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Spotted Fritillary - Melitaea didyma

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

Spotted Fritillary butterfly, Melitaea didyma

The Spotted Fritillary is very variable in colouring. Its wingspan is 3.5 to 5cm, females being slightly larger than males and having stouter bodies.

Underside of wings of Spotted Fritillary butterfly

Distribution

Not known to occur naturally in Britain (although just a few specimens, almost certainly introductions, have been recorded), the Spotted Fritillary is native to most of central and southern Europe including Portugal, Spain, France and italy as well as the Middle East and much of central Asia.

Caterpillar of the Spotted Fritillary

Description

Male Spotted Fritillaries are usually a bold orange-red colour, but sometimes they are nearer to brick red. The females, while generally paler than the males, are particularly variable in coloration and are often suffused greyish and more heavily marked than the males. The underside of the wings is a chequered pattern of pale yellow and pale orange. The caterpillar is equally colourful.

Lifecycle

The primary larval foodplants of the Spotted Fritillary are very varied and include several Linaria and Veronica species as well as Foxgloves Digitalis purpurea.

Caterpillar of Melitaea didyma entering pupal stage

The Spotted Fritillary larva shown above is just entering the pupal stage and below is the same specimen in pupation.

Spotted Fritillary pupa

There are two or three broods of Spotted Fritillaries per year, depending on altitude, and so adults can usually be seen in flight from April right through to September. The final brood overwinters communally as small larvae (caterpillars), and overwintered caterpillars disperse from their communal nest in springtime and feed voraciously before pupating.

Females lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves of the plant families Plantaginaceae and Scrophulariaceae, and the eggs hatch in typically 15 days.

Paired Spotted Fritillaries, France

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Steve Jelf.

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