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The meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) is a butterfly found in the Palearctic realm. Its range includes Europe south of 62°N, Russia eastwards to the Urals, Asia Minor, Iraq, Iran, North Africa and the Canary Islands. The larvae feed on grasses.


There is marked sexual dimorphism in this species. Males are less colorful, with smaller eyespots and much reduced orange areas on the upper forewings. They are also much more active and range far about, while females fly less and often may not move away from the area where they grew up.

A variable number of smaller eyespots are usually found on the hindwing undersides. These may number up to twelve per butterfly, with up to six on each wing, but sometimes none. The factors that govern polymorphism in this trait are not resolved, although a number of theories have been proposed (Stevens 2005). On the other hand, the evolutionary significance of the upperwing eyespots is more obvious: The more active males have a markedly more cryptic upperside pattern, whereas the females have more opportunity to present their eyespots in a sudden display of colors and patterns that presumably startle predators so the butterfly has a better chance of escaping. Some specimens are bi-pupilled.

  • Maniola jurtina female on buttercup flower.
  • Small heath (for comparison)
  • Female
  • Female
  • Female
  • Mating
  • Mating
  • First instar caterpillar
  • Pupa

Similar species

Similar species are the gatekeeper (which prefers to rest with its wings open) and the small heath (which is smaller). More similar are the dusky meadow brown (Hyponephele lycaon smaller, male androconial area obliquely directed and divided into three parts by veins Cu1 and Cu2, female with two ochreous ringed eye-spots) is otherwise very similar, Pyronia janiroides, Hyponephele moroccana, Hyponephele lycaon and Hyponephele lupina. Most problematic is the cryptic species complex of Maniola (Maniola telmessia, Maniola nurag, Maniola chia, Maniola halicarnassus and Maniola cypricola).

Description of egg, larva and pupa

The egg, laid on a blade of grass as shown (Plate 85), is upright and ribbed; the top is flattened, with an impressed ring thereon. Color, whitish green inclining to brownish yellow as it matures, and marked with purplish brown. The caterpillar is bright green, clothed with short whitish hairs; there is a darker line down the back, and a diffused white stripe on each side above the reddish spiracles; the anal points are white. Head rather darker green, hairy. The chrysalis is pale green, marked with brownish on the wing covers, the thorax is spotted with blackish, and the points on the body are brownish. Suspended, and with the old skin attached. (South, 1906).

Food plants

Recorded larval food plants include rough meadow grass (Poa trivialis), smooth meadow grass (Poa pratensis), Festuca species, bents (Agrostis species), and cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata), false brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), downy oat-grass and Helictotrichon pubescens. Less specific records of Poa, Bromus, Festuca, Milium, Brachypodium, Lolium, Avena, Alopecurus and Anthoxanthum.

Adults feed on nectar from a wide spectrum of plants including Centaurea, Cirsium, Leontodon, Erica, Rubus, Heracleum, Eupatorium, (sensu lato) Origanum, Senecio, Scabiosa, Succisa, Ligustrum and Filipendula.

Flight time

The meadow brown is univoltine (one generation per year) and adults emerge over a long period (spring, summer and autumn). Some individuals have a short larval development time and produce late adults. This is genetically controlled.


Because of the vast distribution habitats are hard to define but broadly are forest edge, forest-steppe and meadow steppe habitats up to 2,000 m above sea level, cultivated lands (meadow, forest plantations, parks and orchards).


  • Maniola jurtina hispulla (Esper, 1805) Portugal, Spain
  • Maniola jurtina hyperhispulla (Thomson, 1973) Maltese Archipelago (Gozo)
  • Maniola jurtina jurtina (Linnaeus,1758) Europe (type locality Sweden), Spain
  • Maniola jurtina janira Linnaeus, 1758 central Europe, Russia, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, middle and southern Urals, Kazakhstan, western Siberia (Kurgan)
  • Maniola jurtina strandiana Oberthür, 1936 south Europe, Caucasus Major and Minor Crimea, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Maniola jurtina persica LeCerf, 1912 (=? ghilanica LeCerf, 1913) Kopet-Dagh, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan
  • Maniola jurtina phormia (Fruhstorfer, 1909) Slovenia
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