Silver Washed Fritillary - Argynnis paphia
Family - Nymphalidae
The Silver Washed Fritillary is the UK's largest fritillary, it gets its name from the silver markings found on the underside of the wings. Males ♂ are a bright orange with black spots on the upper side of its wings and can be quite distinctive as they fly in woodland rides and clearings, investigating anything orange that could be a potential mate. Wingspan is 54-70mm (2-2.75in). The male has four distinctive black veins on its forewings that contain special "androconial" scales that are used in courtship. The larger female ♀ is paler than the male, with rounder wings and more-prominent spots. Found predominately in the southern half of the UK and much of Ireland in woodland and semi scrub, it is absent from Scotland. Elsewhere it is common and variable in Europe and temperate Asia. Regarded as being in decline in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s it appears to be making a return to many old territories. This butterfly is most-commonly found in woodland where the larval foodplant, Common Dog-violet, grows on the woodland floor. The butterfly can also be found flying along lanes and more-open countryside in some areas. Both deciduous and coniferous woodland is used - the presence of this butterfly is only limited by the presence of nectar sources and larval foodplant.
The primary larval foodplant is Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana), whilst adults spend much of their time in the woodland canopy feeding on aphid honeydew. However, they often descend to nectar on Bramble blossom and various Thistles flowers - Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp. flowers. They also feed on Knapweeds, Privet, Ragwort. Water Mint is also be used. The eggs are laid singly, usually on the moss-covered north-facing side of trees close to the preferred larval foodplant, Common Dog-violet, between 1-2m from the ground. They hatch in around 2 weeks whereupon they immediately move into crevices in the bark to spins a silk pad on which it hibernates. In the following spring, the larva descend to the woodland floor in search of the larval foodplant. The Silver Washed Fritillary caterpillar is a black-brown colour with two yellow lines along its back and long reddish-brown spines. The male possesses scent scales on the upper side of the forewing that run along veins one to four. The scent produced from these scales attracts females and helps to distinguish it from other species. Unusually for a butterfly, the female does not lay her eggs on the leaves or stem of the caterpillar's food source (in this case violets), but instead one or two meters above the woodland floor in the crevices of tree bark close to clumps of violets. When the egg hatches in August, the caterpillar immediately goes into hibernation until spring. Upon awakening, it will drop to the ground, and feeds on violets close to the base of the tree. The caterpillar usually feeds at night, and usually conceals itself during the day away from its food source, but during cool weather will bask in the sunny spots on the forest floor on dry, dead leaves. It will make its chrysalis amongst the ground vegetation, and the adults will emerge in June.
Agassiz #59.017, Bradley & Fletcher #1608
Photo ©2012 - Becky Clayton
Photo ©2007 - Richard Bartz
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