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Butterfly taxonomy (classification) The skippers The swallowtails The whites The hairstreaks, coppers and blues. Includes the Duke of Burgundy. The nymphalids, fritillaries and browns. Includes the Monarch.
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C3221
Wingspan
58 - 68mm
Photo © IainLeach
Dark Green Fritillary

Argynnis aglaja
ar-GIN-iss
a-GLY-uh
Number: 59.019
B&F No.: 1607
Family:Nymphalidae (Swainson, 1827)
Subfamily:Heliconiinae (Swainson, 1827)
Tribe:Argynnini (Duponchel, 1835)
Genus:Argynnis (Fabricius, 1807)
Subgenus:Mesoacidalia (Reuss, 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 a form known as 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
7.7.2013 Dark-green Fritillary, male, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey 114
Male Underside
Photo © hideandseek
Dark Green Fritillary, female, 15/07/2013, Farley Mount
Female
Photo © Pauline
Dark Green Fritillary - Stockbridge Down - 2 July 2011
Female Underside
Photo © Clive

  Phenology  

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.


  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.

  Larval Foodplants  

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

  Nectar Sources  

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

  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.


Argynnis aglaja, Dunsford Wood, Devon 24-June-2008
Photo © m_galathea
Dark Green Fritillary female - Pennard Cliffs East, Gower, Wales 26-June-07
Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Jun-2007
Dark Green Fritillary pair - Arnside Knott, Lancs. 9-July-07
Photo © Vince Massimo
09-Jul-2007
Dark Green Fritillary pair - Arnside Knott, Lancs. 9-July-07
Photo © Vince Massimo
09-Jul-2007
Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Stockbridge Down - 12-Jul-09 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009
Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Stockbridge Down - 12-Jul-09 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009
Dark Green Fritillary - Stockbridge Down - 2 July 2011
Photo © Clive
02-Jul-2011
Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Farley Mount Country Park - 29-Jun-11 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C2714
Photo © IainLeach
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C3221
Photo © IainLeach
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C3260
Photo © IainLeach
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 11 May 2011- 03C3429
Photo © IainLeach
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C3449
Photo © IainLeach
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C5674
Photo © IainLeach
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C6205
Photo © IainLeach
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C6956
Photo © IainLeach
Dark-Green-Fritillary Bakewell, Derbys 26 June 2011- 03C7304
Photo © IainLeach
Dark Green Fritillary, Male, 28/06/2012, Pitt Down
Photo © Pauline
28-Jun-2012
Dark Green Fritillary female - Arnside Knott 30.07.2012
Photo © nfreem
30-Jul-2012
Dark Green Fritillary male - Botany Bay, Sussex 7-July-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
07-Jul-2012
Dark Green Fritillary male - Botany Bay, Sussex 7-July-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
07-Jul-2012
Dark Green Fritillary pair - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 12-July-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
11-Jul-2012
Dark Green Fritillary - Botany Bay, Sussex 7-July-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
07-Jul-2012
Dark Green Fritillary male - Cissbury Ring, Sussex 20-June-2011
Photo © Neil Hulme
18-Jun-2011
Dark Green Fritillary male - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 12-July-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
12-Jul-2012
Dark Green Fritillary female - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 9-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
09-Jul-2009
7.7.2013 Dark-green Fritillary, male, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey 114
Photo © hideandseek
07-Jul-2013
Dark Green Fritillary, female, 15/07/2013, Farley Mount
Photo © Pauline
15-Jul-2013
Dark Green Fritillary, female, 15/07/2013, Farley Mount
Photo © Pauline
15-Jul-2013
Dark Green Fritillary close up - Martin Down, 16-07-2013
Photo © Wurzel
16-Jul-2013
Dark Green Fritillary (2m) 5.7.12 Whitbarrow, Cumbria. Downland boy
Photo © downland boy
05-Jul-2012
Dark Green Fritillary (mating) 3.7.12  Arnside Knott, Cumbria. Downland boy
Photo © downland boy
03-Jul-2012
Dark Green Fritillary - male - Arnside Knott - 19-Jun-14-5
Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jun-2014
Dark Green Fritillary - male - Arnside Knott - 19-Jun-14
Photo © Pete Eeles
19-Jun-2014
Dark Green Fritillary male - Fairmile Bottom, Sussex 26-June-2014
Photo © Neil Hulme
26-Jun-2014
Dark Green Fritillary - female - Martin Down - 10-07-2014
Photo © Wurzel
Dark Green Fritillary - Martin Down - 10-07-2014
Photo © Wurzel
Dark Green Fritllary - female - Martin Down - 10-07-2014
Photo © Wurzel

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

Unclassified Aberrations


Dark Green Fritillary - imago - Stockbridge Down - 12-Jul-09 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Jul-2009
Dark Green Fritillary ab Loch Fleet 280610
Photo © Tony Mainwood
Heavily marked Dark Green Fritillary. Heddon Valley, Exmoor. June 29th 2013
Photo © Rogerdodge
29-Jun-2013
Dark Green Fritillary ab. - Forvie Sands, Aberdeenshire 6-July-2013 [Ken McHardy]
Photo © Ken McHardy
06-Jul-2013
Dark Green Fritillary ab. - Forvie Sands, Aberdeenshire 6-July-2013 [Ken McHardy]
Photo © Ken McHardy
06-Jul-2013

  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

  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.


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

  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

  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  

Video © oriolebirding
Dark Green Fritillary, Martin Down 7th July 2013

  Sites  

Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Aberffraw Dunes, Ainsdale Hills, Aldbury Nowers, Allt Dolanog, Allt Mhuic Nature Reserve, Ardley Quarry, Ardnamurchan Point, Arnside Knott, Badbury Rings, Baddoch Burn, Balkello Common Woods, Ballard Down, Ballyteigue Burrow, Balnaguard Glen, Banstead Woods, Barkbooth Lot, Beachy Head, Ben Lawers, Ben Vrackie, Bennar Dunes, Bicton Common, Big Wood, Birkhill forest, Birling Gap, Black Rock, Bloody Bridge, Bolt Head, Bovey Valley Woodlands, Box Hill, Brackett's Coppice, Braunton Burrows, Brean Down, Broughton Down, Burnmouth Coast SSSI, Butchershole Bottom, Buttler's Hangings, Caherconnell, Calstone Coombes, Cambus O'May, Cashel, Castlefreke, Cerne Hill Giant, Chinnor Hill, Cissbury Ring, Clatworthy Reservoir, Clubmen's Down, Cockey Down, Compton Down, Craigower Hill, Crook Peak, Cudden Point, Culbin, Dancersend, Deep Dale, Deepdale, Dinas Dinlle Sand Dunes, Drigg Dunes, Dunsford Meadow, Durlston Country Park, Durlston NNR, Eaglehead Copse, Earl's Hill, East Budleigh Common, East Prawle coast, Ellerburn Bank, Ettrick Haughlands, Eyarth Rocks, Fackenden Downs, Farley Mount Country Park, Fen Bog, Feshie Bridge, Finnamore Lakes, Fontmell Down, Forvie Sands, Frog Firle Farm, Gait Barrows, Glasdrum Wood, Glen Doll Forest, Glen Gour, Glenkinnon Burn SSSI, Gordon Moss SSSI, Great Orme, Great Torrington Commons, Greenlaw Dean, Gun Hill, Ham Common, Hangingshaw Burn, Havant Thicket, Headley Heath, Heddon Valley, Hembury Woods, Hod Hill, Holkham Meals, Holtspur Valley Reserves, Horsey Gap, Hutchinsons Bank, Hutton Roof Crags, Ivinghoe, Jerry's Hole, Jubilee Rifle Range, Kenfig Pool, Kilninian, Kingcombe Redholm, Lathkill Dale, Latterbarrow, Lauder Burn, Leighton Moss, Lindean Reservoir SSSI, Linn Dean, Loch an Eilean, Loch Ard Forest, Loch Fleet, Loch of Aboyne, Long Mynd, Lough Bunny, Lydlinch Common, Mabie Forest, Marsland Reserve, Martin Down, Moors Valley Country Park, Morrone Birkwood, New Bridge, Old Castle Down, Old Winchester Hill, Oxwich, Pamphill Moor, Parc Penallta, Penhale Sands, Pexton Bank, Polhill Bank, Prestbury Hill, Priddy Mineries, Ringstead Bay, Ross Links, Roudsea Wood NNR, Rubh' Arisaig, Saltbox Hill, Saltfleetby - Theddlethorpe Dunes, Seven Barrows, Sharpenhoe Clappers, Sheskinmore, Slievenacloy, Smardale Gill, South Stack Cliffs, St Abbs Head, St. Abbs Head to Fast Castle SSSI, St. Govan's Head, Stockbridge Down, Stoke Camp, Stony Green Hill, Stubhampton Bottom, Tentsmuir Point, Thornielee Forest, Townsend Quarry, Trosley Country Park, Ubley Warren, Umbra, Walton Common, Warburg Reserve, Warton Crag, Watersmeet, West Down, West Hook Cliffs, Whitbarrow Scar, White Hill Reserve, Whiteadder Reservoir, Whiteford Burrows, Whitlaw Mosses NNR, Windover Hill, Winterton NNR, Woodhall Dean, Yair Hill Forest, Ynys-Hir

  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).


  Links  

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.
Duponchel (1835) Duponchel, P.A.J. (1835) Histoire naturelle des lépidoptères ou papillons de France, par M. J.-B. Godart. Continuée par P.-A.-J. Duponchel. Diurnes. Supplément aux tomes premier et deuxième.
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.
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.

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