Mountain Ringlet (Erebia epiphron)

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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.

23082_male_Valais, Switzerland_24Jul10 27145_male_Hautes-Alpes_14Jul11 23052_male_Valais, Switzerland_24Jul10
40858_male_Alpes-Maritimes_2Jul16 27029_female_Hautes-Alpes_14Jul11 8317_female_Valais, Switzerland_22Jul07
38662_female_Pyrénées-Orientales_17Jul15 38681_female_Pyrénées-Orientales_17Jul15 05_23-23_male_Ariège_23Jul05

Epiphron has a number of widely separated populations across Europe, each of a clearly different appearance. Lafranchis says it is widespread and abundant in France in the Alpes and Pyrénées, but this has not been my experience, as I see it only occasionally in France, although more regularly in the Valais in Switzerland.

 

It has a habit of settling low in grassy areas, especially in cooler conditions, where it can be difficult to photograph.

 

Epiphron can be identified by the slightly angled hindwing, more prominent in the female, although I don't always find this to be true; as is often the case with the "pointers" described in books, if it has it, then that is confirmation, but absence does not necessarily preclude it.

 

The nominate species epiphron was first named as occurring in the Harz mountains in Germany, but this is considered extinct.

There are numerous subspecies and forms of this highly variable species. Of the subspecies that occur in France (and there several others that occur elsewhere in Europe):

 

aetheria: this is normally considered to be the Alpine subspecies. It has a rather diffuse upf red post-discal band, wider in the female, and having a series of small blind ocelli, usually four (in s2 to s5) present in the female.

 

However, in the Maritime Alpes, a form (subspecies?) of aetheria occurs known as cydamus, according to T&L, which resembles mnemon (see below).

 

fauveaui: the Pyrénéan subspecies, which has a rather tidier upf red post-discal band and larger, but blind, ocelli.

 

mackeri: flies in France in the Vosges mountains, and resembles fauveaui more than aetheria.

 

mnemon: this subspecies occurs in south central France, in the Massif Central and in the Auvergne. It generally has a darker ground colour, narrower and a redder upf post-discal band broken in discrete markings. This subspecies also occurs in the UK, in discrete colonies in the Lake District in northern England, and in western Scotland. There is also the subspecies scotica which occurs in northern Scotland.

ref sex

observations

alt. m
23082 M I originally had this on the page for Lesser Mountain Ringlet (Erebia melampus), but on review I believe it to be epiphron (of the subspecies aetheria) on the basis of the upf red post-discal band being rather continuous and diffuse, whereas the melampus band is neater and more clearly divided into segments. The reason for originally believing it to be melampus may have been the rounded wing shape. 1800
27145 M I believe this to be a male epiphron (of the subspecies aetheria) even though the post-discal band is very wide and quite well-defined, and the ocelli in s4 and s5 and quite large, much more so than would be normal for male epiphron. 2040
23052 M

a male (?) of the form aetheria. This is indicated by the rather ill-defined red upf post-discal band which is slightly constricted in the middle at s3, the pin-prick blind ocelli and the absence of any ocellus in s6. The hindwing is clearly angled and the red band quite wide, both of which would suggest female, even though I am fairly sure 23052 is a male based on body length and shape.

2200
40858 M I believe this to be of the subspecies aetheria form(?) cydamus, which resembles the subspecies mnemon (see narrative above), and it does indeed match the description of mnemon very well. 2000
27029 M I believe this to be a female epiphron (of the subspecies aetheria) on the basis of the wide post-discal band and the neat series of four small blind ocelli. I would suggest this is classic female epiphron of the form aetheria. 2020
8317 F

a female of the form aetheria. The clues to it being female are the wide upf post-discal band, the minute blind ocelli in s2-5 (albeit not as large as I would have expected for a female), and the slightly angled hindwing at s3. The slight but just-visible body shape suggests female.

2200
38662 F a female of the subspecies fauveaui, freshly emerged. The red post-discal band is particularly wide and each segment separated and waisted; this is possibly as extreme as it gets for fauveaui. 38681 is the underside. 1730
38681 F a female, the underside of 38662. 1730
05_23-23 M

this is, I believe, the eastern Pyrenean subspecies fauveaui with the red upf post-discal band reduced, especially in s3, and larger (blind) ocelli than the other forms. The upf ocellus in s3 seems smaller and very isolated, more so than I would have expected from the T&L illustration of fauveaui, but this may be within the range of normal variation.

1600

 

23082_male_Valais, Switzerland_24Jul10

 

27145_male_Hautes-Alpes_14Jul11

 

23052_male_Valais, Switzerland_24Jul10

 

40858_male_Alpes-Maritimes_2Jul16

 

27029_female_Hautes-Alpes_14Jul11

 

8317_female_Valais, Switzerland_22Jul07

 

38662_female_Pyrénées-Orientales_17Jul15

 

38681_female_Pyrénées-Orientales_17Jul15

 

05_23-23_male_Ariège_23Jul05