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Butterflies of temperate Asia
Silver-washed Fritillary
Argynnis paphia  LINNAEUS, 1758
Family - NYMPHALINAE
subfamily - HELICONIINAE
Tribe - ARGYNNINI
Argynnis paphia male, Adrian Hoskins

Introduction

The genus Argynnis comprises of about 25 species, found variously in Europe, temperate Asia and North America. Certain workers include an additional 18 Speyeria species within Argynnis.
The male pf paphia, illustrated above is easily distinguished from the female by the 4 prominent horizontal dark streaks on it's forewings. These contain androconial scales, from which pheromones are released during the courtship flight. Females have a similar pattern of black spots, but lack the horizontal streaks. They are normally a dull golden colour, often with a slight bronzy tinge.
Argynnis paphia is a common and widespread species found across Europe and temperate Asia to China, Korea and Japan.
Argynnis paphia female Adrian Hoskins
Another similar species is Childrena zenobia, from China, Siberia & Tibet, which has a conspicuous lattice of silver markings on the underside hindwings. Argyronome ruslana from Korea, Siberia and Japan is also very similar to Argynnis paphia on the upperside, but it's underside hindwings have a broken silver median line dividing the greenish basal area from the reddish outer half of the wings.
Habitats
The Silver-washed Fritillary prefers slightly shadier conditions than most other woodland Fritillaries and is better able to survive in high canopy forests. The highest populations occur in mature oak and beech forests. The best sites are also typified by having glades and grassy tracks where thistles, brambles and other nectar sources are abundant.
Lifecycle
The greenish-white eggs are laid singly in crevices in the bark of oaks, and more rarely on other trees including beech, ash and larch; normally at a height of about 2 metres, on the moss-covered east or north-facing side of the trees. Often a female will revisit a favoured tree trunk, laying a dozen or more eggs in the space of an afternoon.
Immediately after hatching in August, the tiny caterpillars eat their egg-shells, which contain vital nutrients. They then attach themselves to a little pad of silk which they spin on the tree trunk, and enter a state of diapause, remaining hidden in a chink in the bark until the arrival of sunny weather in March of the following year. They then descend the trees and wander in search of Viola plants. They feed diurnally, eating only the lobes of the leaves, and then move on to another plant.
The fully grown larvae can sometimes be found basking on dead oak leaves in May or early June. They are black, with a double yellow line along the back, and adorned with dull orange branched spikes on the back and sides. The 2 spikes on the first segment are black, and inclined forward over the head.
The slightly spiky pupa is mottled in shades of brown, and decorated with golden spots. It is almost impossible to find in the wild, but is reportedly suspended by the cremaster from the woody stems of bushes, or from twigs on oak trees. The pupal stage lasts for about 3 weeks.
Argynnis paphia Adrian Hoskins
Adult behaviour
The first males emerge in late June, appearing about a week before the first females. Individuals can live for up to a month, with worn specimens seen as late as early September.
Overnight, and during dull weather, the butterflies roost amongst oak leaves high in the tree tops. In the early morning they bask high up until the rays of the sun reach the forest floor, and then drift down to continue basking on bracken, hazel leaves, and other low vegetation.
As the day warms up they become more active, nectaring avidly at thistles, bramble blossom, lime blossom, hemp agrimony, hogweed and ragwort. They are also often seen imbibing honey-dew from the surface of leaves, or settling on stony tracks to obtain mineral-rich moisture.
During the courtship ritual the female flies in a straight line along forest tracks at a height of about 2 metres, and as she does so she emits an aphrodisiac scent from the tip of her abdomen. The male responds by following her closely, repeatedly looping under and over her, and showering her with pheromones released from the 4 black bars of androconial scales which run along the veins of his forewings. In many cases this tantalising display fails to entice the female into mating, but if she is receptive she leads the male to a clump of leaves high in an oak tree where copulation takes place. Periodically the pair fly down to settle on bracken or hazel, or to nectar at bramble, but return to the tree tops if disturbed. Copulation lasts about 2 hours and usually takes place in late morning.
Argynnis paphia male Adrian Hoskins
 

 

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