Butterflies of Europe
Nickerl's Fritillary
Mellicta aurelia  NICKERL, 1850
subfamily - NYMPHALINAE

Nickerl's Fritillary Mellicta aurelia, Trnovac, Gospič, Croatia Peter Bruce-Jones

The genus Mellicta contains between 12-16 species depending on whether certain taxa are treated as subspecies or full species. The genus is centred on temperate Asia but there are 9 species whose range includes or lies entirely within Europe i.e. asteria, athalia, aurelia, britomartis, deione, varia, nevadensis, caucasogenita and parthenoides. The most widespread species is athalia which is a common insect in almost every country in Europe and temperate Asia.
All Mellicta species have orange-brown uppersides overlaid with a linear network of blackish spots and lines. The undersides are all very similar, being pale yellow with a central band of pale spots, pale submarginal lunules and other pale spots set within an orange basal area.
Mellicta aurelia is distributed from central France to Kazakhstan, Siberia and Tien Shan.

Nickerl's Fritillary Mellicta aurelia at roost Peter Bruce-Jones

This species inhabits open grassy places including sub-alpine meadows, alpine pastures, heathland, moors and peat mosses at elevations between about 100-1600m.

The eggs are laid in heaps under the leaves of the larval foodplant Plantago lanceolata. During the early instars the larvae live communally within a silken web. After hibernation they split into smaller groups and eventually become solitary.

Adult behaviour

In the mornings males patrol incessantly in search of females. Copulation occurs in late morning and often other males will pester copulating pairs and attempt to mate. Both sexes nectar primarily at Asteraceae but visit other flowers. On overcast days and at dusk the adults can be found roosting openly at the top of dead flowerheads.



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