Glanville Fritillary

Melitaea cinxia (mell-it-EE-uh SINK-see-uh)

Glanville Fritillary- Compton Bay IOW 23-May- 2016 (1)
Photo © Buchan Boy

Male: 38 - 46mm
Female: 44 - 52mm

Checklist Number

Family:NymphalidaeRafinesque, 1815
Subfamily:NymphalinaeRafinesque, 1815
Tribe:MelitaeiniNewman, 1871
Genus:MelitaeaFabricius, 1807
Species:cinxia(Linnaeus, 1758)

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The Glanville Fritillary is named after Lady Eleanor Glanville, a 17th century Lepidopterist who discovered this species in Lincolnshire. After her death, one of her sons contested her will on the grounds of lunacy, as eloquently described by Moses Harris in "The Aurelian" in 1766: "This Fly took its Name from the ingenious Lady Glanvil, whose Memory had like to have suffered for her Curiosity. Some Relations that was disappointed by her Will, attempted to let it aside by Acts of Lunacy, for they suggested that none but those who were deprived of their Senses, would go in Pursuit of Butterflies". This butterfly was formerly found in many colonies in south-east England as far north as Lincolnshire, although it is at the northern limit of its range in the British Isles. Today it is found mainly on the south coast of the Isle of Wight, with the occasional colony, typically short-lived, appearing on the South Hampshire coast. There is also an unauthorised introduction in North Somerset. This butterfly is also found on Guernsey and Alderney in the Channel Islands. This butterfly forms discrete colonies with little interchange between them. However, the odd stray will turn up several miles from any known colony.

Melitaea cinxia

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

Glanville Fritillary male - Hutchinsons Bank, Croydon, Surrey 17-May-2016

Photo © Vince Massimo

Glanville Fritillary - imago - Hurst Castle - 19-May-08 (26)

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville-Fritillary-Sand Point 14 May 2011 03C9760

Photo © IainLeach

Glanville Fritillary Wrecclesham Surrey 14th June 2012

Female Underside
Photo © millerd

Photo Album ...


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.

1703Lincolnshire FritillaryPetiver (1702-1706)
1717Dullidge FritillaryPetiver (1717)
1748Glanvil FretillaryDutfield (1748-1749)
1749Plaintain FritillaryWilkes (1749)
1766Glanvil FritillariaHarris (1766)
1803Glanville FritillaryHaworth (1803)

Conservation Status

The colonies found in the British Isles, where this species is at the limit of its northern range, are considered relatively-stable. However, this butterfly is vulnerable to improvements to its coastal habitats and so it is a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Priority Species
Click here to access the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for this species.
Large Decrease-66
Large Decrease-88

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).


This species is primarily found in locations where regular disturbance of the ground allows the foodplant to grow and flourish, as is the case in coastal areas where there are frequent cliff falls. This allows the butterfly to move to new areas as the existing habitat becomes overgrown.



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 emerge in the second half of May, reaching a peak at the end of the month and at the start of June. There is typically one generation each year but in good years, when there has been a particularly-early emergence that starts as early as the end of April, there may be a partial second brood that emerges in August.

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.


This is a sun-loving butterfly, being active only in bright sunshine. Like most fritillaries, it is difficult to follow as it flies with a series of rapid wing beats followed by a short glide. Both sexes are avid nectar feeders, Thrift and Bird's-foot Trefoil being particular favourites. The adults roost, often communally, on flower heads of various grasses.

The male is the most conspicuous of the two sexes, as it patrols the breeding grounds, investigating any brown object in the hope of finding a less-conspicuous virgin female in the vegetation. Even while mating the pair may remain active, flying between shrubs and even nectaring.

The female takes great care when choosing a site in which to lay her batch of eggs. Favoured sites are sheltered and warm, and where relatively-young foodplant grows vigorously with plenty of bare ground around.

Adults feed primarily on Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Hawkweeds (Hieracium/Hypochoeris) and Thrift (Armeria spp.).

Melitaea cinxia

Glanville Fritillary - 4 June 2010

Photo © Clive

Glanville Fritillary - imago - Thatcham - 18-Jun-06 (0333) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

P1050079-800 Mating Glanville Fritillaries, Wrecclesham 06/06/12

Photo © Pauline

Glanville Fritillary - imago - Thatcham - 26-Jun-05 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville, Hutchinson's Bank, 16/05/2016

Photo © Pauline

Glanville Fritillary - Isle of Wight - 23rd - May - 2016

Photo © Maximus

Glanville Fritillaries - Hurst Castle, HANTS - May 2007

Photo © Trev Sawyer

Glanville Fritillary - imago - Wrecclesham - 19-May-11 (4)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville-Fritillary-Sand Point 14 May 2011 03C0532

Photo © IainLeach

DSC04521-800 Glanville Fritillary, Wheelers Bay, 1/05/2011

Photo © Pauline

Glanville Fritillary - imago - Wrecclesham - 19-May-11 (3)

Photo © Pete Eeles

DSC04373-800 Glanville Fritillary, Wheelers Bay, 1/05/2011

Photo © Pauline

Glanville-Fritillary-Sand Point 14 May 2011 03C9760

Photo © IainLeach

Glanville-Fritillary-Sand Point 14 May 2011 03C0196

Photo © IainLeach

Glanville-Fritillary-Sand Point 14 May 2011 03C9966

Photo © IainLeach

Glanville Fritillary - Wrecclesham, Surrey 2010

Photo © Mike Young

Glanville Fritillary male - Hutchinsons Bank, Croydon, Surrey 17-May-2016

Photo © Vince Massimo

Glanville-Fritillary-Sand Point 14 May 2011 03C0688

Photo © IainLeach

Glanville-Fritillary-Sand Point 14 May 2011 03C9647

Photo © IainLeach

Glanville fritillary: underside: Wheeler's Bay Ventnor Isle of Wight 23rd May 2015

Photo © Ian Pratt

Photo Album (52 photos) ...


The yellow eggs are laid in large and untidy batches of between 50 and 200 on the underside of a leaf of the foodplant. This stage lasts between 2 and 3 weeks.

"When this butterfly intends depositing it selects the more sheltered spots of the lower slopes of the cliffs and the rough broken ground in the hollows, which abound with the food plants of the larvae, the narrow-leaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and P. maritima. The female butterfly then searches out a plant, settles on one of the leaves, curves the abdomen under and upwards and starts depositing; she remains clinging to the leaf for a long time and deposits a large batch of eggs, numbering between 200 and 300, on the under surface. On June 24th, 1892, a captive female laid a large batch of eggs, between 250 and 300, on the under surface of a leaf of P. lanceolata; these hatched on July 14th, remaining twenty days in the egg state. Again on July 8th, 1911, a similar batch of eggs was deposited, which hatched on July 4th; these remained twenty-six days in the egg state. The egg is very small, measuring only 0.5 mm. in height, of a truncated pyriform shape, with a flattened base. There are about twenty longitudinal keels, which run from the crown to about half-way down the side, where they then branch off in different directions, forming irregular, angulated, shallow cells, which disappear before reaching the base. When first laid the egg is light primrose-yellow (but the dense mass of eggs produces a lemon-yellow effect), and remains unchanged until a few days before hatching, when the eggs gradually become paler and finally assume an ochreous-white or dull pearl colour, with a dull leaden crown produced by the head of the larva showing through the shell." - Frohawk (1924)

Glanville Fritillary - ovum - Thatcham - 02-Jul-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary - ovum - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Brian Clegg]

Photo © Brian Clegg

Photo Album (2 photos) ...


After hatching, the gregarious larvae spin a silk web over the foodplant in which they live and feed, and on which they bask. After the 4th moult, the larvae build a tent in which to hibernate, usually formed low down in vegetation. They emerge in the spring and only feed during periods of sun; in dull weather they remain motionless.

The larvae are unmistakable, their black bodies contrasting sharply with their dark red heads. They can also be extremely conspicuous when basking or feeding together - forming a black mass against their background. As for several other species, the larvae will instantly roll into a ball when disturbed, dropping deep into the undergrowth. Mature larvae leave the communal web and disperse to find fresh foodplant on which to feed. They are voracious feeders and a group can quickly decimate an entire plant. As a result, starvation of the larvae can be a real threat to this species. There are 6 moults in total.

The primary larval foodplant is Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata).

Glanville Fritillary - larva - Isle of Wight - 25-Mar-07 [Ian Pratt]

Photo © Ian Pratt

Photo Album (1 photos) ...

1st Instar

"Directly after emergence the larva measures only 1.25 mm. long. The head is shining bronze-black and bears a few minute hairs. The body is cylindrical and slender, the segmental divisions are rather deep, and each segment has a median shallow sub-division. It is very similar to both M. aurinea and M. athalia larvae in respect of the number, position and formation of the slender, curved, finely serrated hairs which are scattered over the body. There are three above the spiracle and two below on each of the middle segments, and a simple hair on the base of the claspers; in size the hairs mostly resemble those of M. athalia, but have smaller bulbous bases like M. aurinea. The surface of the body is covered with dusky points, and is of a pale citrine-yellow. The young larvae are very slow in movement." - Frohawk (1924)

2nd Instar

"The first moult occurred in the middle of July. After the first moult, twenty-two days old, it measures 3.2 mm. long. The body is pale ochreous-white, mottled with dark olive and covered with black points as in the first stage; each segment excepting the first bears milk-white tubercles with white hairs, giving the larva a checkered appearance. The tubercles encircle each segment, which are placed medio-dorsal, sub-dorsal, super-spiracular and sub-spiracular, all forming longitudinal rows. The head is shining bronze-black and furnished with hairs. They live in company in a dense web spun amongst and over the plantain leaves." - Frohawk (1924)

3rd Instar

"The second moult occurred at the end of July, 1911. After the second moult it measures 5 mm. in length. The ground colour is smoky-black mottled with pale olive; the tubercles are also pale olive with whitish bristles. The head and legs are black, the claspers olive, the spiracles pale olive and rather prominent. They still live together in a mass under the protection of a dense web." - Frohawk (1924)

4th Instar

"The third moult occurred about August 7th. It measures when thirty-seven days old 6.35 mm. long. The ground colour is smoky-black, speckled with pearl-grey dots encircling the body, chiefly at the segmental divisions; the tubercles are olive-ochreous with black spines. The head is olive-brown with black eye spots; legs black; claspers olive-ochreous. The whole surface is covered with rough black granulations." - Frohawk (1924)

5th Instar

"When only about 6.35 mm. long, another moult takes place about the middle of August, being the fourth moult. At first the head is deep amber with black eye spots, the legs ochreous and the claspers amber-orange. The head gradually deepens in colour and becomes dark brown in the centre of the face, and the legs turn blackish; the claspers retain the orange colouring; the whitish speckles are more clearly defined and the tubercles are black. This is the hibernating stage. After feeding a short time they enter into hibernation, spinning a dense web. In January, 1890, the author obtained two nests of cinxia larvae from the Isle of Wight. These were firmly and compactly spun among the base of the grass stems, many pieces of grass were interwoven. At the bottom of each nest is a small opening, as well as excreta and several cast skins of the previous stage. The larger nest was composed of three or four separate compartments, but all leading to each other, and contained forty-six larva. The smaller nest, containing nineteen larva, was of similar construction, with excreta and skins adhering. On January 2nd part of one side of the larger nest was cut open to show the larva within, for figuring. The aperture was slightly spun over the following day, and on the 6th it was thickly spun over, but not so dense as the rest of the nest. Again on March 18th, 1909, the author secured three nests, containing a large number of larva; several had emerged from the nests and were undergoing a moult, and some had already moulted. The following day nearly all had left their nests and assembled in a swarm outside on the grass, and had spun a considerable quantity of silk over it. During the first eleven days of April, 1909, there was continual sunshine, when many of the larva fed and developed a great deal, and several prepared for the last moult, while others were much smaller (before their fifth moult). During the latter half of April nearly all had moulted the sixth and last time. After the fourth moult, the hibernating stage, they vary greatly in size, from 6.35 mm. to 9.5 mm. in length. A further description of this stage is as follows: The body is black, speckled with pearl-white and finely granular; the tubercles are shining black, each bearing numerous sharply pointed, finely serrated, black spinelets, which densely clothe the body; there are also numerous minute simple hairs sprinkled over the body. The head is deep rust-red, brownish on the face, with black eye spots; legs black, claspers rust-red. Just before moulting the body assumes a purplish hue. Such is the description after hibernation and before the fifth moult. Upon the slightest disturbance they fall to the ground and roll up in a ring, remaining so for a considerable time. Before fifth moult it measures 9.5 mm. long; it is similar to previous stage, excepting that the speckles are much whiter." - Frohawk (1924)

Glanville Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 15-Sep-05 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 15-Sep-05 (4) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 29-Mar-06 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album (3 photos) ...

6th Instar

"After the fifth moult it measures 15.9 mm. long, and except being more clearly speckled with white and larger, it is similar to the last stage." - Frohawk (1924)

7th Instar

"After the sixth and last moult, fully grown, it measures 25.4 mm. in length. The ground colour is velvety black; the segments are subdivided into two divisions, the smaller being posterior and only occupying one-fourth of the segment; this is encircled with a row of pearl-white dots, and a row of similar dots down each division, and a few other conspicuous dots behind each spiracle, and several very small white dots sprinkled over the surface; from each white dot rises a fine, black, slightly serrated hair. On each segment is a series of dull olive-coloured tubercles, forming longitudinal rows, one medio-dorsal starting on the fourth segment, the others are sub-dorsal, super-spiracular and sub-spiracular; and a lateral pair on each segment. The first segment has no dorsal tubercles. Each tubercle is amply furnished with black, shining, simple, spinous bristles with bulbous bases; a fringe of black serrated bristles encircles the first segment, curving forwards, and similar bristles cover the head, which is rust-red, with black clypeus, eye spots and mouth parts; the claspers and anal extremity are deep rust-red; the legs shining black. The surface of the body is very finely pitted, forming an exceedingly fine granulated texture. The larvae all through life are gregarious, but after hibernation live unprotected by a web; but when moulting spin a considerable layer and moult in company. During dull weather they remain practically motionless, congregated together, but immediately the sun shines upon them they become active, crawling quickly about, and feed rapidly. At the end of the first week of May a few prepared for pupation, spinning a web and attaching themselves to a pad of silk, to which they hung suspended by their anal claspers. Most, however, became fully grown during the third week of May. For pupation the larvae in captivity assemble in companies and spin a quantity of web, among which the pupae are suspended. In a wild state they pupate on the stems or stalks of the plants or are attached to the protected surface of large stones, and sometimes two or more are found together." - Frohawk (1924)

Glanville Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 07-May-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary larvae. Hordle Cliff, Hants  Apr 1999

Photo © Mikhail

Glanville Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 11-May-04 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 20-May-04 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 26-Apr-06 (4) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 26-Apr-06 (5) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville larva, final instar, Liphook, 14/04/2016, reared

Photo © Pauline

Photo Album (7 photos) ...


The pupa is shiny and dark brown, with a series of orange spots running down its back. It is formed head down, attached by the cremaster, in a loose shelter formed deep in vegetation or in a rock crevice, where several pupa may be found together. This stage lasts around 3 weeks.

"The pupa measures from 12.7 mm. to 14.8 mm. long. It is stoutly proportioned. Dorsal view: The head is square in front; base of wings angular, then slightly concave, and convex across the middle; the abdomen gradually tapering and rounded. Lateral view: The head is rounded and forms a continuous curve with the thorax, which is swollen in the middle, and sunken at the juncture of the meta-thorax and first abdominal segment; the abdomen is full and rounded, forming a strong curve to the anal segment, which terminates in a well-developed cremastral process, very amply provided with hooks; the ventral abdominal surface is much contracted. The wing is swollen and gently curving. Ground colour variable; it is usually of an ashen-grey or a pale drab, more or less tinged with flesh colour; it is densely reticulated with dark brown and black, especially over the head, thorax and wings, which parts in some specimens appear wholly dusky. The meso-thorax, meta-thorax and abdomen are ornamented with blunt yellow knobs, each anteriorly surrounded with a black crescent; the knobs are practically modifications of the larval tubercles. The abdomen is also speckled with black; these (the black speckles) and the black spiracles run in longitudinal rows. The basal wing angulations and a minute point in front of the eye are orange. The abdomen is sprinkled with extremely minute whitish bristles. The whole surface is granulated and covered with a powdery bloom. The antennae are black, marked across with whitish; the wings have marginal and sub-marginal series of whitish dots on the nervures. The earliest pupae emerged during the first week of June, 1909. They remain in the pupal state about twenty days." - Frohawk (1924)

Glanville Fritillary - Pupa - Dorset - 17-May-15 [REARED]

Photo © Coopera

Glanville Fritillary - Pupa - Dorset - 17-May-15 [REARED]

Photo © Coopera

Glanville Fritillary - pupa - Thatcham - 05-Jun-04 (3) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary - pupa - Thatcham - 29-Jun-04 (2) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary - pupa - Thatcham - 29-Jun-04 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary - pupa - Thatcham - 30-May-05 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Glanville Fritillary pupa - Hutchinson's Bank, Surrey 15-May-2016

Photo © MrSp0ck

Photo Album (7 photos) ...


Description to be completed.

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

Similar Species

Heath Fritillary

The Glanville Fritillary and Heath Fritillary are easily distinguished in the British Isles since the Glanville Fritillary is generally only found on the Isle of Wight, with a small colony on the mainland, where Heath Fritillary do not occur. Where these two species do occur together on the continent, they are most easily distinguished from their undersides. The Glanville Fritillary has several spots on the underside that are not present in the Heath Fritillary.

Glanville Fritillary (left) and Heath Fritillary (right)

The spotting is also a distinguishing feature when looking at the upperside, where the Glanville Fritillary has spots on the upperside of the hindwing that are absent in the Heath Fritillary.

Glanville Fritillary (left) and Heath Fritillary (right)


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.


The species description provided here references the following publications:

Dutfield (1748-1749) Dutfield, J. (1748-1749) A new and complete natural history of English moths and butterflies.
Fabricius (1807) Fabricius, J.C. (1807) Magazin für Insektenkunde, herausgegeben von Karl Illiger.
Frohawk (1924) Frohawk, F.W. (1924) The Natural History of British Butterflies.
Harris (1766) Harris, M. (1766) The Aurelian. Edition 1.
Haworth (1803) Haworth, A.H. (1803) Lepidoptera Britannica.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Newman (1871) Newman, E. (1871) An Illustrated Natural History of British Butterflies.
Petiver (1702-1706) Petiver, J. (1702-1706) Gazophylacii naturae et artis decas prima.
Petiver (1717) Petiver, J. (1717) Papilionum Britanniae Icones.
Rafinesque (1815) Rafinesque, C.S. (1815) Analyse de la nature ou Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés.
Wilkes (1749) Wilkes, B. (1749) The English moths and butterflies: together with the plants, flowers and fruits whereon they feed, and are usually found.