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Species: M. athalia
The Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia) is a butterfly of the Nymphalidae family. It is found throughout the Palaearctic from Western Europe to Japan, in heathland, grassland, and in coppiced woodland. Its association with coppiced woodland earned it the name "Woodman's Follower" in parts of the UK. It is considered a threatened species in the UK and Germany, but not Europe-wide or globally.
Heath Fritillaries have a wing-span of 39–47 mm. The upperside is predominantly dark brown and orange-brown, with the orange-brown spots delineated by dark brown (along and across the wing-veins); there is a white fringe to the wings through which the dark brown extends. The upperside of the body is a similar dark brown to the colour on the wing, and the base of both wings is dark brown. The underside shows bands of red and (off-)white, again with each vein dark brown and each colour delineated by dark brown. The pattern of white spots at the base of the hindwing (visible at rest) is diagnostic for identification.
The Heath Fritillary ranges throughout the Palaearctic region from Western Europe to Japan. In Europe, it is absent from Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, southern Portugal, southern Spain, the Mediterranean islands and southern Greece.
In the UK, it is restricted to Cornwall and Devon grasslands (abandoned hay-meadows); Exmoor (heathland); and Kent and Essex (coppiced woodland on acid soils). The populations in Essex are the result of reintroductions, and further reintroductions are ongoing in various other parts of the UK. In the late 1990s, the species was estimated to occupy just 0.2% within the 10-km grid squares over the whole of its UK range.
Its altitudinal range is from sea-level to 2600 m.
Heath Fritillary is not listed on the IUCN Red List, suggesting that globally it is not considered threatened.
In the UK, however, the species was "considered to be the most endangered British butterfly" after a nationwide survey in 1980 found only 31 surviving colonies. Consequently, it was given protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Despite subsequent widespread efforts to conserve and manage the species' habitats, it has continued to decline: distribution has declined 25% since the 1970s, and abundance-wise it declined by 46% in the 10 years 1995–2004. Woodland sites in Kent and Essex are actively managed (coppiced) for the conservation of this species. It has been a "high priority" species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) since 1995 and has its own Species Action Plan.
Heath Fritillary is also on the "Red List" in Germany.
However, the species is considered of "least concern" on a European scale
Within Europe, the Heath Fritillary occupies a diversity of grassy, flowery habitats—dry or damp, upland or lowland, with or without shrubs or trees, including woodland clearings and heathland.
More specifically, in England, this species occupies three distinct habitats:
Unimproved grassland with abundant short (5–15 cm) or sparse swards of Ribwort Plantain or Germander Speedwell (or both) on stony soils – sometimes in the form of abandoned hay-meadows
Sheltered heathland with Common Cow-wheat scattered among Bilberry-dominated vegetation – valleys with mineral soils
Coppiced woodland (especially in clearings) with Common Cow-wheat on acid soils.
In France, this species is uses unimproved hay-meadows and pastures.
Heath Fritillaries typically fly close to the ground, with characteristic "flits" and glides. Colonies tend to be compact, centred on favoured breeding areas. Heath Fritillaries are highly sedentary for the most part, adults rarely moving more than 100 m; however, some have been recorded dispersing up to 2 km. For a species of often short-lived habitats, it has remarkably limited colonizing ability; suitable habitats over 600 m from an existing colony are colonized slowly.
The female Heath Fritillary lays its eggs (or ova) in batches of (15–)80–150 on the underside of leaf of a larval food plant or on a plant adjacent to the larval foodplant.
Eggs are oval spheroids with flattened bases, about 0.5 mm high. They are ribbed (longitudinally, i.e. from top to bottom) and striated (transversely, i.e. around the egg). Pale cream when laid, eggs darken to pale yellow within 2 days, and then dark grey a few days before hatching. Eggs mature in 2–3 weeks.
The caterpillar is black with yellow-orange spines and off-white spots
Upon emergence, first-instar caterpillars (or larvae) eat their eggshells. The caterpillars from a clutch initially stay together, feeding in a small, unobtrusive web. Second or third instar caterpillars disperse into smaller groups. Then the third instars tend to feed and rest solitarily; they rest beneath dead leaves at night and during bad weather. The caterpillar hibernates for the winter in a hibernaculum, made from a curled dead leaf by spinning its edges together. Hibernacula are usually close to the ground. Although most caterpillars hibernate singly, they sometimes group in twos and threes, although 15–20 caterpillars have been found in single hibernaculum.
Caterpillars re-emerge in early spring. When it is warm, they feed a little, but most of the time is spent basking in the sun. There are six instars in total. The full-grown sixth instar caterpillar is 22–25 mm long, and predominantly black; it has pale (yellow-orange) spines and (greyish-white) spots.
The pupa is predominantly brown and white.
The pupae are 12.4–12.8 cm long and last 15–25 days (early May to late June in the UK). They are white with black and orange-brown blotches. Pupae are usually found close to the ground in or beneath dead leaves.
A study in Cornwall (England) recorded mortality rates in the region of 50%, mostly from predation by small mammals, but including predation by beetles, and parasitism.
Imagines probably live for 5–10 days. Males are active on warm sunny days. Females mate once shortly after emerging; they lay their eggs only during warm weather, spending most of the time either basking or hiding in vegetation.
Across its range (see "Subspecies and variation" below), subspecies athalia shows a protracted flight period from mid-May to mid-August. In favourable localities and/or favourable seasons, a partial second brood has been recorded from mid- or late August to September. In the UK, the flight period is from the end of May to the beginning of July (in the south-west) and early June to early August (in the south-east).
In southern Europe, subspecies celadussa flies in a single brood at high altitude in June–July. Below the subalpine level, however, it is bivoltine, flying in May–June and late July–August—except for f. nevadensis in the Sierra Nevada, which is univoltine
Fennoscandian subspecies norvegica flies in June–July, precise timing being affected by the season.
Heaven, Csabesz68, ramthakur, Miss_Piggy, paolo49, marius-secan, CatherineD, Dis. Ac., Amelia has marked this note useful
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Ciao Melania, gran bella macro con la deliziosa Atalia, splendidi colori naturali, magnifici dettagli e ottima nitidezza, bravissima, ciao Silvio
- [2010-09-02 3:43]
I discover your young gallery for the first time and I'm delighted by the beauty and diversity of your pictures. They are all so colourful and your insects as well as the flowers are so pleasant to look at. The same is true for this picture. The butterfly is perfectly sharp and this reveals rich details. The nicely blurred background highlights the butterfly's beauty as well as the one of the flower. Your notes are very detailed and instructive!
razor sharp butterfly with excellent details, vivid, yet natural colors! Good composition with right POV and very good DOF!
Ciao Melania. Farfalla perfetta in condizioni di luce poco amiche. I colori risaltano bene. Posatoio non al top..ma che ce ne importa!
A technicaly outstanding image in addition to being highly aesthetic in terms of composition, Melania.
The flower and the butterfly complement each other in this wonderful image.
TFS and regards.
Firstly I would like to compliment you on a well detailed and most educational note. It is just great to see a great posting and read just as great information about the subject. Now to your image: It is a wonderful macro that you have captured beautifully and with skill. The details and colours not only of the butterfly but of the flower as well is seen with great clarity. It is really a pleasure to stop by an image that is presented in such a lovely manner. Thanks for sharing. Best regards.
this is a super sharpness pose with great details and beautiful colours
very good soft BG.
ottima macro con dettagli sharpness e sfondo perfetti. Proprio bella. Un saluto, Paolo
A beautiful Picture, truly eyecatchig with, Great detail and composition.
- [2010-09-02 7:57]
This photo is a beauty! Great sharpness, details and the composition of the butterfly on the daisy is very good. Splendid clear colours against a very nice OOF BG.
Perfect capture with superb details and wonderful colours.
Amazing focus and lovely composition.
- [2010-09-02 10:05]
Great shot of this lovely M.athalia on the lovely flower!
Wonderful capture, great details and colors.
Wonderful butterfly! Patterns and colours on its wings are amazing. Very sharp, with good POV and perfect DOF. Well done!
- [2010-09-02 14:45]
Ciao Melania,la tua classe fotografica e' il miglior modo per scoprire questa specie che non batte i miei prati,non sto a dilungarmi sui soliti complimenti ma apprezzo in particolare la straordinaria purezza del bianco della margherita,che spesso sparando rischia di rovinare il tutto.Bravissima,buona giornata,Luciano
The details are impressive as usual. I like very well the simplicity of the composition and the plain green background. Good night!
another great photo from you you.
Exellent sharpness, pov, details and bg.
hai realizzato una gran bella foto per questa Melitaea, mi piace la composizione ottenuta con questo POV, bene i dettagli e la nitidezza, brava.
This is classic piece of Macro photography, WOW,too good, what details and colours, amazing. Very well done.TFS
- [2010-09-03 3:30]
I have run out of superlatives for your gallery Malania.
Yet another most beautiful study. Wonderful details against lovely plain BG. I find the details round the head particularly interesting.