Lepidoptera The Heath Fritillary Butterfly – Melitaa Athalia

Both the upper and under sides of this butterfly are shown on Butterfly PicturePlate III (figs. 5 and 6), and it will be observed from these that its general appearance is very similar to that of Cinxia.

The upper surface is of the same tawny brown, barred and striped with black, and the fringes of the wings are pale yellow, interrupted by small patches of black.

The under surface of the fore wings has the same ground colour with the exception of the tips, which are yellow; and the whole is marked with black, as in the illustration. The hind wings are pale yellow, with two broad bands of brown corresponding with those of Cinxia; but a series of black double arches along the hind margin and the absence of rows of black spots serve to distinguish this species from the last.

Athalia is another local butterfly, but is sometimes found in abundance in the spots which it frequents. It is met with chiefly in the open spaces of woods along the south coast and for some distance inland. Devon, Cornwall, Sussex, and Kent seem to be the most favoured counties; and London entomologists would do well to search for it in Epping Forest.

The butterfly deposits its eggs during June and July, on several different food plants, the chief of which are the greater and narrow-leaved plantains (Plantago major and P. lanceolata), foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), two species of cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense and M. sylvaticum), wood sage (Teucrium Scorodonia), and the germander speedwell (Veronica Chamadrys), and the young caterpillars, after feeding for only a week or two, commence their period of hybernation. They resume their feeding in April, and change to the pupal state about the end of May.

The colour of the caterpillar is velvety black, finely dotted with white, and the spines are yellow or orange, tipped with white.

The chrysalis is creamy white, banded and patched with orange and black, and is suspended by anal hooks from a silken, carpet which the caterpillar had spun on the leaf of the food plant.