Fritillaries (Family Nymphalidae)
Descriptions & images of the 6 Fritillary species resident in Hampshire
The Fritillaries, like the Vanessids, belong to the family Nymphalidae. Their upper-wing colour scheme of black markings on a brown or golden brown background colour (latin fritillus meaning chequerboard) provides a common theme, although the different species vary in size, underwing markings, habitat requirements and behaviour. The larger Fritillaries, of which there are two representatives in Hampshire, are both strong fliers.
Of the species shown here, the Glanville, Marsh, Pearl-bordered and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries are listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) as priority species for conservation.
Dark Green Fritillary - Argynnis aglaja
The Dark Green Fritillary is one of our larger fritillaries and also one of the most powerful flyers. In Hampshire the major colonies are to be found on flower-rich chalk downland, but colonies also exist (in smaller numbers) on the New Forest heaths and the butterfly will occasionally be encountered in open forest glades. The females tend to be slightly paler (and larger) than the males. The larvae feed on members of the viola family such as common dog violet.
When to see: There is only one generation per year, the butterflies typically start emerging towards the end of June on downland sites (a few days later on heathland sites) with the flight period lasting until early August.
Where to see: Martin Down is a very good site for this species. Farley Mount (Pitt Down) and Old Winchester Hill provide alternative downland sites. In the
Glanville Fritillary - Melitaea cinxia
The Glanville Fritillary is in the category of our smaller fritilliaries and is at the very limit of its northern range in UK. Its preferred habitat in UK are the crumbling undercliffs and chines on the southern coast of the Isle of Wight where it is doing well. The lack of suitable habitat on the mainland and its range limit have resulted in very few naturalised colonies on the south coast of Hampshire. Its habitat requirements are also such that no other fritillary types are likely to be encountered in the same location as the Glanville. The butterflies are active, sun loving and accomplished fliers and have a partiality for yellow composite flowers. The larvae feed on ribwort plantain.
When to see: There is only one generation per year emerging typically in mid-May. In Hampshire the flight period can be quite short at around 3 weeks.
Where to see: present the only known site in Hampshire for this species is a flower-rich meadow in the shadow of Hurst Castle, near Keyhaven in the west of the county. Previously there was a colony at Hordle cliff, a few miles further up the coast, but there have been no sightings there for several years. The future of the Hurst Castle colony is by no means secure, due to the small area of suitable habitat and very variable numbers from year to year. It is hoped however, that the site site could act as a springboard for the species to spread to other locations along the south coast.
Please note that Glanville Fritillary sightings in Hampshire will not be published on this website until after the peak flight period, in line with the butterfly code of practice (Hampshire colonies are considered sensitive).
Marsh Fritillary - Euphydryas aurinia
The Marsh Fritillary is one our most attractive fritillaries, with its distinctive colouration and bold markings. Sadly it also in decline not only in
When to see: The adult butterflies typically start to emerge in mid-May, however the flight period can be quite short at Hampshire's small colonies, and is usually over by early June. Late May is therefore usually a good time to look for this species.
Where to see: The butterfly is present in modest numbers at Martin Down (Bokerley Ditch). There are also a small number of records each year from Bentley Wood (Eastern Clearing). Much stronger colonies of Marsh Fritillary can be found in neighbouring counties such as Hod Hill and the Cerne Abbas Giant in
Please note that Marsh Fritillary sightings in Hampshire will not be published on this website until after the peak flight period, in line with the butterfly code of practice (Hampshire colonies are considered sensitive).
Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Boloria euphrosyne
The Pearl-bordered Fritillary acquires its name from the outer row of 'pearly' spots on the underside wings and is the first of our fritillary species to emerge - sometimes as early as late April in warm years. There is concern nationally over its
When to see: The butterflies normally emerge early in May (late April in hot years), the flight period lasting until early June.
Where to see: Good sites are Bentley Wood (Eastern clearing and also along open rides) and the large woodland complex in the
Silver-washed Fritillary - Argynnis paphia
The Silver-Washed Fritillary is our largest fritillary and very much a woodland species. It is often plentiful in the
When to see: There is one generation per year beginning in mid/late June and continuing until late August. July is probably the best month to see this species
Where to see: As stated earlier, the
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Boloria selene
The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary is similar to the Pearl-bordered Fritillary (PBF) to which it is closely related, but its habitat requirements are a little less restricted, facilitating a wider UK distribution. In Hampshire, the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary prefers damp woodland clearings, where it can sometimes be seen in company with the Pearl-bordered Fritillary. There are several factors to distinguish between the two: the black spot at the centre of the underside hindwing (missing in the PBF), the position of the black spot along the trailing edge upperside forewing which is closer to the outer row of spots in the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Behavioural differences include the later emergence of the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary by 2-3 weeks (hence newly emerged ones are likely to be in company with faded PBF's) and finally the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary tends to fly slightly higher than the PBF (waist height versus knee height)
When to see: The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary is on the wing from late May (mid-May in hot years), the flight period lasting typically 4-6 weeks. Emergence on damp sites is later (see below).
Where to see: In Hampshire, Bentley Wood (Eastern Clearing) is probably the best location to see this species. In and around the New Forest there are also small colonies on Roydon Common (part of Roydon Woods) and also in the Wootton Coppice and Holmsley Inclosures. The flight period of the species on very damp sites, such as in the New Forest, can be a couple of weeks later than indicated above.