Ringlet Butterfly Now Established in Assynt?

July 30th 2023

Ringlet Butterfly Now Established in Assynt?

The Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus is a member of the Brown family (Satyridae).  It has greatly extended its range in the Highlands over the last two decades, probably in response to climate change.  It rapidly colonised Speyside and Moray, expanded into south-eastern Sutherland and, for three years, there has been an established colony at Borgie on the north coast.  More recently, it reached our part of the west coast (although since the publication of Butterflies of Assynt in 2020).  Now it seems to be spreading.


Chris and Fran Barley were the first to see one in Assynt, on 29th June 2022, in their garden at Baddidarach (NC0823); this was duly noted on the AFC web-site.  Then, Andy Summers and others, including me, saw one on the AFC field meeting at Loch Ailsh in East Sutherland (NC3110, about 5km to the east of the parish boundary), on 17th July of that year.   

This year Dave McBain was the first off the mark, with one in his garden in Lochinver (NC0923) on 26th June.  So, this summer, I was hoping to spot one locally.  On my Wetlands Bird Survey, on the morning of 9th July, I was finally lucky.

There is an area of rushy grassland just west of the road at Strathan (NC081210) which I have to cross to reach the shore, and there I came across two individuals.  One was slightly worn and the other had possible bird damage to one of its wings.  I managed to get a photograph of the upper side of the first with my compact camera.  A little later, returning from the shore, I photographed the upper side of a third, fresher individual (photo 1).  I visited the site again in the afternoon with my bridge camera, determined to photograph the underside of the butterfly.  I was pleased to do so, despite the light rain (photo 2).

Life cycle

The larvae feed on coarse grasses, often in damp places, and the adults frequent areas where there is partial shade provided by light tree cover.  The flight period is short, from late June to early August, so now is the time to look out for them. 

Seen from a distance they are a drab grey-brown and might be mistaken for a slightly under-sized Meadow Brown.  The give-aways are the conspicuous pale-ringed eye-spots on the underside of both fore- and hind-wings.  

Gwen Richards

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