Heath Fritillary - Melitaea athalia

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Lepidoptera - Family: Nymphalidae

Heath Fritillary, Melitaea athalia

Saved from extinction in Britain by concerted conservation action, the dusky-winged Heath Fritillary is sadly still a rare sight in the UK, where it occurs in a few sites in England. This butterfly has a wingspan of 39 to 47mm, the females being somewhat larger than the males. Seen from above, the brown wing roots are much the same brown colour as the insect's body.

Heath Fritillary, Melitaea athalia, Bulgaria


Recorded from a few sites in southern England, but not now found in Scotland, Wales or Ireland, the Heath Fritillary occurs also in central Europe including much of France, Germany, Austria, Italy and across into some parts of temperate Asia including Japan, but it is absent from most parts of southern Europe including southern Greece and the Mediterranean islands, southern Spain and Southern Portugal including the Algarve.


This species is usually seen on the wing in coppiced woodlands/woodland rides, heathland, wildflower meadows and in herb-rich scrubland.


The primary larval foodplants of the Heath Fritillary butterfly are Common Cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense, Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata and Germander speedwell Veronica chamaedrys. The single brood of adults can be seen in flight from mid May through to late July. These butterflies take nectar from many kinds of wildflowers but notably various members of the daisy family Asteraceae (Compositae).

The specimens shown on this page were photographed on mainland Europe.


This page includes pictures kindly contributed Betty and Tony Rackham.

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