Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia)
Species

Male. Taken at Bin Combe, Exmoor on June 19th 2015.
(1/800th sec at f14. Approx 2.5x lifesize. © David Hastings)

Male underside. Taken in the Brenne, France on June 24th 2010.
(1/250th sec at f13. Approx 2.25x lifesize. © David Hastings)

Mating pair. Taken in the Brenne, France on June 24th 2010.
(1/160th sec at f13. Approx 2.25x lifesize. © David Hastings)

Description

Wing span: 40 - 47 mm

This species was rescued from the brink of extinction in Britain in the 1980s, but remains vulnerable to changes in its habitat.

It occurs widely in Europe, but is confined to a small number of sites in south-west England (Devon and Cornwall), and in Kent in south-east England. It has also been reintroduced at sites in Essex.

Colonies in south west England are found on heathland, as well as on rich grassland. Those in south east England are found in woodland. Whatever the habitat, this species requires areas that are relatively warm. This could be a patch of heathland that has recently been burned or a newly-coppiced clearing in a wood. The butterfly will readily colonise such areas, which resulted in it being given the name of "woodman's follower".

At sites in Cornwall, this butterfly emerges in late May, peaking in early June. It emerges in early June elsewhere, peaking toward the end of June. There is one generation each year. The larva is the over-wintering stage.

Woodland colonies tend to use Common Cow-wheat and Foxglove as the larval foodplant, whereas those on other sites tend to use Ribwort Plantain and Germander Speedwell.

Adults often visit Bramble flowers.

The male patrols rides and clearings with a weak, gliding flight, while females are more secretive.

This species has Endangered status on the UK list.

Sightings

22-Jul-2018 : Vercors Natural Park, France
21-Jul-2018 : Vercors Natural Park, France
20-Jul-2018 : Vercors Natural Park, France
19-Jul-2018 : Vercors Natural Park, France

07-Jun-2017 : Bjelopolje, Croatia
06-Jun-2017 : Irinovac, Croatia
05-Jun-2017 : Goranje Taboriste, Croatia
23-Jul-2015 : Papaz Tchair, Bulgaria
19-Jun-2015 : Dunkery Hill, Somerset (8)