Butterflies of temperate Asia
Dark Green Fritillary
Argynnis aglaia LINNAEUS, 1758
subfamily - HELICONIINAE
Argynnis aglaia, female Adrian Hoskins
The genus Argynnis comprises of about 25 species, found variously in Europe, temperate Asia and North America. Certain workers include an additional 18 Speyeria species within Argynnis.
The uppersides of males of Argynnis species including aglaia, are typically bright unicolorous orange with black spots. Males have dark stripes of androconial scales along the veins of the forewings, but these vary in prominence from one species to another. Females are duller in colour, and often have a bronzy sheen across the wings. On the underside some Argynnis species e.g. paphia and sagana are fairly plain, while others including aglaia, adippe and niobe are spangled with bright silver spots.
Argynnis aglaia is widely distributed across Europe and temperate Asia as far east as Japan.
Argynnis aglaia Adrian Hoskins
This species is found in a wide variety of habitats including open windswept grasslands, moorland, mountainsides, and deciduous woodlands.
Argynnis aglaia male, Adrian Hoskins
The eggs are straw coloured with purplish bands. They are laid in July or early August on leaves or stems in the vicinity of the larval foodplants, but not usually on the foodplant itself.
The larvae hatch in August, about 16 days after the eggs are laid. After eating the empty egg-shells they immediately enter hibernation. They over-winter in curled up dead leaves, or in chinks on the bark of bushes. In the spring they awaken to feed on Viola leaves, nibbling large chunks out of the lobes. When fully grown they are mottled in black and grey, adorned along the back and sides with rows of branched black spikes, and have a yellow stripe along the back. There is a row of dark reddish spots low down on the sides, and the head is black and glossy.
The chrysalis is shiny, with black wing-cases and a dark brown abdomen. It is suspended by the tail from a dry stem, and protected amongst a cluster of dead leaves spun together with silk.
Argynnis aglaia female Adrian Hoskins
Adult behaviour
At grassland sites the butterflies nectar on knapweeds, almost to the exclusion of other flowers, but in woodland they will feed at bramble, spear thistles, bird's foot trefoil, buddleia and hawkbit. They usually spend several seconds nectaring at each flower before flying rapidly to another plant some distance away, even if other flowers are situated nearby.
Dark Green Fritillaries are extremely alert, agile and powerful on the wing, and seem to relish flying in the face of the strong breezes which prevail at their open windswept habitats. In rainy weather they crawl deep into grass tussocks but they still remain very alert - the tiniest disturbance causes them to fly up instantly, dashing off in search of a new resting place.
Throughout the day males patrol relentlessly back and forth across their habitat, soaring effortlessly in the face of the strongest winds. They dip down periodically, searching for females, which sit deep in grass tussocks prior to mating. Once a female is located, copulation takes place immediately with no apparent courtship ritual. Mated pairs occasionally fly in tandem to nectar at flowers, but spend most of the time sitting hidden among the grasses with the wings held erect or half open. On cool or overcast days they spend long periods basking on patches of bare earth, amongst grasses.
Shortly before dusk on sunny days, the butterflies migrate across their habitat to bask in the last remaining sunlit areas. As the sun dips below the horizon, they undertake a final flight to locate a roosting site - often this can be high in a tree, but more frequently they roost hanging from grass heads in areas where the grasses grow tall, or on low bushes.


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