Monday 17 July 2023

Her Majesty, The Queen of Spain Fritillary


Well, what a surprise! 

I am delighted to say that I have added a new butterfly to my 'lifer list', this female Queen of Spain Fritillary. Our sighting has been confirmed by local Butterfly Conservation recorders at a time when one or two of these magnificent insects have reached our shores, almost certainly due to the strong winds. 

These butterflies have very distinctive pearl-like patches (specula and lunettes) on the underside of their wings, as you can make out in David's photographs below. 

This website gives a helpful indication of the butterfly's rare status here in England.


Photo credit: David Gill

Photo credit: David Gill

We stood transfixed and mesmerised as the butterfly rested, fluttered, moved from a Buddleia to (what I think is) a Brachyglottis, crossed paths with a Red Admiral and disappeared. 

This butterfly, named by Linnaeus in 1758, belongs to the family of Nymphalidae (which includes Speckled Wood, Marbled White, Purple Emperor and quite a number of other species), commonly referred to as brush-footed butterflies due to vestigial forelegs that cannot be used for walking, unlike the mid- and hind-legs.

The name 'fritillary' comes, it seems, from the Greek word φιμός, via a Latin word (fritillus). It seems to be associated with the familiar chequered design of a chess or draughts board. You will recall the square patterns on the purple petals of the spring flower, Snakeshead Fritillary. You can find more about the name here

showing the curled proboscis ...

At some point I should post photos of all the species I have seen in the UK, but here's a list for now ...