The larva feeds on grasses. I watched them on Bromus erectus, Brachypodium pinnatum (Swabian Alb) and Brachypodium sylvaticum (Iller Valley, both Germany).
Erebia aethiops is a typical inhabitant of sunny woodland fringes and occurs on mostly bushy limestone grasslands and woodland gap systems on low and medium high mountains and in clearings of floodplain forests. This species occurs in the clear forests and alpine pastures up to the tree line.
The distribution is as with most Erebia preferably montainous, but this species descends locally to the colline level at favourably sites.
Hibernation takes place as a small caterpillar (L2), which is fully-grown by the end of June. Larval habitats are often fringes to groves. In the Swabian Alb, the caterpillars often develop in young successions of Prunus spinosa. The adults fly from mid-July to early September.
Erebia aethiops is endangered in Central Europe due to darkening processes in forests, afforestation of clearings, separation of forest and pasture, radical removal of groves in forest-near limestone grasslands, but also overgrazing and excessive bush encroachment. Further north (north of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria), however, it is usually already in danger of extinction or even already disappeared. Erebia aethiops is still not severly endangered only in large parts of the Alpine area.
At lower altitudes, the increasing global warming is likely to play a role in addition to habitat destruction, though probably not as strong as at Erebia ligea.
Erebia aethiops occurs from northern France and England across central and Eastern Europe to Siberia.