Queen of Spain Fritillary

Issoria lathonia (iss-OR-ee-uh la-THOH-nee-uh)

Queen of Spain Fritillary - imago - Rhodopi, Bulgaria - 07-Jul-07 (1057)
Photo © Pete Eeles

Male: 34 - 52mm
Female: 50 - 56mm

Checklist Number

Family:NymphalidaeRafinesque, 1815
Subfamily:HeliconiinaeSwainson, 1827
Tribe:ArgynniniSwainson, 1833
Genus:IssoriaHübner, [1819]
Subgenus:IssoriaHübner, [1819]
Species:lathonia(Linnaeus, 1758)

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This butterfly is an extremely rare immigrant to the British Isles with the first record from Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire in 1710. It was first noticed in numbers in 1818 and was seen every year until 1885 - with the highest total of 50 records in 1872. Since then, sightings are few and far between with an additional 42 records up until 1939. Between 1943 and 1950 an additional 75 records were added and, since then, there has again been a dearth of sightings with no sightings at all in some years. In 2009 several individuals were seen near the Sussex coast, including a sighting of a mating pair. Even so, there have been less than 400 sightings in total since it was first discovered.

Although females have been seen egg-laying, neither larvae nor pupae have been found in the wild except in the Channel Islands, where larvae were found in 1950, and larvae were again found in 1951 and 1957. However, in 1945, 25 individuals were recorded at Portreath in Cornwall, suggesting that a migrant female had deposited her eggs in the vicinity and that this concentration of adults were her offspring. Unfortunately, this species is unable to survive our winter. The vernacular name of "Queen of Spain" was given in 1775 by Moses Harris in The Aurelian's Pocket Companion, although no explanation for this name was given. This species is a rare migrant to the British Isles. The vast majority of sightings are from the south coast of England, with a fairly even spread from Cornwall to Kent. There are fewer records further north and several records from southern Ireland. It is believed that the presence of this species on our shores is dependent on individuals originating in northern France. Unfortunately, the number seen there is also decreasing due to loss of suitable habitat and this undoubtedly has a knock-on effect.

Issoria lathonia

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

Queen of Spain Fritillary - Piddinghoe, Sussex 28-Aug-2017

Photo © Neil Hulme

Queen of Spain Fritillary - Piddinghoe, Sussex 28-Aug-2017

Male Underside
Photo © Neil Hulme

Queen of Spain Fritillary Female - Dunwich Forest, Suffolk 3-July-11

Photo © Julian

Queen of Spain Fritillary - imago - Rhodopi, Bulgaria - 07-Jul-07 (1056)

Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

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.

1702Riga FritillaryPetiver (1702-1706)
1710Lesser Silver-spottedRay (1710)
1775Queen of Spain FritillaryHarris (1775b)
1795Scalloped-winged FritillaryLewin (1795)
1832PrincessRennie (1832)

Conservation Status

No conservation action is relevant for this species.


The migrant tendencies of this butterfly mean that it can turn up almost anywhere. However, it is most-frequently encountered in patches of grassland or heathland where it nectars on a variety of flowers, Thistles being a particular favourite. In northern Europe, sites are typically hot and dry.


1.2 Rare Migrant

This species is a rare migrant to the British Isles.

Life Cycle

Although sightings have been made as early as May, the vast majority are in September and early October.


This species is most-easily recognised by the large silver spangles found on the underside of the hindwings. The hindwings themselves are a curious shape, with a comparatively sharp angle at the edge of the hindwing that is not found in other fritillaries found in the British Isles. This butterfly has a powerful flight, as one would expect of any butterfly that is able to migrate over large distances.

Description to be completed.

Issoria lathonia

Queen of Spain Fritillary - male - Farm Lator, Hungary - 06-Jul-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Queen of Spain Fritillary Female - Dunwich Forest, Suffolk 3-July-11

Photo © Julian
Dunwich Forest, Suffolk.

Queen of Spain Fritillaries (female on left) - North Italy 1-June-2013

Photo © Padfield
North Italy

Queen of Spain Fritillary - imago - Little Hortobagy, Hungary - 13-Jul-06 (0568)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Queen of Spain Fritillary - Czech Republic - 11-08-2015

Photo © Wurzel

Queen of Spain Fritillary - imago - Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, Oranjekom, Noord Holland - Jul-04 [Rob Abraham]

Photo © Rob Abraham

Queen of Spain Fritillary. Madjarovo, Bulgaria Jun 2005

Photo © Mikhail

Queen of Spain female - Switzerland April 2011

Photo © Padfield

Queen of Spain Fritillary - Piddinghoe, Sussex 27-Aug-2017

Photo © Neil Hulme

Queen of Spain, Chichester, Sussex 10 October 2009

Photo © Neil Hulme

Queen of Spain Fritillary - male - Répáshuta, Hungary - 02-Jul-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Queen of Spain Fritillary - imago - Sarnano, Italy - 17-Jun-08 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Queen of Spain Fritillary - male - Borsodi Mezőségi, Hungary - 04-Jul-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Queen of Spain Fritillary - imago - Sarnano, Italy - 17-Jun-08 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Queen of Spain Fritillary - imago - Rhodopi, Bulgaria - 07-Jul-07 (1056)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Queen of Spain Fritillary - Piddinghoe, Sussex 2-Sept-2017

Photo © Neil Hulme

Queen of Spain Fritillary - Burgas, Bulgaria - July 24th, 2016

Photo © smythric

Queen of Spain Fritillary Female - Dunwich Forest, Suffolk 3-July-11

Photo © Julian
Dunwich Forest, Suffolk

Queen of Spain Fritillary Female - Dunwich Forest, Suffolk 3-July-11

Photo © Julian
Dunwich Forest, Suffolk.

Queen of Spain Fritillary - Burgas, Bulgaria - July 25th, 2016

Photo © smythric

Photo Album (46 photos) ...


Eggs are laid singly and this stage lasts around a week.

"The egg is 6 mm. high, of a rather straight-sided conical form, widest at the base, where it is smooth and rounded off at the edge. There are about forty longitudinal keels, irregularly formed and of different lengths, some not reaching half-way up the side, and others running the entire length from base to crown, where they terminate abruptly, and form a series of triangular peaks round the summit surrounding the granulated micropyle; the spaces between the keels are finely ribbed transversely. When first laid it is of a very pale lemon-yellow colour, inclining to ochreous, appearing almost white in certain lights; the colour gradually deepens, becoming yellower with a greenish tinge. On the fifth day the crown of the egg assumes a dull grey, finally changing to a lilac-grey." - Frohawk (1924)


The larva is known to like warmth and is most-active on sunny days. This stage lasts between 3 and 4 weeks and there are 5 instars in total.

The primary larval foodplants are Field Pansy (Viola arvensis) and Wild Pansy (Viola tricolor).

1st Instar

"Directly after emergence the larva measures 1.6 mm. in length. The body is cylindrical, and the segmental divisions are deeply defined, each segment swelling in the middle. There are ten longitudinal rows of shining, olive-coloured, irregularly shaped warts, five on each side, i.e., three above the spiracle and two below; the first dorsal and last lateral ones are bilobed; each of the lobes and the other warts bear a long serrated bristle; the longest and most curved are those on the dorsal surface; they all curve forwards, the smallest being the anterior one of the dorsal pair. All these bristles are shining black, with whitish transparent tips. The head is shining black and beset with similar but shorter bristles; the entire body is densely sprinkled with very minute black points, adding depth to the pale olive-yellow ground colour; the claspers are of the same colour, and bear a pair of simple white spines; the legs are dusky. Shortly before first moult it measures 2.8 mm. in length; the ground colour is creamy-white; the sides and ventral surface are mottled and checked with pale ochreous-brown, the cream colour forming longitudinal dorsal and spiracular stripes; the surface is particularly glossy." - Frohawk (1924)

2nd Instar

"The first moult occurred on August 20th. Before second moult it measures 5 mm. in length. The surface of the body is covered with minute black points; each segment from the fourth to eleventh inclusive has six prominent tubercles, each set with a number of serrated bristles; these form longitudinal rows, the first being sub-dorsal, the others super-spiracular and sub-spiracular; along the lateral edge and base of the claspers is another row of much smaller tubercles; the first segment has eight, the second and third segments have each ten, and the twelfth has four tubercles; all are black and bear bristles; numerous black hairs are scattered over the surface, each having a black shining base. The head is black and shining and is also beset with black bristles; there is a dorsal cluster of similar bristles in the centre of both the first and last segments. The ground colour is pale lilac-grey, with a fine mcdio-dorsal stripe and an ochrcous spiracular band; the sub-dorsal surface is checkered with blackish; the legs are shining black. At the least disturbance the larva fall from the food plant and remain rolled up in a ring for about two minutes. On August 22nd there were ninety-two larva in different stages, but the majority were in the second stage." - Frohawk (1924)

3rd Instar

"Second moult August 24th. Before third moult it measures 8.5 mm. long, being very similar to the previous stage, except that the colouring is more pronounced and the tubercles are developed into short spines, but bearing bristles as before. The larvae are very active in their movements, running rapidly, and feed voraciously." - Frohawk (1924)

4th Instar

"The third moult occurred on August 29th. On August 30th seventy-three larva were placed on dog violet (Viola canina), but all refused to eat it, so they were transferred to V. tricolor, when they immediately commenced feeding. Before fourth moult it is 14.8 mm. in length, while extended, crawling. The ground colour is chiefly black, with a broken, double, greyish-white medio-dorsal line, and sprinkled all over with minute black hairs, each encircled with whitish at the base. There is a creamy-white lateral line, on which are situated the sub-spiracular ochreous spines, each having a swollen bulbous deep amber base; the dorsal spines are almost black, having only the tips dull ochreous and a smaller amount of dull amber colour on the base; the spines on the first three segments are more amber-coloured than the others on the dorsal surface and resemble the super and sub-spiracular ones on the rest of the segments; all the spines are bristle-bearing; the claspers are ochreous; the legs and ventral surface, as well as the head, are black, but the latter is checkered with amber colour." - Frohawk (1924)

5th Instar

"A large number of the larvae moulted the fourth and last time on September 1st. When fully grown it measures 3 1.8 mm. in length while crawling. The body is slightly tapered, mostly so at the anterior end; each segment has two transverse wrinkles on the posterior half; the anterior half is of one plain surface. The six rows of spines are moderately long, stout at the base, and sharply pointed; all bear a number of shining black bristles those of the sub-dorsal series olive-brown, with ochreous-brown bases, the super-spiracular series paler brown, with amber bases, while those of the sub-spiracular row are wholly amber-brown, palest at the tips. The ground colour is velvety black, the spiracles are black encircled with whitish. The double medio-dorsal line is composed of two longitudinal white streaks on the anterior part of each segment, these being followed posteriorly by a double row of white warts emitting black bristles; from the base of each dorsal spine is a cream coloured streak, and two similar streaks from the super-spiracular spines; these run over the anterior portion only of each segment from the spine to the segmental division; the sub-spiracular spine is situated on a buff and cream band, which, however, is clouded in the centre with dark olive; the ventral: surface, like the dorsal, is black and velvety; the entire body is rather densely sprinkled with pure white minute warts, each emitting a black bristle; the legs. are black; the claspers dull amber-brown; the head amber on the upper half, the remainder being black, and is beset with bristles like the body. When preparing to pupate the larva spins a considerable quantity of silk over part of the plant selected, and an ample pad of silk to grasp with the anal claspers. After hanging for about thirty hours it pupates. During the last few days of the larval state it feeds most voraciously upon the bloom and leaves of both the wild and cultivated pansy, but not on either the dog or sweet violet. They appear to avoid the strong sunshine by sheltering on the under side of the leaves, and often selecting the most shady part of the plant to rest upon; but yet they enjoy warmth, becoming very active and feeding rapidly on the brightest and warmest days." - Frohawk (1924)

Queen of Spain Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 06-Jul-04 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Queen of Spain Fritillary - larva - Thatcham - 10-Sep-06 (0792) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Queen of Spain Fritillary caterpillar, 20th April 2014, Switzerland.

Photo © Padfield

Queen of Spain fritillary caterpillar, 20th April 2014, Switzerland.

Photo © Padfield

Photo Album (4 photos) ...


The pupa is formed head-down, suspended from a stem or twig by the cremaster.

"The pupa measures from 17 mm. to 19 mm. in length, the largest producing females. In structure and general formation it most closely resembles the pupa of A. selene. Lateral view: The head is rounded; the thorax rounded and swollen, sloping off to the meta-thorax and waist; it then gradually increases in size to the third abdominal segment, whence the abdomen decreases and curves abruptly at the sixth and seventh segments, terminating in a well-developed cremastcr. The abdomen is fairly straight along the ventral surface; near the apex the wing is swollen, and then it runs in almost a straight line to the head. Dorsal view: The head is square, the thorax projecting and angular; it is indented at the waist and swollen across the third abdominal segment, then gradually tapering to a point. Colour: The head, thorax and wings are shining olive-brown; the abdomen checkered and speckled with olive-brown, ochreous, black and white. The spiracles are large, black and conspicuous. On the third and fourth segments is a clouded pcarly-white blotch, which spreads in the form of a large patch over the centre of the hind margin of the wing. There are seven longitudinal rows of short, blunt, deep amber-coloured tubercles or points on the abdomen, the sub-spiracular series being very small; those forming the sub-dorsal rows are the largest; the medio-dorsal and super-spiracular ones are about equal in size; all these are surrounded at the base by whitish; the sub-dorsal points on the pro-thorax, meso-thorax, meta-thorax and first two abdominal segments are placed on brilliant, burnished, silver-gilt discs, the largest being on the meta-thorax. The inner margin wing ridge is pearly-whitish; the head and eyes are speckled with dull white. The surface is shining and covered with minute granulations, and when viewed under the microscope exactly resembles the skin of a toad, especially the wing surface. The thoracic dorsal surface and abdomen are sprinkled with minute club-tipped bristles. The first two butterflies, both females, emerged on September 25th, followed by others on the three following days, but only ten out of ninety pupae emerged, these being three males and seven females. Eighty of the pupae died, although these were all fine as regards size and apparently quite healthy at first. There is not the slightest doubt that the late autumn English climate is quite unsuited for the existence of this species, in the same way as it is fatal to Colias edusa, Pieris daplidice and Vanessa antiopa, apparently none of these being able to establish themselves in this country owing to the damp cold winter months." - Frohawk (1924)

Queen of Spain Fritillary - pupa - Thatcham - 14-Oct-06 (0787) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album (1 photos) ...


Description to be completed.

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

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Dark Green Fritillary

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High Brown Fritillary

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Silver-washed Fritillary

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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.


The species description provided here references the following publications:

Frohawk (1924) Frohawk, F.W. (1924) The Natural History of British Butterflies.
Hübner (1819) Hübner, J. (1819) Verzeichniss bekannter Schmettlinge.
Harris (1775b) Harris, M. (1775) The English Lepidoptera: or, The Aurelian's Pocket Companion.
Lewin (1795) Lewin, W. (1795) The Papilios of Great Britain.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Petiver (1702-1706) Petiver, J. (1702-1706) Gazophylacii naturae et artis decas prima.
Rafinesque (1815) Rafinesque, C.S. (1815) Analyse de la nature ou Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés.
Ray (1710) Ray, J. (1710) Historia Insectorum.
Rennie (1832) Rennie, J. (1832) A conspectus of the butterflies and moths found in Britain, with their English and systematic names, times of appearances, sizes, colours, their caterpillars, and various localities.
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.