Mountain Ringlet Butterfly: Identification, Life Cycle, and Behavior

In this article, you will learn all about the intriguing Mountain Ringlet butterfly.

Dive into its identification features, lifecycle, and unique behaviors.

Plus, we’ll discuss its diet, main threats and even the plants it calls home.

Mountain Ringlet butterfly

What is the Classification of Mountain Ringlet Butterfly?

Scientifically known as the Erebia epiphron, the Mountain Ringlet butterfly is part of the Nymphalidae family.

This classification includes the prominent, admired, and globally spread butterflies commonly referred to as the brush-footed butterflies.

The genus Erebia, to which the Mountain Ringlet belongs, is bound together by shared traits that include small and rounded wings, coupled with a preference for cooler climates.

To provide deeper insight:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Erebia
  • Species: E. epiphron

Thus, the full scientific name, influenced by the binomial nomenclature, of Mountain Ringlet butterfly is Erebia epiphron.

Despite its pleasing exterior, the butterfly’s taxonomy undeniably declares it as more than just a pretty flyer, but an ecological gem finding a place in the delicate balance of nature.

What is the Distribution of Mountain Ringlet Butterfly?

The Mountain Ringlet Butterfly, known scientifically as Erebia epiphron, is predominantly found in the mountain regions of Europe.

It’s most common in countries such as Scotland, the Alps of France, Switzerland, and the northern parts of Spain.

Being a mountainous species, the butterfly thrives at higher altitudes, typically between 1,500 and 2,400 meters (4,900 to 7,900 feet).

As altitude decreases, the butterfly becomes less common, almost entirely disappearing below 900 meters (2,952 feet).

Its preferred habitats include grassy fellfields, alpine pastures, and steep, sunny slopes with plenty of rocks to aid in their efficient thermoregulation.

The butterfly’s aptitude for cooler climates also sees it occupying areas further north in Europe, such as in the highlands of Scotland.

This can be attributed to the lower temperatures at these latitudes, mimicking the cool, alpine environments that the butterfly naturally favors.

Climate change presents a significant threat to the distribution of the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly. As global temperatures rise, the butterfly’s suitable habitat range decreases.

Higher altitudes and cooler climates are becoming increasingly rare, causing the butterfly’s population to decline in certain areas.

Efforts are in place to monitor these changes and appropriately conserve this unique and fascinating species.

What are the Main Characteristics of the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly?

The Mountain Ringlet butterfly, scientifically known as Erebia epiphron, is a small to medium-sized butterfly. It boasts a wingspan of about 1.5 inches (4 cm).

This butterfly is distinguished by its unique coloring, which sets it apart from other species.

The upper side of the Mountain Ringlet butterfly’s wings are a rich, chocolate brown,altitudinal variation is observed.

  • Eye-Catching Rings: On both the fore and hindwings, there are distinctly yellows rings encircled in black. Each ring, or ‘ocellus,’ includes a tiny white pupil, which is a standout characteristic of this species.
  • Underside Coloring: Looking at the underside, the forewings are similar to above, but have a reddish hue while the hindwings are distinctly greyer.
  • Antennae and Body: The Mountain Ringlet butterfly has noticeably clubbed antennae typical of butterflies, and a rather chunky body compared to the more sleek body shapes of other butterfly species.

The adaptable Mountain Ringlet butterfly is well-equipped for its mountainous habitat. It has a unique characteristic, an ability to fly in cooler weather conditions when other butterfly species would typically be inactive.

Another adaptive trait – when resting, it assumes a position with wings over its back which provides camouflage amongst heather and grasses.

This combination of unique identifiers and remarkable adaptations allows the Mountain Ringlet to thrive in its designated habitats.

How to Identify Male and Female Mountain Ringlet Butterfly?

Identifying the sex of a Mountain Ringlet butterfly can be a fascinating task. Males display a rich, vivid orange color on the upper side of their wings contrasted by distinctive black spots.

The black borders of the wings are broad and noticeable, especially when the wings are spread.

For females, the coloration is slightly different. The vivid orange is replaced with a softer, creamier shade of orange. At the same time, the black spots on their wings remain unchanged.

Their multi-faceted eyes, however, are a shade lighter than those of the males.

In both sexes, the undersides of the wings display cryptic brownish grey coloration, a common trait in many mountain-dwelling insects for camouflage.

Keep an eye out for these characteristics; you can identify a Mountain Ringlet butterfly’s sex with relative ease. Let’s look at their unique mating rituals.

What is the Mating Ritual of Mountain Ringlet Butterfly?

Entering the world of the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly (Erebia epiphron), we come across a mating ritual as unique and intriguing as the butterfly itself.

This ritual is intrinsically tied to their craggy, high-altitude habitats. They typically mate in the early morning or late afternoon, when the temperatures are just right.

Male Mountain Ringlet Butterflies are keen and determined suitors. They employ a scramble competition strategy. In brief, it’s a race where multiple males vie to pursue an individual female.

This strategy does not involve actual fighting or physical opposition among males, but rather, it is mostly a test of speed and endurance. It’s a mad dash to secure the chance to propagate one’s genes.

The female Mountain Ringlet, on the other hand, plays a decisive role. After mating, the female will lay her eggs singly, typically on the leaves of one of the various species of grasses the caterpillar will later feed on.

Lastly, there’s the factor of pheromones. These chemical signals are released by the female to attract males. It is a silent call of seduction in the insect world, and the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly is no exception.

And so, the dance of life among these butterflies pushes forward, all following the rhythm of the Mountain Ringlet’s delicate, yet resilient lifestyle.

What Does the Caterpillar of Mountain Ringlet Butterfly Look Like?

The caterpillar of the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly is a sight to behold. Its features are quite distinctive, making it easy to identify. This little creature is cylindrical in shape, with a length that typically spans around 1 inch (2.5 cm).

Its predominant color varies between a vibrant green and a subtle, more earthy brown, often blending seamlessly with its surroundings.

A striking feature of the Mountain Ringlet caterpillar is the presence of a series of diagonal, cream-colored lines along its sides.

These diagonal strokes make the caterpillar rather conspicuous, a tell-tale sign for sharp-eyed observers. Apart from that, the caterpillar exhibits fine hair-like structures, elegantly dispersed across its body.

The head of the caterpillar is a darker shade, ranging from deep brown to black. It is almost shiny and semi-translucent in appearance equipped with a pair of relatively large and prominent antennae.

To sum it up, the Mountain Ringlet caterpillar is characterized by its cylindrical shape, green or brown color, cream diagonal lines, furry body, and a dark, almost shiny head capped with antennae.

The distinctive features of the Mountain Ringlet caterpillar make it unique, and easier to spot in the wild.

This exquisite creature is a fine example of Mother Nature’s astounding attention to detail, beautifully contributing to the intricate ecosystem of our planet.

What is the Life Cycle of Mountain Ringlet Butterfly?

The life cycle of the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly, like other butterflies, is fascinating and unfolds in four distinct stages.

Stage 1: Egg The beginning of their life cycle takes place when the female lays tiny, spherical, greenish-white eggs. These eggs are typically laid separately on the blades of wild grass, mostly on the undersides for added protection.

Stage 2: Larva (Caterpillar) Once hatched, the caterpillar emerges. It is green with sparse, short, bristly hairs and a pale line down each side. The caterpillar is the primary eating and growth stage. It will continue to eat and grow until it is time for it to pupate.

Stage 3: Pupa (Chrysalis) The caterpillar forms a pupa or chrysalis, a case for protecting the developing butterfly. The pupa of the Mountain Ringlet is pale green and dotted with small black spots. This phase occurs in the ground among plant debris, where the caterpillar overwinters before emerging in mid-summer.

Stage 4: Adult Butterfly From the chrysalis, the adult butterfly, laden with characteristically orange-ringed eyespots, emerges, fully developed. This is the final stage of the butterfly’s life, where it focuses on reproduction to ensure the continuation of the species.

In order to understand and appreciate the delicate beauty of the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly, it’s beneficial to know the story of its development.

The intricate process that it goes through from being an egg to reaching adulthood is a testament to the incredible journey of life.

What Is the Average Life Expectancy of a Mountain Ringlet Butterfly?

The life expectancy of the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly is relatively short, typical of most butterflies.

Adult Mountain Ringlets on average only have a lifespan of about one month, depending heavily on their habitat’s climate.

Since they live in high altitude regions with cooler temperatures, their metabolic rate is generally slower.

This allows them to slightly extend their life expectancy, compared to other butterfly species.

Of course, it’s essential to note that this one month involves the entire adult phase, inclusive of the mating period.

Once eggs are laid, a new life cycle initiates, ensuring the continuity of the species.

What Does the Diet of a Mountain Ringlet Butterfly Consist Of?

A curious mind may wish to know what lies at the heart of a Mountain Ringlet Butterfly’s diet. The simple answer: nectar.

Delving a bit deeper, the specifically flavorful, floral nectar forms the fundamental diet of these beautiful insects.

  • Adult Butterfly Nourishment: Once butterflies, these creatures feed primarily on floral nectar, with the specific types of plants varying based on their habitat. This sugary fluid gives them the energy they need for their daily activities such as flying and mating.
  • Caterpillar Food Source: Different story for the caterpillars, the larvae depend on specific species of grass as their main food. They primarily consume the leaves and stems of certain mountain grasses like fescues and bents. The diet of the caterpillars are crucial for them to smoothly transition to their pupal stage.

To elaborate more on the nectar preference, adult butterflies are specifically attracted to nectar from a variety of alpine flowers which grow in their high-altitude habitats.

The type of nectar they consume, therefore, depends largely on the kinds of flowers available in their immediate location during their flight season.

To further specify, flowers such as daisies, meadowsweet, and globe flowers are the key nectar sources.

Understanding the diet of the Mountain Ringlet isn’t just important for academics and enthusiasts.

It’s also critical for conservation efforts – by protecting the plants and habitats these creatures rely on for food, we also protect the future of the Mountain Ringlet butterfly.

Which Plants Serve as the Primary Hosts for Mountain Ringlet Butterfly?

If you’re fascinated by how nature co-exists, the relationship between the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly and its host plants is an epitome of symbiosis.

Mat-grass and bents top the list of primary host plants. Abundant in high-altitude regions, these grass species also fit the butterfly’s designated living zones.

Consider mat-grass, or Nardus stricta. The fresh blades draw these butterflies like magnets. Their eggs hatch on these blades, and soon after, the caterpillar feasts on the tender young leaves.

Bents, on the other hand, are a favorite during the adult butterfly stage. Feeding on the nectar, the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly is drawn to the bendable, yet resilient, blade-like leaves of bents.

Finally, there’s Wavy Hair-grass. Found growing in damp moorland, Wavy Hair-grass has also been identified as a host for the Mountain Ringlet butterfly. To be specific, it’s the Deschampsia flexuosa variety that earns the butterfly’s favor.

In conclusion, the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly is dependent on specific grass species to furnish their lifestyle. As they transition from their larval to adult stages, their choice of plant too, gradually switches. Whether it’s feeding young caterpillars or serving nectar-filled leaves to adults, it’s these host plants that essentially extend life-giving support to the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly.

What are the Unique Mimicry Behaviors in Mountain Ringlet Butterfly?

Among the fascinating traits of the Mountain Ringlet butterfly, mimicry stands out as particularly intriguing.

Being a master of disguise, this butterfly uses mimicry as a primary survival mechanism against predators.

Let’s delve into Erebia epiphron’s epic mimicry skills.

Although the Mountain Ringlet’s brown and orange hues may seem dull at first glance, they serve a paramount purpose. The butterfly’s colors remarkably mirror their alpine habitat, blending seamlessly with the landscape.

Furthermore, when a threat approaches, it further mimics death – a behavior called thanatosis. Seeming lifeless, limp, and dull in color markedly reduces the chances of being detected, presenting an effective defence mechanism.

In sum, the Mountain Ringlet’s distinct mimicry behaviors, being a color chameleon and simulating death, significantly enhance their survival in the wild.

It’s a testament to just how complex and incredibly adapted this species is to its rugged mountainous environment.

What Are the Main Threats to Mountain Ringlet Butterfly Populations?

There are several threats confronting the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly populations that could considerably impact their survival.

  1. Climate Change: It’s the most significant and overarching threat to this delicate insect population. The warming climate causes habitat reduction, altering the altitudinal range suitable for the butterfly species. There’s fear that the butterflies will run out of cooler, higher-altitude habitats as global warming intensifies.
  2. Habitat Loss and Fragmentation: Changes in land management, including overgrazing and agricultural intensification, can result in habitat reduction. Forest encroachment, caused by lack of grazing, could shade out the species’ food plants, thus inhibiting their growth.
  3. Pesticide Use: Indiscriminate use of chemicals can negatively affect the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly. Pesticides can kill off the caterpillars and other developmental stages of the butterfly.

To conclude, these factors, both individually and collectively, pose serious risks to the Mountain Ringlet Butterfly population.

By mitigating these, we can ensure the continued survival and proliferation of these extraordinary insects.


We’ve taken a deep dive into the world of Mountain Ringlet Butterfly, from its identification and life cycle to its unique behaviors.

We hope this information not only satisfies your curiosity but also increases your appreciation for these remarkable creatures.

What intrigued you the most about Mountain Ringlet Butterfly? Leave a comment below.

Butterflies   Updated: September 21, 2023
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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