Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz



Adults diurnal; medium sized to large (mostly), or very large; relatively very short-bodied, or medium-bodied (in some smaller Fritillaries); relatively slender-bodied (wingspan more than 15 times the thoracic width) to medium built (wingspan more than 8 and less than 15 times the thoracic width); wings in repose apposed vertically over the back.

Head rough. Antennae of medium length (mostly), or very short (sometimes, in Boloria and Nymphalis); extending to about 0.42–0.55 times the length of the forewing; inserted markedly less than one half the width of the head apart; clubbed. The club gradual, or abruptly terminal (not curved, sometimes flattened). The club not curved. Antennae of males simple; non-ciliate. Eyes hairy, or glabrous. Ocelli absent. Chaetosemata present. Maxillary palps much reduced; 1 segmented. Labial palps ascending; 3 segmented. Proboscis fully developed; not scaly.

Wingspan (40–)50–80(–92) mm; 10.5–17 times the thoracic width. Forewings broad; (1.4–)1.5–1.9(–2) times as long as wide. The outer and hind margins angled at (85–)95–110(–115) degrees. The outer margin convexly curved to concavely curved, or angulated; forewings apically blunt (mostly), or pointed (e.g., in Aglais urticae); ground colour predominantly light brown, or dark brown, or orange-brown, or purple, or black, or grey (or fuscous); forewings eye-spotted above, or without eye-spots above; forewings not eye-spotted underneath near the tip. Hindwings broadly rounded, or broadly angular; similar in breadth to the forewings; tailed (but no more than slightly, in Britain), or not tailed; the upper surfaces conspicuously patterned above (the markings often more or less resembling those of the forewings); with the conventional lepidopterous lines and discal marks lacking or more or less obscured by conversion into bands, blotches or rows of spots; silver-marked underneath (conspicuously so, in most Fritillaries), or not silver-marked underneath; without a frenulum.

Neuration of forewings and hindwings dissimilar. Forewings 12 veined (usually), or 13 veined; without basally dilated or vesicular veins; with 1 anal vein (mostly), or with 2 anal veins (an upper, weaker anal vein sometimes evident, e.g. in Aglais urticae). The anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only (mostly), or comprising 1b and 1c. Forewings exhibiting a tubular vein 1c, or lacking a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the forewings furcate proximally to simple. Forewings with a discal cell, or without a discal cell. The transverse vein complete, or incomplete (sometimes reduced or lacking between veins 4 and 5). Discal cell of the forewings without a tubular media (M) vein. Vein 2 of the forewings forewing veins 8 and 9 out of 7, with 3 and 4 often connate. Hindwings 9 veined; with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the hindwings comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings exhibiting vein 1a; lacking a tubular vein 1c. The transverse vein complete, or incomplete (lacking between veins 4 and 5 in Ladoga, Apatura and Argynnis), or lacking (rarely). Hindwings with a praecostal spur (mostly), or without a praecostal spur (lacking in Vanessa and Cynthia). The hindwing cell emitting more than six veins. 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another, or 3+4 proximally joined (connate only). Vein 8 of the hindwings arising from the upper margin of the cell (from near its base); not approximating to vein 7.

Adults having only 4 fully developed legs (forelegs of the males brushlike with two tarsal joints, those of the females having 4 tarsal joints with only short setae). Fore-legs of female useless for walking. Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Tympanal organs absent.

Eggs, larvae and pupae. Eggs not flattened (usually somewhat taller than wide and broadest below, i.e., barrel-shaped or broadly conical); smooth or minutely pitted, or ribbed and/or reticulate, or with projections (nearly always longitudinally ribbed). Larval prolegs 10. Larvae conspicuously, densely long-hairy, or not densely long-hairy; without tentacles on segment 2 (but those of Apatura with horn-like appendages on the head); with rows of bristly spines (nearly always), or without bristly spines (Apatura only); exposed feeders (mostly), or concealed feeders; feeding in communal tents (e.g., Inachis io), or not feeding in communal tents. On various Dicots - Violaceae, Urticaceae, Ulmaceae, Salicaceae, Cannabaceae, Caprifoliaceae, etc.

Pupae ridged and angular; conspicuously patterned; with shining-metallic spots (commonly), or without shining-metallic spots; exposed, with no coccoon (usually), or concealed (Euphydryas); suspended from the tail (cremaster), with no median silk girdle.

British representation. Genera 14 (4 represented only by adventives); 31 species (including 12 adventives). Aglais urticae (Small Tortoise-shell), Apatura iris (Purple emperor, Araschnia levana (Map Butterfly, adventive), Argynnis adippe (High-brown Fritillary), Argynnis aglaia (var., Dark Green Fritillary), Argynnis niobe (Niobe, adventive), Argynnis pandora (Mediterranean Fritillary, adventive), Argynnis paphia (Silver-washed Fritillary), Boloria dia (Weaver's Fritillary, adventive), Boloria euphrosyne (Large Pearl-bordered Fritillary), Boloria selene (Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary), Cynthia (Vanessa) cardui (Painted Lady), Cynthia virginiensis (huntera) (American Painted Lady, adventive), Euphydryas aurinia (Marsh Fritillary), Inachis (Vanessa) io (Peacock), Issoria aphrodite (Venus Fritillary, adventive), Issoria lathonia (Queen of Spain Fritillary, Junonia (Precis) villida (adventive), Ladoga (Limenitis) camilla (White Admiral), Melitaea athalia (Heath Fritillary), Melitaea cinxia (Glanville Fritillary), Melitaea didyma (adventive), Nymphalis antiopa (Camberwell Beauty), Nymphalis (Aglais) polychloros (Large Tortoise-shell), Nymphalis xanthomelas (Scarce Tortoise-shell, adventive), Polygonia c-album (Comma), Vanessa atalanta (Red Admiral).

Classification. Butterflies. Suborder Ditrysia. Superfamily Papilionoidea.

Comments. Mostly brightly coloured and strong fliers.

Illustrations. • The larger Fritillaries (1): Newman. • The larger Fritillaries (2): Newman. • Argynnis paphia (Silver-washed Fritillary): Giles Watson, photos. • The smaller Fritillaries: Newman. • Apatura iris and Lodoga camilla: Newman. • Vanessa atalanta, Cynthia cardui, C. virginiensis and Aglais urticae: Newman. • Nymphalis polychloros, N. antiopa, Inachis io and Polygonia c-album: Newman. • Inachis io (Peacock: Giles Watson, photos). • Vanessa atalanta (Red Admiral: Giles Watson, photos). • Polygonia c-album (Comma), imbibing from fox dung (1): photo, Giles Watson. • Polygonia c-album (Comma), imbibing from rotting plums: photo, Giles Wason. • Apatura iris (Purple Emperor): photos. • Apatura iris (Purple Emperor: B. Ent. 338). • Apatura iris (legend+text: B. Ent. 338). • Apatura iris (text, cont.: B. Ent. 338). • Apatura iris (Purple Emperor: Shaw and Nodder, 1799). • Apatura iris (Purple Emperor: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Argynnis aglaia (var., Dark Green Fritillary: B. Ent. 290). • Argynnis aglaia (var.): B. Ent. 290, legend+text. • Argynnis aglaia (var.): B. Ent. 290, text cont.. • Argynnis paphia (Silver-washed Fritillary: Shaw & Nodder, about 1807). • Argynnis niobe, Argynnis pandora: Kirby. • Issonia aphrodite (Venus Fritillary: Morris). • Boloria selene (Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary: B. Ent. 386). • Boloria selene: B. Ent. 386, legend+text. • Boloria selene: B. Ent. 386, text cont.. • Argynnis, Boloria (Euphrosyne) (Fritillaries: Coleman). • Argynnis, Boloria, Melitaea (including Mellicta), Euphydryas (Fritillaries: Coleman). • Boloria dia (Weaver's Fritillary), Melitaea didyma (Spotted Fritillary): Kirby. • Boloria dia (Weaver's Fritillary: Morris). • Limenitis camilla (White Admiral: B. Ent. 124). • Limenitis camilla: B. Ent. 124, legend+text. • Limenitis camilla: B. Ent. 124, text cont.. • Nymphalis antiopa (Camberwell Beauty: B. Ent. 96). • Nymphalis antiopa: B. Ent. 96, legend+text. • Nymphalis antiopa: B. Ent. 96, text cont.. • Nymphalis antiopa (Camberwell Beauty: Shaw and Nodder, about 1807). • Nymphalis antiopa (Camberwell Beauty: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Nymphalis polychloros (Large Tortoise-shell: Hübner/Curtis). • Nymphalis polychloros (Large Tortoise-shell: Shaw and Nodder, 1813). • Nymphalis polychloros (Large Tortoise-shell: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Nymphalis xanthomelas (Scarce Tortoise-shell): Kirby. • Aglais urticae (Small Tortoise-shell: Hübner/Curtis). • Araschnia levana (Map Butterfly: Kirby). • Comparing Cynthia cardui (Painted Lady) and C. kershawi (Australasian Painted Lady): photos. • Cynthia (Vanessa) cardui (Painted Lady: Hübner/Curtis). • Cynthea (Vanessa) virginiensis (American Painted Lady: Shaw & Nodder, 1813). • Vanessa atalanta (Red Admiral: Shaw & Nodder, 1793). • Inachis io (Peacock: Shaw and Nodder, 1799). • Inachis io (Peacock: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Inachis (Vanessa) io (Peacock: Hübner/Curtis). • Polygonia c-album (Comma: Hübner/Curtis). • Junonia (Precis) villida (Albin’s Hampstead Eye?): photos. • Larvae and pupae of Aglais urticae, Inachis io, Nymphalis antiopa (Duponchel, 1849). • Argynnis: neuration.

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera. Version: 8th June 2016.’.