South Charente and North Dordogne Fritillaries

Everywhere in the quiet borderland of the rivers Dronne and Lizonne/Nizonne there are fritillary butterflies, captivating in their intricate brown, orange and gold filigree patterns; all confusingly similar but subtly different. This then is a brief and provisional aide memoire on the six (or seven) common species which occur and thus a basis to compare and contrast their distinguishing features.

I remain unsure how to tell heath (Melitaea athalia) from meadow fritillary (Melitaea parthenoides); I think I have only found the former. I am also confident that there are likely to be other errors to iron out in the details set out below.

The observations were made at the following sites:

  1. The chalk grasslands within and around Bois Jarzeaux in the commune of Bellon, including the cleared strip of flower-rich ground adjacent to the railway line that runs through the valley;
  2. The heathland edges around the pine-afforested hills of the Moulin de Perdrigeau in the commune of Bors immediately to the north of Bellon;
  3. The pine forests, heaths and lakes of the Forêt de la Double south of the river Dronne;
  4. The fens and wet woodland at Les Tourbières de Vendoire on the Lizonne; and
  5. The barren limestone or causse of Le Plateau d’Argentine not far east of Les Tourbières de Vendoire.

Small pearl-bordered fritillary (Boloria silene) was only found in the Forêt de la Double along grassy rides.

Double Forest 589

Underside of small pearl-bordered fritillary – the large black spot is the key distinguishing feature.

Char Frits 567

Upperside of small pearl-bordered fritillary.

Weaver’s or Violet fritillary (Boloria dia) only found in the grassland adjacent to the Moulin de Perdrigeau, where Dartford warblers teez in the young pine and heath.

Char Frits 572

Underside of violet fritillary is a beautiful violet.

Char Frits 573

Upperside of violet fritillary; the line of round black spots along the trailing edge of the wings is diagnostic.

Heath fritillary (Melitaea athalia) was also only found in the Forêt de la Double along grassy rides.  This is the most difficult species to be sure about; this could easily be Meadow Fritillary (Melitaea parthenoides), which is virtually the same and is equally common.

Char Frits 565

Underside of heath fritillary.

Char Frits 574

Another view of the underside against a bracken backdrop.

Char Frits 593

Upperside of heath fritillary.

Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) was along the railway track and on the Plateau d’Argentine. Larva feed on Veronica spicata (as I have seen in Montenegro) but more likely Plantago.

Char Frits 568

Underside of Glanville fritillary; the black dots in the orange band are distinctive.

Char Frits 569

Upperside of Glanville fritillary; the line of black dots in the submarginal lunules of the hindwing are again distinctive.

Knapweed fritillary (Melitaea phoebe) was found everywhere but the Moulin de Perdrigeau and the Plateau d’Argentine. Larva of course feed mainly on knapweed (Centaurea) species.

Char Frits 570

Underside of knapweed fritillary on knapweed; I think the orange blobs in the line of black-edged lunules are distinctive.

Char Frits 571

Upperside of knapweed fritillary; the female has her abdomen raised to indicate to the pursuing male that she has already mated. The large submarginal lunule, 3rd up from the base of the upper forewing (known as upf S3) is the key distinguishing feature.

Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea didyma) was only found on the limestone grassland or causse on the Plateau d’Argentine.

Char Frits 577

Underside of spotted fritillary; utterly distinctive, à la mode patterns compared to the rest. Not sure how else to put it.

Char Frits 578

Upperside of spotted fritillary; very much more quotidien than the underside. I think this is a female.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. robbiemiles5 says:

    Thank you for these, Steve. I always enjoy reading your blogs. Can I recommend a trip to Knepp castle’s rewilding project when you’re back in the UK? The whole place is alive with wildlife, particularly insects. Purple emperors might entice you. I was completely inspired by the place. Hope you’re well

    1. Steve Parr says:

      Hi there Robbie. Knepp sounds very interesting; perhaps see you there one sunny day in July next year when the PEs are flying! Best wishes, Steve

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