Melitaea phoebe

Knapweed Fritillary


by Matt Rowlings

copyright © 2003-2024

Show butterflies of: EU US
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Huesca, Spain, July 2017

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Valais, Switzerland, July 2010

Field notes and information

Often common and widespread, this is a highly variable species, individually, locally and regionally. A relative constant is the darker orange of the upperside post discal band.

A very similar species has recently been found in Europe. The Aegean fritillary M. ornata was split from the current species in 2005. The definitive split is the colour of the head capsule of the final instar larva: black in phoebe, red in ornata.

In 2009, the north African subspecies phoebe punica was raised to species level, M. punica based on DNA, genetalia and wing characteristics.

Identification & Similar species: Several similar species are differentiated as follows:

Aegean Fritillary M. ornata: very difficult to distinguish. Currently, it's not possible to separate adults with certainty, the red head of the larva of M. ornata is definitive.

African knapweed fritillary M. punica: completely replaces M. phoebe in N Africa.

Glanville fritillary M. cinxia: Upperside discal band forms a continuous line. Hindwing post discal row of black spots on upper and undersides. Upperside ground colour uniform. Underside hindwing post discal row of black pupilled orange spots lack black arches. Most of Europe and northwest Africa. Absent from most of southern Spain, most of Scandinavia and the UK.

Knapweed fritillary M. phoebe: Upperside discal band usually a thick line of more or less joined up squarish spots. Hindwing postdiscal row of black spots only on upperside, and often absent. Upperside ground colour variegated with post discal area usually a deeper orange. Most of Europe and north Africa except the UK, Scandinavia.

Freyer's fritillary M. arduinna: Upperside discal band a row of mostly separated round spots. Very local in the Balkans, from northern Greece to eastern Serbia.

Aetherie's fritillary M. aetherie: Upperside discal band a row of well separated round spots and post discal band in the male very lightly marked. Hindwing post discal row lacking black spots. Uppserside ground colour uniform. Very local in north Africa, Sicily, south Spain and south Portugal.

Distribution & Flight: N Africa, most of Europe except the north (UK, north Germany, Scandinavia). Several broods from April to September, shorter at higher altitudes.

Habitat & Behaviour: A wide range of habitats are exploited, usually flowery open places associated with bushes or trees.

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Valais, Switzerland, May 2021

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Huesca, Spain, July 2017

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Valais, Switzerland, May 2021

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Tuscany, Italy, May 2019

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Granada, Spain, May 2019

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Valais, Switzerland, July 2010

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Digne les Bains, France, May 2022

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Var, France, May 2012

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SW Serbia, June 2012

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Granada, Spain, May 2019

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Huesca, Spain, July 2017

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Sierra Nevada, Spain, July 2013

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Valais, Switzerland, July 2016

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Valais, Switzerland, June 2012

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Jura, France, June 2018