Knapweed Fritillary - Melitaea phoebe




Scientific Name: Melitaea phoebe (syn. Cinclidia phoebe).

English Name: Knapweed Fritillary.

French Name: Le Grand Damier (='the large checkerboard') or la Mélitée des centaurées (='the knapweed fritillary').

5 Key Characters:
  • medium sized (forewings 20 - 24 mm long), quite large for a fritillary.
  • upperside has a well marked black net pattern which delineates bands of tawny orange (fauve) in alternating lighter and darker shades.
  • the third orange crescent from the bottom on the border of the upperside of the forewing is much bigger than the others.
  • the colouring can be very variable from one individual to another, particularly the alternating orange bands.
  • flies gracefully and smoothly.
Lookalikes: Glanville Fritillary Melitaea cinxa, which has a row of black dots in the orange on both sides of the hind wing and is a more even orange colour. For more details on how to distinguish the two species see our daily blog Days on the Claise.

Habitat: Unimproved and flower rich grassland.

Flight Period: April-May-June-July-August-September.

Caterpillar: Black with yellow bristles and white flecks. Usually a white band along the side just above the 'legs', but sometimes the band is orange. The caterpillars can be seen all year. They overwinter in little groups, under a leaf.

Host Plant: Various Knapweeds (Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Brown Knapweed C. jacea), Thistles (Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense), Greater Burdock Arctium lappa and Plantains (Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata).

Status: Common, and one of the most abundant Fritillaries in the Claise Valley. However, it is in decline in the French lowlands and in particular in the Brenne.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

Photographs are numbered from left to right and top to bottom. All photos enlarge in a new screen if you click on them. 1 - 26 our orchard, nectaring on Red Clover Trifolium pratense, May.



















































































Nectaring on Wild Oregano Origanum vulgaris.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.

Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Nectaring on knapweed Centaurea sp.
Resting on host plant Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata.

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