Glanville fritillary

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Melitaea cinxia
Melitaea cinxia (3722394380).jpg
Melitaea cinxia (5729291291).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Melitaea
Species: M. cinxia
Binomial name
Melitaea cinxia
(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Papilio cinxia Linnaeus, 1758
  • Papilio pilodellae Rottemburg, 1775
  • Papilio delia Denis & Schiffermüller, 1775[1]
  • Euphydryas cinxia[2][3]

The Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) is a butterfly of the Nymphalidae family.

Origin of name[edit]

The Glanville fritillary is named for Lady Eleanor Glanville, an eccentric 17th- and 18th-century English butterfly enthusiast – a very unusual occupation for a woman at that time. She was the first to capture British specimens in Lincolnshire during the 1690s.[4] A contemporary wrote:

This fly took its name from the ingenious Lady Glanvil, whose memory had like to have suffered for her curiosity. Some relations that was disappointed by her Will, attempted to let it aside by Acts of Lunacy, for they suggested that none but those who were deprived of their senses, would go in Pursuit of butterflies.

— Moses Harris, 1776, [5]


Subspecies include:[2]

  • Melitaea cinxia cinxia
  • Melitaea cinxia amardea Grum-Grshimailo, 1895
  • Melitaea cinxia atlantis Le Cerf, 1928
  • Melitaea cinxia clarissa Staudinger, 1901
  • Melitaea cinxia heynei Rühl, 1895
  • Melitaea cinxia karavajevi Obraztsov, 1936
  • Melitaea cinxia oasis Huang & Murayama
  • Melitaea cinxia sacarina Fruhstorfer, 1917
  • Melitaea cinxia tschujaca Seitz, 1908

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Glanville fritillary is present throughout Europe (except much of Great Britain, Scandinavia, and southern Spain), the Near East and temperate Asia. A subspecies inhabits North Africa.[6] This species inhabits open grassland at an elevation of 0–2,000 metres (0–6,562 ft) above sea level.[7] Severe population declines are reported in many European countries.

Glanville fritillaries in the UK[edit]

In the UK the Glanville fritillary occurs only on soft undercliff and chine grassland and the slopes above where its main larval food plant Plantago lanceolata occurs in abundance on sheltered, south facing slopes. The Glanville fritillary is a highly restricted species in the UK being confined to the south coast of the Isle of Wight.[4][5] It also occurs in the Channel Islands and since 1990 there has been a mainland site on the Hampshire coast, possibly an introduction. There are small introduced populations on the Somerset coast and two in Surrey one near Wrecclesham, and a nature reserve in Addington, near Croydon.[5]

Historic UK records suggest a distribution which went as far north as Lincolnshire. However, by the middle of the 19th century the Glanville fritillary was known only from the Isle of Wight and the coast of Kent between Folkestone and Sandwich. It became extinct in Kent by the mid-1860s.[5]


Melitaea cinxia has a wingspan of about 33–40 millimetres (1.3–1.6 in).[8] These medium-sized butterflies have orange, black and white "checkerspot" forewings. On the upperside of the hindwings they have a row of black dots. The hindwings have white and orange bands and a series of black dots inside them, also clearly visible on the reverse. Females are usually more dull than males with more developed black dots.[8]

Caterpillars are about 25 mm long and have a reddish-brown head and a spiny black body with small white dots.[8]

Melitaea cinxia is rather similar to the heath fritillary (Melitaea athalia) but the beige and orange bands on the underwings are distinctive. Moreover the latter one has no spots on the upperside of the hindwings.[4][5][8]


The animal spends most of its life as a black, spiny caterpillar. The orange patterned butterfly lives only a few weeks.

The males patrol along roads and habitat edges, on the lookout for the less conspicuous females which remain in dense tussocks for long periods. Mating occurs around mid-day, and as the female often continues to fly from flower to flower, mating pairs are conspicuous.

Throughout most of their range they have one generation per year,[5] overwintering as larvae. In warm regions they have two generations per year. Adults fly from in the second half of May to mid-July.[5]

In her lifetime, a female lays several clusters of up to 200 eggs on the underside of the larval food plant. She feeds on nectar (with her proboscis) from surrounding flowering plants. The larvae feed on several species of plants in the genera Plantago (especially ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata)[4]) and Veronica.[2] They live in gregarious family groups in characteristic silken webs ("nests") throughout most of their larval stage. When alarmed, a feeding group of Glanville fritillary larvae will jerk their heads in unison, probably to distract their enemies.

Through the winter (or summer where it is very dry), the caterpillars stop feeding and lie dormant until spring (or fall, where the summer is dry) when they resume eating, and eventually pupate. The inconspicuous pupa hangs from a plant stem or lies in the leaf litter for two to three weeks, until the next generation of adults emerges, living for only up to three weeks.

Life cycle[edit]


  1. ^ Denis & Schiffermüller, 1775 Ank. syst. Schmett. Wienergegend : 179
  2. ^ a b c Savela, Markku. "Melitaea Fabricius, 1807". Lepidoptera and Some Other Life Forms. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  3. ^ "Melitaea cinxia (Linnaeus, 1758)". Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel (in French). Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Glanville fritillary". The Independent. 8 June 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Glanville Fritillary". UK Butterflies. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  6. ^ "Melitaea cinxia (Linnaeus 1758)". Fauna Europaea. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  7. ^ "Glanville fritillary – Melitaea cinxia". Captain’s European Butterfly Guide. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Melitaea cinxia (Linnaeus, 1758)". Papillons du Poitou-Charente (in French). Retrieved 1 June 2017. 

General references[edit]

  • Hanski, Ilkka; Saccheri, Ilik (2006). "Molecular-Level Variation Affects Population Growth in a Butterfly Metapopulation". PLoS Biol. 4 (5): e150. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040129. 
  • Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Tomus, I, ed. Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. (10th ed.). Stockholm: Laurentii Salvii. p. 48. 
  • Nieminen, M; Siljander, M; Hanski, I (2004). "Structure and dynamics of Melitaea cinxia metapopulations". In Ehrlich, PR; Hanski, I. On the Wings of Checkerspots: A Model System for Population Biology. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 63–91. ASIN B001M4IPOG. 
  • Tolman, Tom; Lewington, Richard (2014). Guide des papillons d'Europe et d'Afrique du Nord (in French). Delachaux et Niestlé. ISBN 978-2-603-01649-7. 
  • Hanski, Ilkka (1999). Metapopulation Ecology. Oxford Series In Ecology And Evolution. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198540656. 

External links[edit]