Latin names: Boloria euphrosyne (top photo); Boloria selene (bottom photo)
Wingspan: 40 - 60mm
Where: (PBF) Sheltered areas on south facing slopes with violets, bare ground and shallow bracken. (SPBF) Damp grassy areas with violets.
When: (PBF) May to mid June; (SPBF) Late May to early August
Unless you are a butterfly expert – or have very keen eyesight – you’ll be hard-pressed to tell these two species apart. But what’s important is that they are both striking and beautiful butterflies – chequerboards of orange, cream and brown reminiscent of 1930s china.
You are most likely to catch a glimpse of them as they dance around bright green patches of fresh, young violets – their caterpillars’ foodplant. The adult pearl-bordered fritillaries emerge from their chrysalis in early May. Their small cousins are a little shyer, waiting until late May to reveal their true colours in most years.
Both species of butterfly have declined dramatically in England over the last 50 years. This is because many woodland owners no longer manage their land by coppicing on a regular basis, making their woodlands too dark for the wildflowers to grow. Scotland is the butterflies’ main UK refuge now, though even here they are under threat. The charity, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, is doing all it can to halt their decline, and will be keen to hear about any butterflies you may see.
If you do want to tell them apart, try to get a good look at the butterfly’s underwing. Small pearl-bordered fritillaries have several silver-white patches across the middle of the wing – while pearl-bordered fritillaries only have two.
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