Knapweed Fritillary

Melitaea phoebe


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Melitaea phoebe

Switzerland, July 2013

Melitaea phoebe

Male, Switzerland, June 2018

Melitaea phobe

Male, Switzerland, June 2018

Melitaea phoebe

Female, Spain, July 2017

Melitaea phoebe

Sex unknown, Spain, July 2017

Melitaea phoebe

Mating pair, on knapweed, Spain, July 2017

Melitaea phoebe

Male, Switzerland, July 2019

Melitaea phoebe

Male, Switzerland, June 2012

Melitaea phoebe

Female, Switzerland, July 2012

Melitaea phoebe

Female,, Switzerland, July 2012

Melitaea phoebe

Male,, Switzerland, July 2012

Melitaea phoebeš

Male, Switzerland, July 2012

Melitaea phoebe

Male, Switzerland, July 2012

Melitaea phoebe

Female, Switzerland, May 2011

Melitaea phoebe

Male, Switzerland, May 2011

Val d'Aran, July 2005

Val d'Aran, July 2005 - on knapweed

Val d'Aran, July 2005 - on knapweed

Switzerland 2004

Val d'Aran, July 1999

Melitaea phoebe distribution

Distribution

This is a fritillary of hot, flowery places where knapweed grows. It is the most common and widespread of a closely related complex of species/subspecies that authors still disagree on. In the south of Italy and the south of Greece it is (according to Oorschot and Coutsis, in their monograph on Melitaea) replaced by Melitaea telona. Other authors call this latter species, in these areas, ogygia or ornata and most older books conflate these with phoebe (see here). It is likely there will be more changes of opinion to come!

Despite the almost infinite variability of the species, it is easy to separate from all but the telona complex in Europe (and Melitaea punica in North Africa) by the submarginal lunule in s.3 of the forewing. This is swollen, always reaching much further in than the lunule in s.4. It is useful to note that the veins on the underside hindwing are white - sometimes a helpful feature in worn and tatty specimens. Overall, this is a large butterfly for its genus, and most individuals are rather brightly coloured and often two-tone. This is especially true of the south-western subspecies, occitanica. Sometimes there are post-discal spots on the upperside of the hindwing, as in Glanville fritillary, but the other features of the present species readily identify it.

There are said to be two broods, the first flying from April in the south, or May further north and at higher altitudes, and the second reaching into the autumn. In Switzerland, there is just one brood - I don't have enough experience in other parts of Europe to comment on how common this is. The larvae live gregariously in webs, hibernating together before continuing their development in the spring. The foodplants include many species of knapweed, Centaurea.