Heath Fritillary - Mellicta athalia

Scientific Name: Mellicta athalia. The specific name is one of the Three Graces, Thalia ('Festivity'), a reference to how graceful these butterflies are.

English Name: Heath Fritillary.

French Name: La Mélitée du mélampyre or le Damier Athalie.

5 Key Characters:
  • the black net pattern is very irregular and often incomplete.
  • the tawny orange brown (fauve) background is usually uniform.
  • females often have thicker black netting.
  • the second black crescent (and often the crescents either side) close to the edge of the underside forewings is very thick.
  • underside background colours are cream and tawny orange brown.
Lookalikes: Glanville Fritillary Melitaea cinxa and Knapweed Fritillary M. phoebe, which both have irregular bands of cream and fauve divided by black lines on the underside of the hind wing. The Heath Fritillary hindwing underside bands are in the form of series of black edged cream or fauve spots.

Habitat: Woodland edges and clearings, open woodland, wooded and dry grassland.

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

Caterpillars: Black with yellow tufts and fine white transverse stripes, July - June. Overwinters as a caterpillar.

Host Plant: Cow-wheats (Common Cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense; Field Cow-wheat M. arvense); Plantains (Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata); Speedwells (Corn Speedwell Veronica arvensis; Hungarian Speedwell V. teucrium; Germander Speedwell V. chamaedrys); Pale Toadflax Linaria repens.

Status: Very common in this area, but in severe decline in several areas in France. This is a conspicuous and easy to see butterfly in the Touraine Loire Valley and Brenne.

Further Reading and References:
Les Papillons de jour de France, Belgique et Luxembourg et leurs chenilles by Tristan Lafranchis.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

All photos will enlarge in a new window if you click on them. Row 1 - 9 in the Bois des Pretres, Boussay and La Croix-Sourd, near Chaumussay, some on Fragrant Orchids Gymnadenia conopsea.


  1. Beautiful underwings on this Frit...

  2. Tim: I think they all have beautiful underwings - and thank goodness they are all different, else we'd never tell these netted ones apart!