Dark Green Fritillary

Argynnis aglaja (ar-GIN-iss a-GLY-uh)

Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C3221
Photo © IainLeach
 

Wingspan
58 - 68mm

Checklist Number
59.019

Family:NymphalidaeRafinesque, 1815
Subfamily:HeliconiinaeSwainson, 1827
Tribe:ArgynniniSwainson, 1833
Genus:ArgynnisFabricius, 1807
Subgenus:MesoacidaliaReuss, 1926
Species:aglaja(Linnaeus, 1758)

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Introduction

The Dark Green Fritillary is the most widespread fritillary found in the British Isles and is a pleasure to see as it flies powerfully over its grassland habitats, frequently stopping to nectar on Thistles and Knapweed. It gets its name from the green hue found on the underside of the hindwings, which are peppered with large silver spots. This butterfly can be found throughout the British Isles, although it is less common in central and eastern England. Outside of central Scotland and southern England, it is most frequently found in coastal areas and is the only fritillary found in Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. Despite its powerful flight, it is somewhat surprising that this species is not particularly mobile, staying within its breeding grounds.

Taxonomy Notes

Historically, several authorities have referred to f. scotica, defined in Watkins (1923), that is not recognised in current taxonomy. This form differs from the nominate form in that individuals are larger in size have much heavier black markings on both upper and undersides, especially in the female, and the underside has a darker green flush, with more prominent silver spots on both fore and hindwings. Different authorities described different distributions of scotica. Dennis (1977) says "The most extreme development of the morph is found in the Outer Hebrides, especially on Pabbay (Barra group), south Rona, north Raasay and on Orkney. Subspecies scotica has also been described by Heslop-Harrison for Scalpay, Soay, Rhum, Eigg, Canna and Coll, but everywhere in addition to specimens showing extreme development, others transitional to aglaia are found". The most recent analysis is given in Thomson (1980). Riley (2007) suggests that this form is found in Scotland (apart from southern localities), Ireland (where it is the only form found) and the Isle of Man. However, Riley's inclusion of Ireland is questioned by Nash (2012) who assigns all Irish specimens to ssp. aglaja. Thomson (1980), Emmet (1990), Riley (2007) and Nash (2012) elevate the aglaja forms to subspecific status. The counties where scotica was thought to be found, as mentioned by Thomson (1980), are shaded green in the image below.

Highslide JS

Argynnis aglaja

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Sweden).

The nominate form is found throughout its range in the British Isles.

Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C5674

Male
Photo © IainLeach

Dark Green Fritillary (male) - Lullingstone Country Park, Eynsford, Kent 21-June-2015

Male Underside
Photo © Testudo Man

Dark Green Fritillary (female). Lullingstone, Kent. 3/7/16.

Female
Photo © Testudo Man

Dark Green Fritillary - Stockbridge Down - 2 July 2011

Female Underside
Photo © Clive

Photo Album ...


Conservation Status

Although this species has declined considerably since the 1970s, especially in eastern England, the butterfly remains our most widespread fritillary and is not considered a priority species for conservation efforts.

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Not Listed
Stable-1
Increase+18

The table above shows the distribution and population trends of species regularly found in the British Isles. The distribution trend represents a comparison between data for the periods 1995-1999 and 2005-2009. The information provided is taken from the Butterfly Conservation report The State of the UK's Butterflies 2011. The UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

The characteristic habitat of this butterfly is open, windswept calcareous grassland. However, in some areas it can also be found in woodland clearings and coastal dunes.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

Adults generally emerge in the middle of June, reaching a peak in early July. In northern Scotland, adults emerge a little later at the end of June, reaching a peak at the end of July and early August. There is one generation each year.

The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.

Imago

Both sexes are avid nectar feeders and typically feed in early morning or late afternoon, when they will constantly fly from flower head to flower head staying at each flower for only a few seconds. This behaviour makes them very difficult to observe and it is sometimes easier to find a favourite flower and wait for a butterfly to come to you!

The males are the more conspicuous of the two sexes, and can be seen patrolling over large areas of habitat looking for a virgin female which often rest low down in vegetation. Once found, mating takes place almost immediately. A mating pair may be found resting on vegetation and will even continue to nectar while coupled.

Females are somewhat-easier to see when egg-laying, where they intersperse periods of nectaring with basking and bouts of egg-laying, when they will crawl deep in vegetation, searching out the lushest growths of larval foodplant before laying a single egg, although several eggs are often laid in the same area.

Adults feed primarily on Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.). Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris) and Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.) are also used.

Argynnis aglaja

Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Farley Mount Country Park - 29-Jun-11 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Stockbridge Down - 12-Jul-09 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009

Dark Green Fritillary, female, 15/07/2013, Farley Mount

Photo © Pauline
15-Jul-2013

Dark Green Fritillary male - Fairmile Bottom, Sussex 26-June-2014

Photo © Neil Hulme
26-Jun-2014

Dark Green Fritillary female - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 9-July-09

Photo © Vince Massimo
09-Jul-2009

Dark Green Fritillary male - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 12-July-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme
12-Jul-2012

Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C3429

Photo © IainLeach

Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C5674

Photo © IainLeach

Dark Green Fritillary - male - Arnside Knott - 19-Jun-14-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jun-2014

Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Arnside Knott - 12-Jul-05 (4)

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jul-2005

Argynnis aglaja, Dunsford Wood, Devon 24-June-2008

Photo © m_galathea

Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Farley Mount Country Park - 29-Jun-11 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C6387

Photo © IainLeach

Dark Green Fritillary (male) - Lullingstone Country Park, Eynsford, Kent 21-June-2015

Photo © Testudo Man

Dark Green Fritillary (2m) 5.7.12 Whitbarrow, Cumbria. Downland boy

Photo © downland boy
05-Jul-2012

Dark Green Fritillary - male - Arnside Knott - 19-Jun-14-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jun-2014

Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C3172

Photo © IainLeach

Female Dark Green Fritillary,near Birling Gap, East Sussex 2012

Photo © trevor

Dark Green Fritillary Female - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 9-July-07

Photo © Vince Massimo
09-Jul-2007

Dark Green Fritillary - male - Arnside Knott - 19-Jun-14-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jun-2014

Photo Album ...


Ovum

Eggs are laid either directly on the foodplant, or on a suitable platform nearby, such as a twig, grass stem or dead leaf. Eggs are yellow when first laid but turn a dark purple after a few days and, eventually, a dark grey just before the larva emerges. This stage lasts between 2 and 3 weeks.

Dark Green Fritillary - ovum - Unknown location - Unknown date (2) [REARED] [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

Dark Green Fritillary - ovum - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

Photo Album ...


Larva

The larva eats the eggshell on hatching and immediately enters hibernation in a curled up leaf or other piece of debris. The larva emerges in the spring and starts to feed on the tenderest new growth of the foodplant, either eating large chunks out of the leaf lobes, or eating the leaf entirely with the stem left standing. The larva is most active during sunny periods and can often be seen wandering across bare ground or short turf in search of the foodplant. The mature larva has a distinct colouring, being mostly black with a feint yellow band running down its back and a series of red spots running down each side. There are 5 moults in total.

The primary larval foodplants are Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana), Hairy Violet (Viola hirta) and Marsh Violet (Viola palustris).

Dark Green Fritillary Larva

Photo © Trev Sawyer
Dark Green Fritillary Larva

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 28-May-06 (0142) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-May-2006

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 28-May-06 (0143) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-May-2006

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Reg Fry]

Photo © Reg Fry

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Waxham Dunes - 15-May-2005 [Francis Farrow]

Photo © Francis Farrow

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 09-Jun-12 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 22-May-12 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 22-May-12 (3) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 17-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2013

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 17-Jun-13 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2013

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 17-Jun-13 (3) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2013

Dark Green Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 17-Jun-13 (4) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2013

Dark Green Fritillary Larva - Debdon Forest, Northumberland 06-05-2014

Photo © Graham Beckwith
06-May-2014

Dark Green Fritillary Larva - Debdon Forest, Northumberland 06-05-2014

Photo © Graham Beckwith
06-May-2014

Dark Green Fritillary Larva - Debdon Forest, Northumberland 06-05-2014

Photo © Graham Beckwith
06-May-2014

Dark Green Fritillary (01) (early instar larva on violet) 7.5.15 nr.Beachy Head, East Sussex

Photo © downland boy
07-May-2015

Dark Green Fritillary (02) (early instar larva on violet) 7.5.15 nr.Beachy Head, East Sussex

Photo © downland boy
07-May-2015

Dark Green Fritillary - Larva - 06-05-15 - Dorset [REARED]

Photo © Coopera

Dark Green Fritillary larva, Near Noar Hill, 19 May 2015

Photo © Pauline
19-May-2015

Photo Album ...


Pupa

The larva creates a loose tent by drawing together several leaves and other pieces of vegetation together. The pupa is formed upside down, secured to the top of the tent by the cremaster. This stages lasts between 3 and 4 weeks, depending on the weather.

Dark Green Fritillary - pupa - Thatcham - 09-Jun-06 (0234) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2006

Dark Green Fritillary - pupa - Thatcham - 29-Jun-13 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Jun-2013

Dark Green Fritillary - Pupa - 22-05-15 - Dorset [REARED]

Photo © Coopera
22-05-2015

Dark Green Fritillary pupa, (reared) Liphook 30/05/2015

Photo © Pauline
30-May-2015

DGF larva, reared, 19/06/2015

Photo © Pauline
19-Jun-2015

Photo Album ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

Similar Species

High Brown Fritillary

The Dark Green Fritillary and High Brown Fritillary are most easily distinguished by their undersides, since only the High Brown Fritillary has a row of "ocelli" just inside the outer margin. In addition, as the name suggests, the High Brown Fritillary has a predominately brown hue to the underside, whereas the Dark Green Fritillary is predominately green.


Dark Green Fritillary (left) and High Brown Fritillary (right)

It is much more difficult to distinguish the Dark Green Fritillary from the High Brown Fritillary based on their uppersides. However, the first row of dots from the outside edge of the forewing upperside do give a clue - the 3rd dot from the apex of the forewing is in line with the other dots in the Dark Green Fritillary, but indented toward the body in the High Brown Fritillary.


Dark Green Fritillary (left) and High Brown Fritillary (right)

Queen of Spain Fritillary

Description to be completed.

Silver-washed Fritillary

Description to be completed.

Videos


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Dennis (1977) Dennis, R.L.H. (1977) The British Butterflies - Their Origin and Establishment.
Emmet (1990) Emmet, A.M. and Heath, J. (1990) The Moths and Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland.
Fabricius (1807) Fabricius, J.C. (1807) Magazin für Insektenkunde, herausgegeben von Karl Illiger.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Nash (2012) Nash, D., Boyd, T. and Hardiman, D. (2012) Ireland's Butterflies: A Review.
Rafinesque (1815) Rafinesque, C.S. (1815) Analyse de la nature ou Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés.
Reuss (1926) Reuss, T. (1926) Systematischer Überblick der Dryadinae T. Rss. mit einigen Neubeschreibungen (Lep. Rhopal). Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift.
Riley (2007) Riley, A.M. (2007) British and Irish Butterflies: The Complete Identification, Field and Site Guide to the Species, Subspecies and Forms.
Swainson (1827) Swainson, W. (1827) A Sketch of the Natural Affinities of the Lepidoptera Diurna of Latreille. The Philosophical magazine : or Annals of chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, natural history and general science.
Thomson (1980) Thomson, G. (1980) The Butterflies of Scotland.
Watkins (1923) Watkins, H.T.G. (1923) A new Argynnis Race. The Entomologist.