Silver Washed Fritillary
Argynnis paphia

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Male, August 2013, Switzerland



Female, August 2013, Switzerland

Argynnis paphia

Female, Switzerland, July 2018

Fritillaries on knapweed

Silver-washed and high brown fritillaries nectaring on knapweed, Switzerland, July 2018



Pair, male below, Switzerland, July 2012



Pair, Switzerland, July 2012

Argynnis paphia

Male, Switzerland, June 2017

Argynnis paphia

Male, Switzerland, July 2019

Argynnis paphia form valesina

Female, form valesina, Switzerland, July 2018

Argynnis paphia form valesina

Female, form valesina, Switzerland, July 2018

Argynnis paphia

Female, form valesina, with male



Female, form valesina, Switzerland, August 2013



Female, form valesina, Switzerland, August 2013



Female, form valesina, Switzerland, August 2013

Male, Switzerland, July 2006

Male, with wood white, Switzerland, July 2006

Male, France, August 2008

Female, France, August 2008

Male, Switzerland, long ago ...



Female, form valesina, Switzerland 2006

Female, form valesina, Switzerland 2006

Argynnis paphia larva

4th instar caterpillar preparing to shed its skin (on honeysuckle, not the foodplant), Switzerland, June 2015

Argynnis paphia larva

5th instar caterpillar, Switzerland, June 2018

Argynnis paphia pupa

Eclosed pupa on honeysuckle, Switzerland, March 2017

Argynnis paphia distribution

Distribution

This magnificent woodland butterfly is more or less common in most of Europe but always wonderful to see. It is also easy to watch because of the predeliction of both sexes for nectaring. Where dense stands of buddleia or thistle grow near forests or along forest rides, large numbers of silver-washed fritillaries may gather, seemingly uncompetitively, more interested in feeding than each other. This is perhaps because courtship is a ritualised, aerial affair. It consists of the male flying in vertical loops around a female, scattering scent cells on her as he does so. I have seen pairs fly along rides from out of sight in one direction to out of sight in the other without either the female making a break for it or the male getting what he wanted. Given the energy expended in this, it is not surprising they need to feed so much. A certain percentage of females in any given population are form valesina - grey-green rather than orange above and below. Being darker, these females have a tendency to prefer more shady areas and cooler days. This is genetically a dominant form and it is not clear why this dimorphism persists.

The only butterfly a beginner might confuse a silver-washed fritillary with is the cardinal. This latter, however, is significantly bigger and more powerful and with a little experience readily separable even at a distance, in flight. From close up, points to note are the red beneath the forewing of the cardinal, the more solid green underside hindwing and the different pattern of white stripes on the green, greatly diminished in the male. The male cardinal also has only two sex brands on the forewing, while the silver-washed has three (and a fourth broadened vein above these).

Although the caterpillars feed on violets, eggs are laid in crevices in tree bark a metre or two off the ground. The caterpillar emerges, eats its egg and then seeks out a safe niche in the bark where it spins a silken pad and hibernates. In the spring it moves down to the forest floor and seeks out dog violets to feed on. The butterfly emerges in June and flies through the summer in a single generation until the end of August or even the beginning of September.