Hipparchia semele | Grayling | Donnóg aille

Pre 2017

2017 - 2021


Conservation status

Ireland: Near Threatened (Regan et al., 2010)
Europe: Least Concern (van Swaay et al., 2010)
Climate risk category: High Climate Change Risk; present distribution in Europe can be explained by climate (Settele et al., 2008)

Legal status

The Grayling is not afforded legal protection in Ireland.

Native status


Species Biology


Key identification features include:

  • Medium size, wingspan: 51 - 62 mm
  • Upperside of wings largely orange with mottled brown borders, and two prominent eye-spots
  • Underside of wing highly cryptic, grey-brown
  • When basking, it closes both wings together and orientates towards the sun casting a minimal shadow - very difficult to see until disturbed.


Specialist on habitats with extensive areas of exposed rock: unimproved dry grassland, dry siliceous heath, coastal grey dunes, machair, vegetated sea-cliffs, limestone pavement, moraine and scree. Adults rest on rocks, bare ground and sand, being very well camouflaged there, as they hide the forewings within the cryptically marked undersides of the hindwings, and tilt towards the sun to minimise shadow visibility. Flight is rapid and erratic (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Flight period

Univoltine: from June to September.

Life cycle

Eggs are laid on a grass blade or on nearby debris, laid singly. Small, semi-isolated tussocks amongst bare soil are the most favoured. The larvae feed by night, retreating to the base of the grass-tussock by day, from late September, entering diapause in
November on or below ground level, where they have occasionally been found in earthen cells below stones. The larvae may also feed occasionally in winter when conditions are mild. They recommence feeding in March, both by day and night. Pupation occurs early in June when the larva burrows into the soil and excavates a small cell lined with silk (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Food plants

Generalist, the larvae feed on a variety of grasses, but more commonly on Fescues (Festuca spp.), Early Hair-grass (Aira praecox), Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) and Marram (Ammophila arenaria).

Flowers visited

Generalist, adult nectar sources include: Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Heather (Calluna vulgaris / Erica spp.), Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) and Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.).


World distribution(GBIF)

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.



Bond, K.G.M. and Gittings, T. 2008. Database of Irish Lepidoptera. 1 - Macrohabitats, microsites and traits of Noctuidae and butterflies. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 35. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.

Regan, E.C., Nelson, B., Aldwell, B., Bertrand, C., Bond, K., Harding, J., Nash, D., Nixon, D. and Wilson, C.J. 2010. Ireland Red List No. 4 – Butterflies. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Ireland.

Settele, J., Kudrna, O., Harpke, A., Kühn, I., Van Swaay, C., Verovnik, R., Warren, M.S., Wiemers, M., Hanspach, J., Hickler, T. and Kühn, E. 2008. Climatic risk atlas of European butterflies. Sofia-Moscow: Pensoft.

Van Swaay, C., Cuttelod, A., Collins, S., Maes, D., López Munguira, M., Šašic, M., Settele, J., Verovnik, R., Verstrael, T., Warren, M., Wiemers, M. and Wynhof, I. 2010. European Red List of Butterflies. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.