Butterflies and Moths of Southern Vancouver Island--Jeremy B. Tatum



Coenonympha tullia



This once abundant butterfly is still fairly common, but seems to be much less abundant in our area than formerly. I have never found the caterpillar myself, but in 2009 two fellow-enthusiasts saw a butterfly ovipositing. They gave me an egg, which hatched on June 7. The caterpillar accepted a variety of grasses, and did not seem particular as to which species it preferred. It pupated on July 15 and the adult butterfly emerged ten days later. A second generation probably overwinters as a caterpillar.

This species has been the subject of frequent attention by taxonomists, and I know of no two books in which it is given the same scientific or English names! The first problem is the family. For many years, the "brown" butterflies, which are a very distinct group, were given full family status as Satyridae, but recent authors tend to lump the browns into the already huge family Nymphalidae, relegating them to mere subfamilial status.

While the families are lumped, there is a diversity of opinion as to whether just one species, C. tullia, is involved, or whether the North American populations should be described as belonging to several full species, and which species is the one we get on Vancouver Island. Until the question is finally settled, I am "lumping" it under Coenonympha tullia.

There is also the question of what to use for an English name. North American populations are generally called "ringlets", with an adjective in front, such as "ringless", "ochre", "common", "inornate", "northwest", all of which have been used for the Vancouver Island populations. Further problems are that "The Ringlet" in Britain is a well-established name for an entirely unrelated satyrine butterfly, while C. tullia is the Large Heath, and our butterfly on southern Vancouver Island is entirely devoid of any marking that could be described as a "ringlet". I am therefore not using an English name.

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