The Knapweed Fritillary is one of several very similar Melitaea species (and the new and closely-related genus Mellicta ) of central and southern Europe. Its wingspan is about 5cm, females being slightly larger than males and having stouter bodies.
Most of central and southern Europe including Portugal, Spain and France as well as much of northern Africa are where these lovely fritillary butterflies are mainly found, although their distribution stretches eastwards into Asia including parts of China. Occasionally the Knapweed Fritillary is seen as far north as southern Germany.
The specimens shown on this page were photographed in the Lot Valley, in the Dordogne region of France, and in the Ardeche Gorge, south-east France.
The primary larval foodplants of the Knapweed Fritillary are various Centaurea species (knapweeds) as well as thistles and occasionally other members of the family Asteraceae.
There are usually at least two and in warmer locations three broods per year, the caterpillars first appearing in April or May and spending the first two weeks in communal silky nests before dispersing. The final brood overwinters in the larval state.
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