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.

How to identify

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.

Where to find it

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


When to find it

  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

How can people help

Despite being widespread around the coast, the Grayling is declining, especially in inland areas. The Wildlife Trusts manage many heathland, grassland and coastal habitats sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of butterflies. We are also working closely with farmers, landowners and developers to promote wildlife-friendly practices. We have a vision of a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country, which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Hipparchia semele
Butterflies and moths
Wingspan: 5.1-6.2cm
Conservation status
Classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.