Queen of Spain Fritillary

Issoria lathonia

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Issoria lathonia

Switzerland, March 2014

Issoria lathonia

Switzerland, April 2014

Issoria lathonia

Switzerland, March 2014

Issoria lathonia

Switzerland, March 2014

Issoria lathonia

Italy, June 2013

Switzerland, March 2007



Switzerland, May 2010

Switzerland, March 2007

Switzerland, March 2007

Switzerland, February 2007

Switzerland, February 2007

Switzerland, March 2006

Switzerland, June 2005

Issoria lathonia larva

Caterpillar, Switzerland, April 2014

Issoria lathonia larva

Caterpillar, Switzerland, April 2014

The Queen of Spain fritillary is a butterfly of hot, dusty paths and sandy wasteland pretty much throughout Europe. It is a rarity in England but seen every year and sometimes in reasonable numbers. In 1997 at least 28 were seen in Suffolk alone and it cannot be ruled out that it sometimes breeds in the UK and establishes itself for a few years until a harsh winter eliminates it.

Here in Switzerland it is a very common butterfly and one of the earliest to appear in the spring. Typically it flies from March onwards but in 2007 I saw it first on 3rd February, in 2008 I had a January individual and in 2009 it was flying from late February. In theory, these would be insects that hibernated as pupae but it is just possible they spent the winter as adults - it is certainly very soon after the thaw for them to have completed their metamorphosis. In 2010 the insect reverted to form and first appeared on 13th March but in 2013/14 it flew throughout the winter: I saw the last one of 2013 on 17th December and the first of 2014 just 22 days later, on 8th January. In between those times I was in England for Christmas! My latest date so far is 19th December 2014 - just two days off the winter solstice.

There is no difficulty in identifying the species. The upperside is very spotty, the wing shape characteristic and the underside, with its huge silver blobs unmistakeable. However, it is often very small - as small as a violet fritillary or small pearl-bordered fritillary - and this might cause confusion when it is not seen closely.