Common Ringlet: Quick Guide on Identification and Habitat

Common Ringlets, scientifically known as Coenonympha tullia, are fascinating butterflies native to North America and Europe. These small, brown butterflies are a delight to observe, showcasing intricate patterns on their wings.

One intriguing aspect of the Common Ringlet butterfly is the presence of distinct subspecies depending on their habitat. For instance, the maritime ringlet, C. t. nipisiquit, and C. t. inornata both share a distributional boundary at the edge of salt marshes in New Brunswick, Canada source. Studying these subspecies offer valuable insights into understanding species boundaries and their relationship with complex ecosystems.

Common Ringlet Overview

Distribution and Habitat

The Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia) is a butterfly species belonging to the Nymphalidae family, specifically the subfamily Satyrinae, also known as brush-footed butterflies. These butterflies are found throughout North America, including Canada and Mexico.

Common Ringlets primarily inhabit grassy areas, meadows, and the edges of forests. They are well-adapted to a variety of habitats, ranging from coastal regions to montane environments.

Size and Characteristics

  • Wingspan: 22-35 mm (0.86-1.37 inches)
  • Coloration: Mottled brown and tan with a dull orange or yellow tint
  • Eye spots: Single black eye spot with a white center on each hindwing

The Common Ringlet has a small to medium size, with a wingspan of 22-35 mm. The butterfly’s wings display a mottled brown and tan color with a dull orange or yellow tint. A distinct characteristic of the Common Ringlet is the single black eye spot with a white center on each of its hindwings.

Classification and Subspecies

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Arthropoda Insecta Lepidoptera Nymphalidae Coenonympha C. tullia

The Common Ringlet belongs to the kingdom Animalia, phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Lepidoptera, and family Nymphalidae. Within the Coenonympha genus, the species is identified as Coenonympha tullia.

There are several subspecies of Common Ringlets, including the Maritime Ringlet (C. t. nipisiquit) and C. t. inornata (meaning unadorned). The two subspecies share a common distributional boundary at the edge of salt marshes in New Brunswick.

Appearance and Identification

Wings and Eyespots

The Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia) is a small butterfly with a wingspan of 1.25 to 1.5 inches. It has distinct characteristics that can be observed on its wings:

  • Orange-brown forewings with a single, small eyespot near the apex
  • Hindwings with one or two eyespots, and an irregular yellow or white band.

Color Variation

Color variations are common in this species, ranging from orange-brown to yellow and sometimes even dark brown. The butterfly’s underside typically shows a lighter shade with white scales, giving it a speckled appearance.

Male and Female Differences

Males tend to have a more vibrant color pattern, while females exhibit duller hues. Additionally, males have a patch of specialized, hairy scales (androconia) on their dorsal forewings.

Similar Species

Some species visually resemble the Common Ringlet, such as the Wood-Nymph. To differentiate between them, consider the following:

Common Ringlet Wood-Nymph
Smaller in size Larger in size
Eyespots on wings Lack of eyespots
Found across the U.S Limited distribution

Conclusion

In summary, identifying the Common Ringlet requires attention to size, color, and eyespot patterns on its wings. This species can be differentiated from others like the Wood-Nymph based on specific characteristics like their distribution across the U.S., and the presence of eyespots on their wings.

Lifecycle and Behavior

Caterpillar Stage and Diet

The Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia), starts its life as a caterpillar. Residing in meadows and grasslands, these caterpillars are primarily found in England. They have a specific diet:

  • Wild grasses like fescue, bluegrass, and brome
  • Occasionally, other low-growing plants

Short bristles cover their body, and they possess a unique feature: small, protective eyespots.

Pupa to Adult

Going through a transformation, the larvae become pupa, which then develops into adult Common Ringlets. Adults have a rather modest wing span, between 28-34 mm, consisting of:

  • Mottled brown coloration
  • A series of tiny eyespots across their hindwings

This pattern provides camouflage, keeping them safe from potential predators.

Mating and Reproduction

Common Ringlets have two broods per year. The male and female engage in mating and reproduction during these brooding periods:

Brood Mating Period
1st March – May
2nd August – October

After mating, females lay their eggs on the leaves of grasses and low-growing flowers.

Flight Period

The flight period for Common Ringlets varies, lasting between March and October. Their flight style is often characterized by:

  • Fluttering, low-flying movement
  • Searching for flowers and plant life within their habitat

Their flight behavior aids in pollination, benefiting both the environment and the Common Ringlets themselves.

Habitats and Food Sources

Preferred Grasses and Flowers

The Common Ringlet butterfly is highly associated with a variety of grasses and flowers as part of its primary habitats. Some examples include:

  • Cock’s-foot
  • Bramble
  • Wild privet

These grasses and flowers are not only essential for the butterfly’s survival but also play a crucial role in their mating and breeding habits.

Grassland and Woodland Habitats

Common Ringlets are typically found in various habitat types, such as:

  • Grasslands
  • Woodland edges
  • Old fields
  • Bogs
  • Tundra

These habitats can stretch across mid-latitudes in Europe and even reach northern parts of Scotland. They prefer open areas that provide sufficient space for breeding and feeding activities.

Habitat Type Common Ringlet’s Preference
Grassland High
Woodland edges High
Old fields Moderate
Bogs Moderate
Tundra Low

Nectar Sources

As for nectar sources, Common Ringlets prefer a variety of wildflowers. They are often found feeding on:

  • Roadside flowers
  • Woodland rides
  • Prairie flowers

These diverse nectar sources contribute to the butterfly’s thriving population, ensuring that they can find adequate sustenance across their expansive habitat ranges.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Common Ringlet

 

Update Not a bee but a Hover Fly
Hello Bugman & Bug Lady!
I know you only have 30 minutes a day to spend on emails, etc, so If you read this, great! If not, it’s okay as well. Anyway, I sent an email with 2 photos. one a White -Lined Sphinx moth..and the other photo, I thought was some sort of bee..Well I discovered that it’s a Hover Fly. I Never would have thought it was a fly, but I checked all the categories I thought it would be in, and came up with nothing, so I got bored and just started looking through other areas of your site, and that’s how I happened across the Hover Fly! I added a few more photos, hope you enjoy them.
One is a worm or some such, another is a moth and the dragonfly, I think is a Widow Skimmer, which you have plenty of photos, I just thought you might like it.
These were all taken in Minnetonka Minnesota. Thanks for all your hard work,
Laura

Common Ringlet
Common Ringlet

Hi Laura,
We are happy that you identified your Hover Fly, but we must confess, that we are not sure we saw the photo. We did open one letter with a gorgeous photo of a Hover Fly, but didn’t have time to post it. Regarding this submission, it is not feasible for us to post images of different insects in the same letter. The image we are quite happy to post is of the Common Ringlet, Coenonympha tullia. The Common Ringlet is a highly variable butterfly, not a moth. You can read more about the Common Ringlet can be found on BugGuide

Thank you so much for your kind reply.   Honestly, I didn’t expect that any of the four photos would be posted, so I’m thrilled.  I really just love your site and wanted to be part of it by sending you and Lisa some pictures that I thought you would enjoy. And thank you for the information and further information regarding
the Common Ringlet.   The very next thing I’m going to do is go to the BugGuide and read all about it!
Thanks again,
Laura in Minnesota.

Letter 2 – Common Ringlet

 

Unknown Butterfly
Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 11:15 AM
I work in the Nature Center running programs for children in Zion. We have this wonderful butterfly display but who ever did it did not identify the butterflies. This is the only one I have not been able to identify.
The trick is, it was pinned upside down so I can not see the upper part of the wings. Can you please help me out so I can sound smart when the kids ask me to name all the butterflies?
Since this is for educational purposes I hope I’m not stuck in unnecessary carnage!
Ranger Holly
Zion National Park, UT

Common Ringlet (underside)
Common Ringlet (underside)

Dear Ranger Holly,
We absolutely love your letter.  Fear not.  You will not be categorized as Unnecessary Carnage.  In the interest of you sounding as smart as possible, you may now tell the children that this is a Common Ringlet, Coenonympha tullia.  Jeffrey Glassberg in his wonderful book, Butterflies Through Binoculars The West, writes of the Common Ringlet:  “Small.  Variable, but distinctive.  Usually with a single FW subapical eyespot (sometimes faint or absent) and a straight FW postmedian line.  HW ground color varies (mainly geographically) from green-gray to brown to pale gray or off white.  HW postmedian line characteristically jagged.  HW eyespots prominent or almost absent.”  Later, perhaps as a way to justify this vague set of identification characteristics, Glassberg writes:  “As the Supreme Court has said about pornography, it is difficult to define, but you’ll recognize it when you see it.”  We strongly recommend you getting a copy of Glassberg’s book for identification purposes.

Letter 3 – Orange Ringlet from Australia

 

One for your collection
Location: Nth Burnett. Qld. Australia
August 26, 2011 12:11 am
Hi guys,
Hope you like this shot of the Orange Ringlet, Hypocysta adiante dining on a clover flower in my yard. It doesn’t appear to be in your database. There is also a skipper in the background.
Signature: Aussietrev

Orange Ringlet

Thanks for a beautiful contribution Trevor.  This Orange Ringlet is a lovely butterfly.  Also, thanks for allowing us to have a bit of fun with the posting about the poor woman we believed to be morbidly afraid of rabbits, a syndrome we have learned is called Leporiphobia which we found defined on Uncyclopedia.  

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Common Ringlet

 

Update Not a bee but a Hover Fly
Hello Bugman & Bug Lady!
I know you only have 30 minutes a day to spend on emails, etc, so If you read this, great! If not, it’s okay as well. Anyway, I sent an email with 2 photos. one a White -Lined Sphinx moth..and the other photo, I thought was some sort of bee..Well I discovered that it’s a Hover Fly. I Never would have thought it was a fly, but I checked all the categories I thought it would be in, and came up with nothing, so I got bored and just started looking through other areas of your site, and that’s how I happened across the Hover Fly! I added a few more photos, hope you enjoy them.
One is a worm or some such, another is a moth and the dragonfly, I think is a Widow Skimmer, which you have plenty of photos, I just thought you might like it.
These were all taken in Minnetonka Minnesota. Thanks for all your hard work,
Laura

Common Ringlet
Common Ringlet

Hi Laura,
We are happy that you identified your Hover Fly, but we must confess, that we are not sure we saw the photo. We did open one letter with a gorgeous photo of a Hover Fly, but didn’t have time to post it. Regarding this submission, it is not feasible for us to post images of different insects in the same letter. The image we are quite happy to post is of the Common Ringlet, Coenonympha tullia. The Common Ringlet is a highly variable butterfly, not a moth. You can read more about the Common Ringlet can be found on BugGuide

Thank you so much for your kind reply.   Honestly, I didn’t expect that any of the four photos would be posted, so I’m thrilled.  I really just love your site and wanted to be part of it by sending you and Lisa some pictures that I thought you would enjoy. And thank you for the information and further information regarding
the Common Ringlet.   The very next thing I’m going to do is go to the BugGuide and read all about it!
Thanks again,
Laura in Minnesota.

Letter 2 – Common Ringlet

 

Unknown Butterfly
Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 11:15 AM
I work in the Nature Center running programs for children in Zion. We have this wonderful butterfly display but who ever did it did not identify the butterflies. This is the only one I have not been able to identify.
The trick is, it was pinned upside down so I can not see the upper part of the wings. Can you please help me out so I can sound smart when the kids ask me to name all the butterflies?
Since this is for educational purposes I hope I’m not stuck in unnecessary carnage!
Ranger Holly
Zion National Park, UT

Common Ringlet (underside)
Common Ringlet (underside)

Dear Ranger Holly,
We absolutely love your letter.  Fear not.  You will not be categorized as Unnecessary Carnage.  In the interest of you sounding as smart as possible, you may now tell the children that this is a Common Ringlet, Coenonympha tullia.  Jeffrey Glassberg in his wonderful book, Butterflies Through Binoculars The West, writes of the Common Ringlet:  “Small.  Variable, but distinctive.  Usually with a single FW subapical eyespot (sometimes faint or absent) and a straight FW postmedian line.  HW ground color varies (mainly geographically) from green-gray to brown to pale gray or off white.  HW postmedian line characteristically jagged.  HW eyespots prominent or almost absent.”  Later, perhaps as a way to justify this vague set of identification characteristics, Glassberg writes:  “As the Supreme Court has said about pornography, it is difficult to define, but you’ll recognize it when you see it.”  We strongly recommend you getting a copy of Glassberg’s book for identification purposes.

Letter 3 – Orange Ringlet from Australia

 

One for your collection
Location: Nth Burnett. Qld. Australia
August 26, 2011 12:11 am
Hi guys,
Hope you like this shot of the Orange Ringlet, Hypocysta adiante dining on a clover flower in my yard. It doesn’t appear to be in your database. There is also a skipper in the background.
Signature: Aussietrev

Orange Ringlet

Thanks for a beautiful contribution Trevor.  This Orange Ringlet is a lovely butterfly.  Also, thanks for allowing us to have a bit of fun with the posting about the poor woman we believed to be morbidly afraid of rabbits, a syndrome we have learned is called Leporiphobia which we found defined on Uncyclopedia.  

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Common Ringlet

 

Subject: Butterfly ID
Location: Tom McCall Preserve
June 1, 2014 8:24 am
These photos were all taken near Hood River, Oregon.
Signature: Randy Weatherford

Common Ringlet
Common Ringlet

Hi again Randy,
Your third butterfly appears to be a Common Ringlet,
Coenonympha tullia, a highly variable species, though this image from BugGuide looks very similar.  The angle of view of your image is not ideal for identification purposes.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

Leave a Comment