and strong white band on the upperside, as well as the powerful and often soaring flight, which is very un-grayling like. Generally widespread and quite common and I have seen them in large numbers, especially in the lavender fields of Provence. They never rest with open wings and have a habit of resting on the trunks of trees.

It cannot really be confused with any Hipparchia species as the short white unh band in the basal region clearly differentiates it from any other species. Sometimes, however, this short band can be quite greyish rather than white (e.g. 9612), so a close look may be necessary. In 2010 and 2012, which were generally poor years for spring butterflies because of the cold and wet early spring weather, circe did not seem to be affected and was one of the few species to thrive.
ref sex

observations

alt. m
4045 F this female seems to contradict my earlier statement about resting with open wings, is not, in fact, resting - it was settled with closed wings on a tree trunk but I noticed that every 30 seconds or so it flicked its wings open momentarily; I watched it closely and found that it was only flicking its wings open when an ant went too close. 60
25143 M this is a very fresh, dark, male with rather creamy white unh markings. It is sampling rotting banana laced with rum. 60
21093 ?

this is more of a greyish colouring, rather than the browner tone circe can often have.

10
16606 ?

a rare shot with the forewing extended upward. Circe normally rests with the forewing down, as in 9612, presumably for camouflage reasons.

60
16682 ?

also sampling the alcoholic mixture.

60
9612 F

this was very large, as I recall, and therefore almost certainly a female. The unh had very little contrast and the basal white mark is quite inconspicuous, given that it is often cited as a key means of identification.

430
35261 ? enjoying the alcohol of rum-soaked banana. Circe (and other butterflies) do not get drunk, but the large beetle certainly seemed to. 60

 

4045_female_Var_31Aug06

 

25143_male_Var_25May11

 

21093_sex?_Var_24Jun10

 

16606_sex?_Var_24Jun09

 

16682_sex?_Var_25Jun09

 

9612_female_Var_10Sep07

 

35261_sex?_Var_5Jun14