Coenonympha california (tullia) california

California Common Ringlet

This is a fairly common (aply named) satyr with a bouncing flight that can be found easily in open areas with the right native grasses. It's a handsome butterfly, with a range of light-to-dark forms, and small eyespots of various intensities to draw predators away from the vital areas. The satyrs sit uneasily within the Nymphalidae family, and have been considered to be their own family in the recent past. This ringlet is a good example of the "weirdness" of these nymphs: it feeds only on certains grasses; has a spineless, green or tan caterpillar with a kind of forked tail; and the pupa – roughly "nympalic" in shape - has odd markings that help it blend with the green blades of grass. Even the flight of the adult is a bit weak and floppy, in contrast to the more robust buckeyes, for instance.

Coenonympha california - 'California' Common Ringlet
The California common ringlet in spring. This species varies quite a bit. Otay Mesa, San Diego Co, March 9, 2008.
Coenonympha california - 'California' Common Ringlet
Another dark common ringlet, also in the spring. This one was in Solstice Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains, April 20, 2006.
Coenonympha california - 'California' Common Ringlet
This lighter coloration is about what you would expect in the summer. Malibu Creek State Park, June 28, 2005.
Coenonympha california - 'California' Common Ringlet
This one is from Ant Canyon near the Kern River. April 20, 2014.
Egg of Coenonympha california - 'California' Common Ringlet butterfly
The egg on Koeleria is pretty standard for a nymphalid, but the use of grass as the larval food plant is odd. Thanks to Alice Abela for collecting a female for Gordon Pratt to get eggs; he passed this on to me to photograph. The larva and pupa below are also at Gordon's.
Caterpillar of Coenonympha california - 'California' Common Ringlet butterfly
Caterpillar of the California common ringlet.
Chrysalis of Coenonympha california - 'California' Common Ringlet butterfly
And a chrysalis. Note the uncanny imitation of grass blades.
Coenonympha tullia california - 'California' Common Ringlet
Original description - such as it is - from 1851.

©Dennis Walker