Silver Washed Fritillary Butterfly - Argynnis paphia

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Lepidoptera - Family: Nymphalidae

Silver Washed Fritillary Butterfly, Argynnis papohia - underside of wings, northern France

This large fritillary (a male is shown above) hasdistinctively pointed wings and is a strong flier; it loves sunny woodland glades, fire breaks and rides, although its breeding habitat is generally in shaded broadleaf woodland areas where its preferred larval food plant, the Dog Violet Viola riviniana, is most commonly found.


The Silver Washed Fritillary gets its name from the colouring of the undersides of its wings, which are decorated with large silvery streaks. Its wingspan range is 7 to 8cm, with the females usually somewhat larger than the males.

Silver Washed Fritillary Butterfly, Argynnis papohia - underside of wings on Hemp Agrimony, France

The silvering on the underwings plus the sharply pointed wings are enough to separate this large fritillary from any others found in Britain and Europe. A female is pictured below:

Silver Washed Fritillary Butterfly, Argynnis papohia, female


In Britain the Silver Washed Fritillary is mainly concentrated in the south of England and Wales, while the further north you go beyond central England the less frequently these butterflies are likely to be seen. The mating pair shown on this page were photographed in the New Forest, in Hampshire, England.

Silver Washed Fritillary Butterfly, Argynnis papohia - underside of wings, male and female

Elsewhere the range of the Silver Washed Fritillary is very wide, covering mainland Europe, northern Africa and much of Asia including Japan.

Silver Washed Fritillary Butterfly, Argynnis papohia


In July and early August the Silver Washed Fritillaries lay their eggs generally in bark crevices of trees near to the larval foodplants, violets (Viola species) including, particularly on woodland edges, the Dog Violet Viola riviniana.

Silver-washed Fritillary female, Valezina form

The Valezina form of the Silver-washed Fritillary - a female is shown above and another in the picture below - has more muted upperwing colours with a olive-green tinge.

Silver-washed Fritillary (female), Valezina form from Dorset, UK.

Above: a female of the 'Valezina' form of Silver-washed Fritillary.

In August the eggs hatch and the larvae eat the empty eggshells and then go into hibernation until the following March. When they wake up, the caterpillars, which are black-brown with two yellow lines along their backs and a covering of long reddish-brown spines, drop to the woodland floor and feed on violet leaves until some time in May or early June (depending on altitude and longitude); then they pupate.

Silver Washed Fritillary Butterfly, Argynnis papohia, Picture by CCW

Adult Silver Washed Fritillaries take nectar from various woodland edge plants including brambles, thistle, and knapweeds; they also feed upon aphid honeydew.


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by the Countryside Council for Wales, by Simon Harding, and by Betty and Tony Rackham.

Studying butterflies and moths...

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