Grayling ©Margaret Holland


Scientific name: Hipparchia semele
The Grayling is one of our largest brown butterflies and a master of disguise - its cryptic colouring helps to camouflage it against bare earth and stones in its coastal habitats and on inland heathlands.

Species information


Wingspan: 5.1-6.2cm

Conservation status

Priority species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity framework.

When to see

June to September


A medium-sized butterfly, the Grayling inhabits sunny places; 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 around the coast and on 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 Sheep's fescue, Red fescue and Marram grass.

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.


Found around the UK's coastline and on inland sites in southern England.

Did you know?

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

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.