Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 56–80 mm; the fringes conspicuously light-and-dark banded. Slender-bodied to medium built; short-bodied. The eyes glabrous. Antennae reaching about halfway to the wingtips, or reaching noticeably over halfway to the wingtip. The antennal clubs abrupt; flattened (blunt, pale-tipped). Labial palps ascending. Having only 4 fully developed legs (forelegs with two tarsal joints and brushlike in males, those of females having 4 tarsal joints with short setae). Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt. The outer and hind margins angled at about 100–105(–108) degrees. The outer margins convexly curved to concavely curved; scalloped (but sometimes finely). Uppersides of the forewings light brown, or orange-brown, or grey (usually tawny, but pale greenish-grey in some varieties of A. paphia); contrastingly dark-veined; without a discal mark; dark veined, with black sub-costal and discal bars and short streaks and profuse discal spots.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded; with the outer margins scalloped. Uppersides of the hindwings light brown, or orange-brown, or grey (usually tawny, but pale greenish-grey in some varieties of A. paphia); conspicuously dark-veined, or conspicuously dark-veined to not dark-veined; conspicuously patterned; without a discal mark; colour patterned more or less like the forewings, but the venation sometimes less well marked.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings colour-patterned like a pallid representation of the uppersides; with the venation conspicuous but less obvious than on the upper surfaces; not eye-spotted; with several silvery-white subapical spots (A. aglaia), or without silvery-white subapical spots (distinguishing A. adippe from A. aglaia).

Undersides of the hindwings complexly patterned, variously greenish or yellow-ochreous suffused greenish, with conspicuous metallic embellishments; with the venation conspicuous but less well marked than on the upper surfaces; with a subterminal row of spots between the discal spots and the terminal row (as in A. adippe), or without a subterminal row of spots (as in A. aglaia); conspicuously with silvery-metallic markings (and silvery-streaked, in A. paphia); with distinct silvery spots (mostly), or with silvery streaks (notably in A. paphia); in A. adippe with the spots of the subterminal row silvery-centred; when silver-spotted, with several discal silvery spots.

Wing venation. Forewings 12(–13) veined; without basally dilated veins. Forewings with 1 tubular anal vein, or with 2 tubular anal veins (a weak anal vein above the main one in A. aglaia only); the anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only, or comprising 1b and 1c; vein 1b simple. Forewings with a discal cell (in A. aglaia and A. cydippe), or without a discal cell (with no transverse vein, in A. paphia); vein 2 departing from the cell less than three-quarters of the distance from its base (about halfway from the base in A. aglaia, a third out from the base in A. cydippe). Forewing veins 8 and 9 out of 7, 10 basally closely apposed to 7 or separate, the rest separate.

Hindwings 9 veined; with a praecostal spur; with 2 anal veins; exhibiting vein 1a; the anal veins comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings with a closed discal cell; the transverse vein complete (weak in A. paphia, stronger in A. aglaia and A. cydippe). 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins 3+4 proximally joined (arising from the same point). Hindwing veins 3 and 4 connate, 2 departing from the upper half of the cell.

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs barrel-shaped to broadly conical (narrowing to the apical concavity); longitudinally ribbed (with about 18–20 ribs). The larvae hairy; without tentacles on segment 2; with rows of bristly spines. On Viola.

Pupae ridged and angular; conspicuously patterned; with shining-metallic markings (these golden), or without shining-metallic markings (in A. aglaia, where they are shiny black); exposed, with no coccoon; suspended from the tail (cremaster), with no median silk girdle.

British representation. 5 species (including 2 adventives). Argynnis adippe (High-brown Fritillary), Argynnis aglaia (Dark Green Fritillary), Argynnis niobe (Niobe, adventive), Argynnis pandora (Mediterranean Fritillary, adventive), Argynnis paphia (Silver-washed Fritillary). The adults abroad July and August.

Status in Britain. Indigenous (the 3 natives), or rare ocurrence representing occasional, genuine immigrants (vagrant A. pandora occasionally recorded in SW England), or adventive (? - the W. European A. niobe being listed on the basis of dubious 19th Century records).

Distribution. Southern Scotland, northern England, English Midlands, East Anglia, Wales, southeast England, central southern England, southwest England, Isle of Wight, and Ireland. Frequenting woodland (notably A. paphia), or open places. Habitats calcareous and non-calcareous.

Comments. Strong fliers, sometimes gliding.

Classification. Superfamily Papilionoidea. Nymphalidae.

Illustrations. • Argynnis paphia (Silver-washed Fritillary): photos. • Argynnis paphia (Silver-washed Fritillary): Giles Watson, photos. • Argynnis paphia (Silver-washed Fritillary): egg, larva, pupa. • Argynnis paphia (Silver-washed Fritillary: Shaw & Nodder). • Argynnis aglaja (Dark Green Fritillary): photos. • Argynnis aglaja (Dark Green Fritillary): egg, larva, pupa. • 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 adippe (High Brown Fritillary): photos. • Argynnis adippe (High Brown Fritillary): egg, larva, pupa. • Argynnis niobe (Niobe Fritillary): From Hübner, 1805.. • Argynnis pandora (Mediterranean Fritillary), with A. paphia: From Hübner, 1805.. • Argynnis niobe, Argynnis pandora: Kirby, 1907. • The larger Fritillaries (1): Newman, 1871. • The larger Fritillaries (2): Newman, 1871. • Larvae and pupae of A. aglaja and A. paphia: Duponchel (1849). • Larvae of A. adippe and A. niobe: 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. 2008 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies. Version: 16th May 2016.’.