Cardinal
Argynnis pandora

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Argynnis pandora

Male, Switzerland, June 2016

Argynnis pandora

Female, Switzerland, May 2015

Argynnis pandora

Female, Switzerland, May 2015

Argynnis pandora

Male, Switzerland, May 2015

Argynnis pandora

Male, Switzerland, May 2015

Argynnis pandora

Male, Switzerland, May 2015

Argynnis pandora

Male, Switzerland, May 2018

Argynnis pandora

Male, Switzerland, May 2015

Argynnis pandora

Male taking minerals, Switzerland, May 2015

Argynnis pandora

Female, Switzerland, May 2015

Argynnis pandora

Female, Switzerland, July 2014

Argynnis pandora

Female, Switzerland, May 2014

Argynnis pandora

Female, Switzerland, May 2014

Argynnis pandora

Male, Switzerland, May 2014



Male, Switzerland, August 2013

Argynnis pandora

Female, Switzerland, September 2017

Argynnis pandora

Female, Switzerland, September 2017

Argynnis pandora

Male, Switzerland, September 2017

Argynnis pandora

Female, North Spain, July 2017

Argynnis pandora

Female, North Spain, July 2017

Argynnis pandora

Male, nectaring in shade, Córdoba (South Spain), July 2017

Argynnis pandora

Male, nectaring in shade, Córdoba (South Spain), July 2017

Argynnis pandora

Male, sheltering deep in shade, Córdoba (South Spain), July 2017



Male, Switzerland, August 2013



Male, Switzerland, August 2013



Female, Switzerland, August 2013



Female, Switzerland, August 2013



Female, Switzerland, September 2013



Female, Switzerland, September 2013



Female, Switzerland, August 2013



Female, Switzerland, August 2013



Female, Switzerland, August 2013



Female with a high brown fritillary, showing how huge this species is! Switzerland, September 2013



Female (on right) rejecting a male silver-washed fritillary, Switzerland, August 2013



Male, Switzerland, August 2013



Female, Switzerland, August 2013



Male, Switzerland, August 2013



Male, Switzerland, August 2013 (this was the individual that led me to discover the colony)



Female, Switzerland, May 2005 (this individual was my first cardinal and also the first cardinal to be recorded in Switzerland since 1947!)



The flight of the cardinal - Switzerland, July 2018.
Pick up the cardinal flying left to right, then towards and past my left shoulder!

Argynnis pandora distribution

Distribution

This butterfly has a special place in my heart. Until 2005 I had never seen one. Then in May of that year I saw and filmed (on my old camcorder) a female in Switzerland, near Martigny. I didn't realise at the time, but it was the first to be recorded officially in the country since 1947 and so a very rare sighting. In 2012 the Baudraz brothers saw another in almost exactly the same place and in June 2013 a third was seen about a kilometre away. The proximity of these sightings suggested either that there was a local colony or that vagrant individuals were arriving in Switzerland via the same route. Finally, in August 2013 I found a spot where up to a dozen cardinals were flying. I visited on many occasions, from August through to the very end of September, during which time I observed and photographed many individuals of both sexes. Yannick Cittaro, the Baudraz brothers and I subsequently prepared a paper, proposing that there was, indeed, a breeding population of cardinals near Martigny. We have watched them from May to September every year since then, though my own observations were interrupted in 2018, when I had to leave Switzerland.

The behaviour and voltinism of this species is very interesting. It is said to be single brooded, and I believe it is. However, the brood in Switzerland has two distinct phases. In May and June the butterflies feed avidly on clover (in particular, though they use other flowers too), with very little interaction between individuals. Males and males or males and females frequently feed on neighbouring clover plants without pursuing each other. Then in June the butterflies disappear from the valley and seem to fly up into the hills. I have seen them in Huémoz, at 1000m, in four different years. Tristan Lafranchis has recorded similar summer behaviour in Greece. It is believed the butterflies fly into the mountains to escape the searing heat in the valley. They are also known to aestivate. At some stage in July, they return to the same part of the Rhône Valley and breeding commences. Now, males actively defend territories in the mornings, zooming around, attacking anything and everything. Females are generally not in evidence in the morning but appear at lunchtime, flying in the same places but spending much more time feeding. By then, males are harder to find. There must be some overlap in the middle of the day when encounters happen, leading to mating off-stage. In August and September, females can often be seen flying among the terraced vines, looking for suitable places to lay their eggs. The foodplant is Viola tricolor, which grows abundantly around Martigny. Although I have never seen the early stages, I have seen a freshly emerged male in the vineyard, drying its wings.

The cardinal is superficially like a silver-washed fritillary but much of the upperside, especially on the hindwings, is suffused with a rather reflective, olive green colour, visible even in flight, and there is a striking rosy red flush under the forewing - so if you get a look at the underside there is little possibility of misidentification. The males are noticeably bigger than male silver-washed fritillaries and grander in flight, making them stand out rather obviously from their cousins. They also have just two androconial bands on the forewings, rather than three - a useful thing to know if you have a poor upperside view of a worn butterfly.

In 2017 I saw my first cardinals outside Switzerland. These were in North Spain, in Aragón, and then in the far south, near Córdoba. These latter spent most of their time out of the sun, either nectaring in the shade or resting deep in undergrowth on the shady side of the track. I saw quite a few in this part of Spain and I don't think any of them ever ventured out into full sun. Perhaps they were preparing for aestivation.