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 ...


History

The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

YearNameReference
1700Great Sylver Spotted FritillaryBuddle (1700)
1742Darkened Green FritillaryWilkes (1742)
1766Dark Green FritillariaHarris (1766)
1795Silver-spotted FritillaryLewin (1795)
1803Dark Green FritillaryHaworth (1803)
1803Queen of England FritillaryHaworth (1803)
1832Charlotte ButterflyBrown (1832)

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 StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Not Listed
Decrease-33
Large Increase+186
Increase+44
Increase+18

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any 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 Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C3339

Photo © IainLeach

Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C3260

Photo © IainLeach

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

Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jun-2014

Dark Green Fritillary female - Pennard Cliffs East, Gower, Wales 26-June-07

Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Jun-2007

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

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009

Dark Green Fritillary female - Alun Valley, South Wales 14-June-2015

Photo © Willrow
14-Jun-2015

Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Arnside Knott - 12-Jul-05 (5)

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jul-2005

Dark Green Fritillary (mating) 3.7.12  Arnside Knott, Cumbria. Downland boy

Photo © downland boy
03-Jul-2012

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

Photo © Pauline
15-Jul-2013

Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Stockbridge Down - 12-Jul-09 (3)

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009

Dark Green Fritillary - Botany Bay, Sussex 7-July-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme
07-Jul-2012

Dark Green Fritillary Male - Birling Gap, Sussex 7-July-07

Photo © Vince Massimo
07-Jul-2007

DGF, reared, 19/06/2015

Photo © Pauline
19-Jun-2015

Dark Green Fritillary closer up - Martin Down, 16-07-2013

Photo © Wurzel
16-Jul-2013

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

Photo © Testudo Man
Dark Green Fritillary (female). Lullingstone, Kent. 3/7/16.

Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C7304

Photo © IainLeach

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

Photo © IainLeach

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

Photo © Vince Massimo
09-Jul-2009

Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C7275

Photo © IainLeach

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

Photo © Neil Hulme
26-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

DGF ovum, 1 day old, Oxenbourne Down, 27/07/2016

Photo © Pauline
27-Jul-2016

DGF ovum, 3 days old, Oxenbourne Down, 29/07/2016

Photo © Pauline
29-Jul-2016

DGF ovum, 3 days old, Oxenbourne Down, 29/07/2016

Photo © Pauline
29-Jul-2016

DGF ovum, 9 days old, Oxenbourne Down, 03/08/2016

Photo © Pauline
03-Aug-2016

DGF ovum, 9 days old, Oxenbourne Down, 03/08/2016

Photo © Pauline
03-Aug-2016

DGF ovum, 15 days old, Oxenbourne Down, 09/08/2016

Photo © Pauline
09-Aug-2016

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 ...


1st Instar

Description to be completed.

2nd Instar

Description to be completed.

3rd Instar

Description to be completed.

4th Instar

Description to be completed.

5th Instar

Description to be completed.

6th Instar

Description to be completed.

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
Brown (1832) Brown, T. (1832) The book of butterflies, sphinxes and moths.
Buddle (1700) Buddle, Revd. A. (1700) [Herbarium, preserved in the Botany department of the Natural History Museum, London].
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.
Harris (1766) Harris, M. (1766) The Aurelian. Edition 1.
Haworth (1803) Haworth, A.H. (1803) Lepidoptera Britannica.
Lewin (1795) Lewin, W. (1795) The Papilios of Great Britain.
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.
Wilkes (1742) Wilkes, B. (1742) Twelve New Designs of English Butterflies.