Larche Ringlet (Erebia scipio)

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2020 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.



Erebia scipio is a highly elusive and localised species. Its distribution is limited to the southern French Alpes and a small section of the Alpes-Maritimes across the border in Italy. I have only seen this species on one occasion, in July 2020 (in line with pandemic restrictions), and only one specimen. I was in a known exact location (thanks to my French friend for the information) but I have some serious reservations, outlined below.


It would appear that is has disappeared from a number of its former haunts. An English lepidopterist with an excellent track record of finding rare species recently spent a number of days in the accepted scipio stronghold (to use the word in its loosest sense) in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence without success.


The reason I believe it is (or could be) scipio is that I spent a minute or two studying this individual at a distance through my Papilio binoculars when it had its wings closed and the unh appeared entirely black with no mottling that would indicate the only other candidate, Marbled Ringlet (E. montana). However, repeating a mistake I have made too frequently, I spent too much time looking and failed to get a photograph of the underside. By the time I got the camera into action, all I could get were these two images, albeit reasonably clear as distance shots.

So what are the reasons for my doubts?

1. I would expect the uph red post-discal band to be rather wider for scipio.

2. I would expect the uph ocelli to be slightly larger for scipio.

3. I would expect the ocelli to be better aligned and not slightly offset for scipio. This is a major reservation.

4. It is said that scipio is "usually without hindwing ocelli". These are very small ocelli and located at the very outer edge of the uph post-discal band. For montana, I would expect the ocelli to be larger and more centrally located within the band, a pointer away from montana. The recently-published Atlas by CEN-PACA shows only an image of the underside hindwing. This is not very clear but does appear to show a unh reddish band with two small ocelli at the edge of the band.


However, an internet search (not that there any many useful images available anywhere) shows images of smaller ocelli, ocelli not quite aligned, and hindwing vestigial ocelli. So the jury is still out on this one.


Despite scouring this location with binoculars for another two hours, I did not see another. The date would have been a the start of the flight period, so this fresh male may have been the first to emerge. The only other Erebia at this location were Piedmont Ringlet (E. meolans) - image 47270 on that page - and False Mnestra Ringlet (E. aethiopella), ubiquitous in this region.


I intend to make another trip to the same location in 2021 if the pandemic restrictions permit. And I will remember to get an underside photograph if the opportunity arises.




alt. m



a male. See comment above. 47260 is the same butterfly.




a male. See comment above. 47257 is the same butterfly.