Marsh Fritillary Nymphalidae

Euphydryas aurinia (Rottemburg, 1775)

Description: A very variable species showing marked differences in appearance within and across populations. Females are larger but otherwise similar to males. The upersides are dark brown, strongly marked with cream and orange square spots, most of which are arranged in bands. Undersides are brighter, orange with cream spots.

Similar Species: The size and patterning on the wings make this species highly distinctive.

Key Identification Features:

Sets:  male upperside male underside

Flight Period: Strictly univoltine. June (rarely late May) and early July.

Status: This is a local species in N. Ireland. It has been recorded at some time in most lowland parts through all counties. However colonies are often sporadic and short-lived. Currently this species seems to be restricted to just a few sites in Down, Antrim, Armagh and Fermanagh. The Marsh Fritillary is considered one of the most threatened species in Europe and one which has undergone severe declines in most countries. It is legally protected by the Wildlife Order.

Ecology: A colonial species found in damp grassland, modified bogs, calcareous grassland, dunes and machair with its foodplant Devil's bit Scabious Succisa pratensis. Colonies are thought to exist as metapopulations which need a network of sites in a localised area in order to maintain their population. Males emerge first a few days before females. Initially adults remain within colonies but once initial egg batches have been laid females become much more mobile and can disperse some distance from the natal colony. Much of their time is spent basking and feeding on flowers. Larvae live communally within a silken web which they spin over foodplant. As they moult the larvae spin an ever larger web structure which can become highly conspicuous. Caterpillars hibernate in third instar in web spun at base of foodplant. They resume feeding in spring and can often be seen basking on surface of web.

World Distribution: southern and central Europe, southern Fennoscandia, and across Asia to Korea.

Bradley & Fletcher number: 1610 Agassiz number: 59.033

Additional information:

UK Butterflies account


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland