Glanville Fritillary

  • Glanville Fritillary (upperwing)
    Glanville Fritillary (upperwing)
  • Glanville Fritillary (underwing)
    Glanville Fritillary (underwing)
  • Glanville Fritillary (eggs)
    Glanville Fritillary (eggs)
  • Glanville Fritillary (caterpillar)
    Glanville Fritillary (caterpillar)
  • Glanville Fritillary (pupa)
    Glanville Fritillary (pupa)
  • Video play iconGlanville Fritillary (upperwing)
    Glanville Fritillary (video)
  • Glanville Fritillary (upperwing)
    Glanville Fritillary (upperwing)
  • Glanville Fritillary (underwing)
    Glanville Fritillary (underwing)
  • Glanville Fritillary (eggs)
    Glanville Fritillary (eggs)
  • Glanville Fritillary (caterpillar)
    Glanville Fritillary (caterpillar)
  • Glanville Fritillary (pupa)
    Glanville Fritillary (pupa)
  • Glanville Fritillary (upperwing)
    Glanville Fritillary (video)

Scientific name: Melitaea cinxia

The Glanville Fritillary is named after Lady Eleanor Glanville, who first found the butterfly in England in the 1690s. It used to be found as far north as Lincolnshire, but is now restricted to coastal landslips on the southern half of the Isle of Wight. It can also be found on Guernsey and Alderney in the Channel Islands and a few coastal locations on the mainland.

This small butterfly has orange and brown chequered upperwings with a cream fringe, with the underwings patterned with cream and orange bands and black spots. It can be confused with Marsh Fritillary, although this butterfly does not have spots on the underside of the forewing. The male and female look similar, but the male is more often seen, patrolling the breeding grounds looking for a mate.

This butterfly is only active in bright sunshine and can be hard to track with its rapid wingbeats and gliding style of flight. Both sexes feed on nectar, in particular on Thrift and Trefoil.

The eggs are yellow and laid in large batches of up to 200 in warm and sheltered sites of bare ground and the caterpillar's foodplant. This stage of the lifecycle lasts between two to three weeks.

On hatching, the caterpillars spin a protective silk web over Plantains, where they bask and feed in large numbers when the sun is out. Unlike other Fritillaries, the caterpillars are black and spiny with shiny red heads. They moult six times, hibernating after the fourth moult in September. They emerge in spring, growing larger and scattering in search of more foodplants - they can decimate a plant and can otherwise end up starving.The size of the colonies depends on the abundance of Plantain, which in turn is dependant on slippage on cliffs - without regular disturbance of the ground, a dense sward will develop, preventing the growth of the Plantain. This in turn allows the butterfly to populate new areas.

The caterpillars pupate in dense vegetation or rock crevices. The brown chrysalis turns a dark greyish purple with black and orange-yellow spots. This stage of its lifecycle lasts around three weeks.

The status of the butterfly appears to have changed little in recent decades, though there has been some loss of habitat due to coastal protection measures. However, there are only a handful of core breeding areas and it remains a vulnerable species.

Size and Family

  • Family: Fritllaries
  • Size: Small/Medium
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 41-47mm

Conservation status

  • Section 41 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in England
  • UK BAP status: Priority Species
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: High                  
  • European Status: Not threatened             
  • Protected under Schedule 5 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act (for sale only)

Caterpillar Foodplants

The main foodplant is Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Buck's-horn Plantain (P. coronopus) is used occasionally as a secondart foodplant by final instar larvae.

Lifecycle

Habitat

There are two habitat types that support this butterfly:

  • coastal grasslands either on undercliffs, deeply incised coastal river valleys with eroding sides, or cliff tops
  • south-facing chalk downland

There are eighteenth century records from woodland clearings in eastern England.

Distribution

  • Countries: England
  • Restricted to the Isle of Wight
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = -71%

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