British Wildlife Wiki
Marsh Fritillary

Marsh Fritillary

About Marsh Fritillary Butterfly[]

The Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia, is a butterfly of the Nymphalidae family.

The Marsh Fritillary is in decline in Europe and one of 11 butterflies covered by the United Kingdom Biodiversity Action Plan. Within the British Isles, it is more frequent in the south and west.

The adult butterflies are marked in checkered marking of gold and brown with a black background. The underside of the wings is patterned with yellow orange and black without any silver coloration at all. The eggs are yellow identified by being in a large batch,and the larvae are black.

The Marsh Fritillary is usually to be found in damp heathy grasslands which are called rhos pastures from the Welsh word rhos meaning heath, but the species does exist in other types of habitats which are drier, like neutral grasslands or dry calcareous grasslands. Small populations may be seen where there is not a lot of the larval foodplant present. Small populations can be an important element of the ecology because they can produce lots of mobile individuals which can found other populations.

The Marsh Fritillary is protected under British Law. It is listed under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act


  • Damp and heathy grassland, dominated by tussock forming grasses, including Purple Moor and Rush Pastures
  • Calcareous grassland
  • Temporary colonies - woodland clearings and other grasses


The main food plant of the Marsh Fritillary is the Devil's bit scabious, Succisa pratensis, but can also include the field scabious Knautia arvensis and the small scabious Scabiosa


Life cycle[]

The eggs are laid in groups on the underside of the leaves in May and June. Up to 350 are laid in a single batch. They turn from pale yellow when first laid, turn bright yellow, then crimson, and finally to dark grey just prior to hatching. The caterpillars hatch from the end of June onwards. The young caterpillars live in communal webs that are spun across the foodplant and these become conspicuous by the end of August. In the autumn they make stronger webs, closer to the ground usually within a dense grass tussock, where they will start to hibernate. In the spring the caterpillars start to disperse from their communities after their last molt. They change colour from brown to black and may be occasionally seen basking in the sun. They need to be warm in order to eat. Pupae form from mid April, low down deep within grass tussocks or dead leaves. Adults emerge from mid-June to mid July.