Grayling (Hipparchia semele)

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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.

16860_male_Alpes-Maritimes_27Jun09 19371_male_Var_01Sep09 14395_male_Var_29Sep08
41010_male_Drôme_5Jul16 23486_male?_Var_30Aug10 14323_female_Var_17Sep08
   
23720_female?_Var_5Sep10    

In the UK, there is no question of mis-identification, but there are a number of close relatives in France although most are clearly distinguishable from semele (but not necessarily from each other). There is also the very similar Southern Grayling (H. aristaeus) but this does not occur in mainland France, which is just as well, as I have seen individuals that are almost identical to the book illustrations of aristaeus. The male semele has a more pronounced unh white post-discal band, with a less jagged discal line than in the female. These are all of the subspecies cadmus which is the normal form in southern France, with an altitude range of 0-1700m. It is larger than the nominate form, quite noticeably so, with a dark unh basal area and white post-discal band clearly defined, more so in the male.

 

In the UK, semele is largely restricted to coastal regions, although in Var it is very much a mid-altitude species, where I usually find it at 500m to 1000m and often higher. It is not usually found in large numbers, and often scarcer than its Hipparchia relatives with which it often flies. It always settles with wings closed, but has a lighter upperside than many of its relatives, so can often be identified in flight.

There is some question as to the emergence period of semele. Many books suggest that it emerges in June and goes into immediate aestivation (summer hibernation), re-emerging in September. It is not totally clear to me why they should want to do that, especially in northern Var at 920m altitude where the temperature stays tolerable compared to the lower regions of Var nearer the coast. Also they would have to aestivate immediately, as the specimens I see in September are nearly always pristine. I am quite happy to accept that they do aestivate but would like to understand why they do it.

 

 
ref sex

observations

alt. m
16860 M

a male, nice and clean unh markings, with the unf showing slightly, also nice and cleanly marked and attractively orange.

900
19371 M

a male, rather monotone black and white.

920
14395 M

a rather dark male, with no real indication of the unf orange markings. Very little contrast across the discal line, and a strangely rounded (c.f. the other photographs) discal line shape.

780
41010 M a male taking salts from damp ground. It is quite dark and crisply marked, and complemented by the orange around the unf ocellus. 1220
23486 M

a male, I suspect, as the discal line is quite rounded and there is noticeable contrast across the discal line.

920
14323 F

a typical, rather dull, female.

920
23720 F

a female, based on the very jagged discal line in the centre.

920

 

16860_male_Alpes-Maritimes_27Jun09

 

19371_male_Var_01Sep09

 

14395_male_Var_29Sep08

 

41010_male_Drôme_5Jul16

 

23486_male?_Var_30Aug10

 

14323_female_Var_17Sep08

 

23720_female?_Var_5Sep10