Lepidoptera The Silver-washed Fritillary Butterfly – Argynnis Paphia

This beautiful and noble butterfly is the largest of the Fritillaries, and the most powerful on the wing. During the latter part of June and throughout July it may be seen gracefully sweeping through the trees and undergrowth of woods, often settling down on a favourite flower for a short time. So strong is its flight that it is useless to attempt to pursue it for any distance. Sometimes it will sail along a wooded path, followed at short intervals by others of its species, and may be taken in the net as it passes. But perhaps the most successful method of netting Paphia is to wait till it has settled, and then secure it by a quick upward or side stroke of the net. If then you miss your aim, off it will dart, sailing over the tree tops till, in a very short time, it is quite out of sight.

Butterfly Image The Silver-washed Fritillary. Fig. 72.-The Silver-washed Fritillary-Under Side.

The upper side of this butterfly is shown in Butterfly PicturePlate III, fig. 2, where the general arrangement of the black spots on the rich orange-brown ground is carefully marked. There is a considerable difference between the male and female of this species. The figure on Plate III represents the male. The female does not possess the broad black lines that follow the course of the veins of the fore wings; the basal portions of all four wings are also tinged with a rich olive-brown colour, often with a decided tendency to green; and the black spots of all the wings are larger.

The under side is particularly rich in its decorations. The front wings are of the usual orange brown, chequered with black. The hind wings are partly brown and partly orange, and exhibit beautiful greenish reflections. They have also two bars of silver, and a silvery spot in the basal angle, all with rather indefinite outlines.

The female lays her eggs late in July on the food plants (Viola canina and V. odorata) or on the moss that surrounds them.

About two weeks later the young caterpillar is out and feeding; and then, after a few more weeks, while it is yet very small, it hides among the dead leaves at the roots. Early in the spring it resumes its feeding, and is full grown at the end of May.

The colour of the caterpillar (Butterflies PicturePlate VIII, fig. 3) is black, and there are two yellow lines along the back, separated by a black stripe, also one yellowish line on each side. Its body is adorned with reddish-brown spines, two of which, situated just behind the head, are longer than the others.

The chrysalis (Plate VIII, fig. 9) is greyish, marked with metallic spots, and has a number of angular projections representing the spines of the larva.

Paphia is to be met with in woods in all parts of England and Wales. It has also been observed in Ireland, but is rarely seen in Scotland.