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Heath fritillary, Parastais pļavraibenis (Melitaea athalia), Raibeņi, Tauriņi, Kukaiņi

Heath fritillary

Code: D-130-15
Author: Aivars Gulbis
Photo taken on June 26, 2015
FREE 1000 x 681 px
72 dpi
133 KB
S 1748 x 1165 px
14.8 x 9.87 cm / 300 dpi
MB
M 3000 x 2000 px
25.4 x 16.93 cm / 300 dpi
L 3024 x 2058 px
25.6 x 17.42 cm / 300 dpi
4.64 MB

The heath fritillary (Melitaea athalia) is a butterfly of the family Nymphalidae. It is found throughout the Palaearctic from western Europe to Japan, in heathland, grassland, and in coppiced woodland. Its association with coppiced woodland earned it the name "woodman's follower" in parts of the UK. It is considered a threatened species in the UK and Germany, but not Europe-wide or globally.

Description
Heath fritillaries have a wingspan of 39–47 mm. The upperside is predominantly dark brown and orange brown, with the orange-brown spots delineated by dark brown (along and across the wing veins); there is a white fringe to the wings through which the dark brown extends. The upperside of the body is a similar dark brown to the colour on the wing, and the base of both wings is dark brown. The underside shows bands of red and (off-)white, again with each vein dark brown and each colour delineated by dark brown. The pattern of white spots at the base of the hindwing (visible at rest) is diagnostic for identification.

These wing patterns are very similar to the appearance of Melitaea cinxia. However, the dark brown bands on underside of the wings are more distinct in the health fritillary than in M. cinxia.

Habitat
Within Europe, the heath fritillary occupies a diversity of grassy, flowery habitats—dry or damp, upland or lowland, with or without shrubs or trees, including woodland clearings and heathland.

More specifically, in England, this species occupies three distinct habitats:

  • Unimproved grassland with abundant short (5–15 cm) or sparse swards of ribwort plantain or germander speedwell (or both) on stony soils – sometimes in the form of abandoned hay meadows
  • Sheltered heathland with common cow-wheat scattered among bilberry-dominated vegetation – valleys with mineral soils
  • Coppiced woodland (especially in clearings) with common cow-wheat on acid soils.

In France, this species also occurs on unimproved hay meadows and pastures.

Life cycle
Egg
The female heath fritillary lays its eggs (or ova) in batches of (15–)80–150 on the underside of leaf of a larval food plant or on a plant adjacent to the larval food plant.

Eggs are oval spheroids with flattened bases, about 0.5 mm high. They are ribbed (longitudinally, i.e. from top to bottom) and striated (transversely, i.e. around the egg). Pale cream when laid, eggs darken to pale yellow within two days, and then dark grey a few days before hatching. Eggs mature in two to three weeks.

Caterpillar
Upon emergence, first-instar caterpillars (or larvae) eat their eggshells. The caterpillars from a clutch initially stay together, feeding in a small, unobtrusive web. Second or third instar caterpillars disperse into smaller groups. Then the third instars tend to feed and rest solitarily; they rest beneath dead leaves at night and during bad weather. The caterpillar hibernates for the winter in a hibernaculum, made from a curled dead leaf by spinning its edges together. Hibernacula are usually close to the ground. Although most caterpillars hibernate singly, they sometimes group in twos and threes, although 15 to 20 caterpillars have been found in single hibernaculum.

Caterpillars re-emerge in early spring. When it is warm, they feed a little, but most of the time is spent basking in the sun. There are six instars in total. The full-grown sixth instar caterpillar is 22–25 mm long, and predominantly black; it has pale (yellow-orange) spines and (greyish-white) spots.

Pupa
The pupae are 12.4–12.8 cm long and last 15–25 days (early May to late June in the UK). They are white with black and orange-brown blotches. Pupae are usually found close to the ground in or beneath dead leaves.

Imago
Imagines probably live for 5–10 days. Males are active on warm sunny days. Females mate once shortly after emerging; they lay their eggs only during warm weather, spending most of the time either basking or hiding in vegetation.

Flight period
Across its range (see "Subspecies and variation" below), subspecies M. a. athalia shows a protracted flight period from mid-May to mid-August. In favourable localities and/or favourable seasons, a partial second brood has been recorded from mid- or late August to September. In the UK, the flight period is from the end of May to the beginning of July (in the south-west) and early June to early August (in the south-east).

In southern Europe, subspecies M. a. celadussa flies in a single brood at high altitude in June and July. Below the subalpine level, however, it is bivoltine, flying in May–June and late July–August—except for f. nevadensis in the Sierra Nevada, which is univoltine.
en.wikipedia.org

Heath fritillary

Code: D-130-15
Author: Aivars Gulbis
Photo taken on June 26, 2015
FREE 1000 x 681 px
72 dpi
133 KB
S 1748 x 1165 px
14.8 x 9.87 cm / 300 dpi
MB
M 3000 x 2000 px
25.4 x 16.93 cm / 300 dpi
L 3024 x 2058 px
25.6 x 17.42 cm / 300 dpi
4.64 MB
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