Side view of dark brown butterfly with spots formed of yellow rings filled iwth black, then a white spot in the centre. Active

Ringlet. Photo: Ken Dolbear.

Family: Browns
Size: Medium   Wingspan: 50mm

A butterfly increasing its range in Dorset. The number of kilometre squares in which it is recorded was 487 in the late 1990s, but is now up to 992.

Where to see

  • Habitat: Damp spots, though not waterlogged. These may be in woodland as long as it is not too shady, so it likes rides and clearings. Also hedgerows and verges. The important factor is long grass. Not found much in open dry grassland.
  • Caterpillar foodplants: Grasses, including Cock's-foot, False Brome, Tufted Hairgrass, Couch and Annual Meadow Grass.
  • Best places: Widely seen outside the conurbation.

Distribution map

Ringlet was recorded from these 1km squares in Dorset (2015-19).

  •     1 record
  •     2-9 records
  •     10+ records
Explore the Atlas to see historical distribution trends for this species.

When to see

June and July, possibly going on into the following month

Sightings by month (last 5 years)*

Compare flight times for all species.

This year and last*

Browse the sightings archive.

What to look for

A very variable species, most often confused with the Meadow Brown.

On the upperside, the Ringlet is very dark, and though the female is slightly lighter, this is still quite different to the paler brown and orange of the Meadow Brown, especially when they are fresh. The Ringlet also has a definite white fringe, which can be seen sometimes when they are in flight, so look out for it.

Underneath, the Ringlet has a series of spots, not a single eyespot like the Meadow Brown, again with no orange. There are usually five spots on the hindwing and two on the forewing, but this is not always the case. It is thought these bold rings warn birds that the butterfly is poisonous, the poisons being derived by the caterpillar from the grass they eat.

Flies in dimmer and wetter conditions than most butterflies, even in showers of rain.

May be found nectaring on bramble or wild privet.

Overwinter stage: Caterpillar

Photo gallery

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Find more Ringlet related content, including news and photos.
*Note: The charts shown on this page are drawn only from casual sightings submitted to this website. Records from this website will be added to a lot more data collected throughout the year and used to compile the five-yearly Butterfly Atlases for Dorset and the UK.