False Ringlet (Coenonympha oedippus)

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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.

37724_male_Isère_14Jun15

37739_male_Isère_14Jun15

This is a very beautiful member of the Coenonympha Heath family, despite its erroneous name. It is a species of the wetlands and is highly localised in France and across Europe, the strongholds being in south-western France and in northern Italy. I first saw oedippus near Bordeaux in 1998 but, then being relatively new to species of Europe, I assumed it to be a Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus), which it superficially resembles, and filed the photograph without much thought. As mentioned on the hyperantus page, it was only several years later that I realised what it actually was. The moral of this story is: check every photograph carefully, even those that appear to be of common species.

 

It is threatened because of drainage of the wetlands, even though the species is now protected. Its habitat is damp meadows adjacent to scrubland, and always close to open water such as lakes. However, in its limited locations, it can sometimes be plentiful. I saw the species again in 2015 at an isolated and protected site in Isère in eastern France where I was very kindly shown a location by the local conservation organisation (thank you FLAVIA). Even within this site, the species was rather confined to a small area of damp meadow, where the males congregated in one region and the females in an adjacent meadow. The ecological requirements in terms of dampness seemed to very precise for oedippus, as evidenced by the fact that it stayed very much in regions of very specific dampness, not too dry and not too wet, making it something of a Goldilocks butterfly.

The sexes appear to be rather different, not dissimilar to the Scarce Heath (C. hero) to which it is quite similar in every respect. It nearly always settles with wings closed, very rarely open, despite such photographs being sometimes shown in books. The male has a rather darker underside ground colour, with no unf ocelli according to T&L, although the ones I saw had a series of medium-sized blind (i.e. no white centres) ocelli. The female is lighter in colour and has - according to T&L - a full set of unf ocelli, and a set of uph ocelli whereas the male has no upperside ocelli at all. My understanding of the female is derived from books as on that rainy day in June we only saw males and did not visit the area where the females congregated.

 

The illustration in T&L shows the unh of both sexes to have a clearly defined pale post-discal band just inside the ocelli, more pronounced in the female. However, the males I saw in Isère had only vestigial bands here.

 

 

ref

sex

observations

alt. m

37724

M

a male, perhaps rather lighter in colour than most of those that were seen on that day.

230

37739

M

a male, which seemed to be typical in terms of colour and markings at that location.

230

 

37724_male_Isère_14Jun15

 

37739_male_Isère_14Jun15