Quick facts

Common name: silver-washed fritillary

Scientific name: Argynnis paphia

Family: Nymphalidae

Habitat: broadleaf woodland

Predators: birds and mammals

Origin: native

What do silver-washed fritillaries look like?

Caterpillars: black-brown with two pale lines along back and long, reddish-brown spines.
Adults: distinctive deep orange-brown and black butterflies. Males have four black veins in the centre of their forewings. Females are paler overall and lack these veins.
Wingspan: 7.2-7.6cm

silver-washed fritillary butterfly caterpillar instar

Credit: Dean Morley / WTML

What do silver-washed fritillaries eat?

Caterpillars: eat common dog violet.
Adults: feed on nectar from plants including bramble and thistle.

Did you know?

Males have four distinctive black veins on their forewings that contain special scales that are used in courtship. These veins are known as 'sex brands'.

How do silver-washed fritillaries breed?

Fritillary courtship is an aerobatic spectacular; the female flies in a straight line while the male loops around her, showering her with confetti of special scent scales.

Eggs are laid under tree bark. Once hatched, the larvae spin silk cocoons and go into hibernation, emerging in the spring and descending to the woodland floor to feed on violets. They pupate on the underside of leaves or twigs and emerge in June.

silver-washed fritillary butterfly

Credit: Gillian Pullinger / WTML

Where do silver-washed fritillaries live?

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

Did you know?

Eggs are typically laid on the north-facing side of a tree under moss and bark.

Signs and spotting tips

Look for silver-washed fritillary caterpillars near dog violets in woods. Keep your eyes peeled for fully grown butterflies along woodland rides, woodland edges and hedgerows.

silver-washed fritillary butterfly close-up

Credit: Marcaz Granville / WTML

Threats and conservation

The silver-washed fritillary population declined during the 20th century, but is now stable after big spikes in recent years. It is, however, still considered a species of conservation concern.

Did you know?

Silver-washed fritillary butterflies seem to love the colour orange. Wear some on your next woodland walk to see if you can attract them.