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Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia)

A spectacular and fast-flying butterfly with pointed orange and black wings with a silver shimmer on the underside.

Common name: silver-washed fritillary

Latin name: Argynnis paphia


Caterpillars: black-brown with two yellow lines along back and long reddish-brown spines.

Adults: distinctive deep orange-brown and black butterflies. Males have four black veins on pointed forewings. Females are paler with more rounded wing tips.

Wingspan: 7.2-7.6cm.

Food plants

Caterpillars: common dog violet.

Adults: nectar from plants including bramble and thistle.

When to spot them

Late June to late August.

Where to spot them

Silver-washed fritillaries are found in broadleaved woodlands in England, Wales and Ireland, but are absent from Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

While fairly scarce, silver-washed fritillaries seem to be making a comeback, especially oak woodland or woodlands with sunny rides and glades. Occasionally the butterflies use mixed broadleaved and conifer plantations. In parts of south-west England and Ireland wooded hedgerows and sheltered lanes next to woods are used.

Top Woodland Trust woods for silver-washed fritillaries

You’ll find them flying now in the humid oakwoods of Bovey Valley, on the eastern flanks of Dartmoor, alongside pearl-bordered fritillaries, purple hairstreaks and white admirals. There are colonies too at Green Castle Woods, south of Carmarthen; Credenhill Park in the Hereford Hills; Dolebury Warren, north of Cheddar in Somerset; Upper Barn and Crowdhill Copses near Eastleigh in Hampshire; and Brede High Woods in deepest East Sussex.

Discover silver-washed fritillaries in other woods too. To find woods near you, type your town or postcode into our search box.

Fascinating silver-washed fritillary facts

  • The silver wash is on their shimmering underwings, and in flight they are strong and powerful, charging along woodland rides in search of a partner.
  • These butterflies are inquisitive. See if you can attract them by wearing bright orange - possibly their favourite colour.
  • Males have four distinctive black veins on forewings that contain special scales that are used in courtship. These veins are known as 'sex brands'.
  • Fritillary courtship is an aerobatic spectacular: the female flies in a straight line while the male loops the loop around her, before showering her in a confetti of scent scales.