Clip of the week – Marsh fritillary in flight
Our latest clip of the week shows a Marsh fritillary butterfly (Euphydryas aurinia) in flight and then landing on a Buttercup, shot in Devon, UK by Michael Hutchinson in June.
Range and habitat
The marsh fritillary butterfly Euphydryas aurinia occurs in a range of habitats in which its larval food plant, devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), occurs. Marsh fritillaries are essentially grassland butterflies in the UK. Although populations may occur occasionally on wet heath, bog margins and woodland clearings, most colonies are in damp acidic or dry calcareous grasslands. In Northern Ireland it lives mainly in fens and on sand dunes.
Quote from the photographer
“I was working on a project to film marsh fritillary butterflies for Farm Wilder, a new venture promoting wildlife friendly foods. The location is one monitored by Butterfly Conservation. I used a custom-made lens system, held together by gaffer tape! When marsh fritillaries fly low amongst grasses and flowers they don’t travel very fast, and this made the flight shots possible. It was a fantastic day in a beautiful flower-rich meadow and a privilege to observe the behaviour of these scarce butterflies. ”
Marsh fritillary wing pattern
The Marsh Fritillary wing pattern can range from mostly orange, with thin greyish markings, to bright patterned orange, red and cream, with heavy black markings. Within a few days of emergence from the cocoon, many of the wing scales get rubbed off giving the butterfly a shiny or greasy appearance. This led to its former name of “Greasy fritillary”.
The Marsh fritillary is seen on the wing between May and July. A single female can lay up to 350 eggs, which hatch in late summer. The species spends the autumn, winter and early spring as a caterpillar, pupating in the months of April and May.
The Marsh fritillary is threatened, not only in the UK but also across Europe. A number of projects currently focus on its consevation. The species was once widespread in Britain and Ireland but has suffered a steep decline during the twentieth century. Marsh fritillary populations are highly volatile and the species requires extensive habitat networks for its survival. It is now confined to the western side of Britain and Ireland. Sheep selectively graze devil’s-bit scabious and are therefore detrimental to marsh fritillary populations, except at very low stocking rates. Burning and mowing are also known to have caused the extinction of populations.