Grayling Hipparchia semele

A medium-sized butterfly, the Grayling is a butterfly of sunny places: the adults spend much of their time sunbathing on the ground, with their wings closed and angled to catch the full rays of the sun. Found on the coast and southern heathlands, adults are on the wing in the summer, from June to September. Cryptic colouring provides the Grayling with excellent camouflage so it can be hard to spot on stony ground. The caterpillars feed on a variety of grasses including Marram Grass and Red Fescue.


The Grayling is mainly dark brown above, with washed-out orange markings. The underside of the forewing is orange and the hindwing has an intricate grey and black pattern. The best way to identify the 'brown' butterflies is by looking at the eyespots on their wings. The combination of orange and brown markings, together with two large eyespots on the underside of the forewing and one smaller eyespot on the hindwing, is unique to the Grayling.


Wingspan: 5.1-6.2cm


Classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.


Found on heathlands and other sunny habitats around the coasts of Britain.

When to see

June – September


There are six subspecies of Grayling occurring in the UK including one found on the Great Orme in North Wales: here they are smaller than normal.

Common name


Species name

Hipparchia semele

When to see in Scotland

June – September

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