Butterflies of Britain
Family - NYMPHALINAE
Tribe - ARGYNNINI
The English name of this
beautiful and increasingly rare species is derived from the row of
silvery spots around the borders of the underside hindwings. The
Latin name refers to Euphrosyne, the Greek goddess of Joy, and one
of the three Graces.
Clossiana euphrosyne, copulated
pair, Hampshire ©
Pearl-bordered Fritillary is found across most of Europe but is
absent from most of Ireland, and from Portugal and southern Spain.
It is tolerant of cool climates, it's range extending to northern
Sweden, and across temperate Asia as far as the Tien Shan mountains.
is often found at the same sites as
the closely related
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, but prefers drier conditions.
The flight periods of the 2 species overlap, so worn specimens of
euphrosyne can be seen in the company
of fresh specimens of selene. The
latter can easily distinguished by looking at the undersides, which
have additional silver spots in the median area, and distinct black
chevrons on the inner edge of the submarginal silver spots. The
uppersides of selene have darker veins
and more linear markings than euphrosyne.
Although the Pearl-bordered & Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries
bear a superficial resemblance to the Marsh, Heath and Glanville
Fritillaries they belong to different subfamilies. The latter 3
species are members of the Melitaeini - a tribe within the
Nymphalinae. The genus
however is placed in the Argynnini, part of the sub-family
Heliconiinae, a group which
Longwings of South America, the Acraeini of Africa, and the
Argynnini of the Holarctic region.
period of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary
is variable according to season, usually from early May until early
the butterflies can
April in forward seasons,
hence the old name "April Fritillary".
Click here to see the historic
names of all British butterflies.
The Pearl-bordered Fritillary was formerly widespread in Britain,
and in the 1960's was still regarded as fairly common in woods
throughout England and Wales - in fact it was quite difficult then
to find a wood where the butterfly did not occur. In the last 40
years however it has contracted it's range dramatically - a result
of the virtual cessation of coppice management in woodlands.
Coppicing created a profusion of violets and nectar sources such as
bugle, which are essential to the survival of the butterfly.
Neglect of historically coppiced woods and the coniferisation of
almost all Forestry Commission land has eliminated most colonies in
Populations continue to decline
rapidly, and local extinctions are increasing. The butterfly now
only occurs at about 70 sites in Britain,
mainly in western counties of England, Wales and Scotland.
lightly wooded habitats where dog violets
in small sheltered clearings,
bracken is present but not dominant.
Typical sites include hazel coppice, clearings
coniferous or deciduous woodland, limestone pavements,
and around the northern shores of Scottish lochs.
A typical colony in a small actively coppiced wood will contain less
than 20 adults at peak season. In large Forestry Commission
woodlands the butterfly is restricted to often very small areas
where the foodplants and nectar sources thrive, e.g. where rides
have been recently widened, or where new clearings have been
created. These habitats are ephemeral by nature, and are only really
suitable for the butterfly in the 2-4 years after felling and
clearing takes place. After that they quickly become overgrown, the
foodplants and nectar sources get shaded out, and the butterflies
disappear unless they can locate and colonise another suitable
breeding area nearby. When the habitat is in perfect condition, and
climatic conditions are ideal, huge populations of up to 1000
Pearl-bordered Fritillaries can build up in 2 or 3 years.
Unfortunately they are short-lived, and numbers can drop to tens
within 1 or 2 years, or disappear entirely, once the regrowth shades
out the foodplants.
Clossiana euphrosyne, male,
The butterflies lay their eggs singly
dry bracken or dead grasses,
sheltered and semi-shaded situations
where violets grow in profusion.
The larvae hatch after about 2 weeks, feeding diurnally on the
leaves of dog violet Viola riviniana.
In northern Britain
is more commonly used, and in Europe
V. odorata and V.
hirta are also commonly used.
September when in the 4th instar they enter hibernation amongst leaf
litter. The following spring, usually in late March, they awaken. On
sunny days they can sometimes be seen basking on dead bracken and
oak leaves on the forest floor. They continue feeding on violet
leaves, becoming fully grown in April. The mature larvae are black,
adorned with bright yellow-orange spikes along the back.
mid April they wander in search of a pupation site. The greyish
brown pupa hangs by the cremaster from a dry stem, close to the
Occasionally a partial 2nd brood emerges in August but this is
extremely unusual in Britain even in very warm summers.
Clossiana euphrosyne, male,
sunny mornings male Pearl-bordered Fritillaries fly rapidly and in
broad circles, with a flit-and-glide motion, just above the herb
layer. They periodically dip down to gorge themselves on the nectar of
their favourite flowers - bugle. When feeding they adopt a
head-downwards posture, as they have a short proboscis and cannot
easily reach into the flowers when in an upright position. They
occasionally visit other flowers including ground ivy, wood anemone
and dandelion; and in the New Forest I once saw one nectaring at
Male-male encounters result in a brief dog-fight lasting only a few
seconds, after which each goes their separate way.
females are probably mated very soon after emergence, and in many
cases before their maiden flight.
Copulation takes place in late morning or early afternoon, and lasts
hour. Afterwards the females
spend most of their time delicately fluttering in and out amongst
areas of dry grass and dead bracken, searching for egg-laying sites.
They are capable of a fair turn of speed if disturbed however.
cloudy but bright weather, both sexes spend short periods basking,
sometimes on logs or bare earth, but more commonly on dead bracken.
Overnight, or in heavily overcast weather, they
in sheltered situations, typically on bracken fronds, on the dead
of St Johns wort, or on the leaf buds of pine saplings.
In wet weather they roost tucked under dead bracken and leaf litter.
Clossiana euphrosyne, male at
roost, Hampshire ©
Clossiana euphrosyne, male,