Balkan Fritillary (Boloria graeca)

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2016 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

3219_male_Alpes-Maritimes_26Jul06 3048_female_Alpes-Maritimes_25Jul06 3241_male_Alpes-Maritimes_26Jul06

Until recently there were four Boloria species occurring in France, graeca, the Mountain Fritillary (B. napaea), the Shepherd's Fritillary (B. pales, and the much scarcer Cranberry Fritillary (B. aquilonaris). However following the revised taxonomy in Tristan Lafranchis' European ID book, the species previously classified as Clossiana are now re-classified as Boloria. As Lafranchis is the most widely published European expert on taxonomy, and as his publication is the most recent, I have followed his classification on this web site. This nomenclature has been confirmed in the new European taxonomy published in 2010.


Prior to 2006 I had never seen any of the erstwhile four Boloria species - even though pales is considered to be common. Graeca was the first Boloria I saw, and I rather assumed it would be pales until I had a chance to study the photographs, when It became apparent, much to my surprise, that it was graeca. It occurs mainly in eastern Europe, hence its name, and in a relatively small area of the south-west Alpes, where it is the Alpine subspecies tendensis in which the unh post-discal spots are more developed. It is restricted to the higher reaches with a normal minimum altitude of 1700m, although it can occur as low as 1400m.

I have revisited the site where I saw it in 2006 every year since then, but I have not seen it there since (perhaps because I was there a little too early - it tends to be on the wing from about the first week in July), but I did briefly see one in the same region in 2014.


Graeca has a very angled hindwing apex, more pointed than its cousins. Lafranchis says that the forewing apex is pointed; maybe, but it seems no more pointed than the book illustrations of pales and napaea. The definitive key to differentiating these species is the underside markings, where graeca has a series of clear red ocelli in s2-6, and the one in s3 is contrasted on a pale background. There are some subtle differences in markings between male and female, but in general it seems that the female has more contrast with better developed white markings.


ref sex


alt. m
3219 M

a male, with a clearly angled hindwing apex.

3048 F

a female, I believe, even though the just-visible body length might suggest male, mainly because it is the same butterfly as 3052, where the underside markings, especially the better defined (c.f. 3241) white markings clearly indicate female.

3241 M

a male underside, with the white markings merging into the paler buff markings. My finger is visible bottom left to stop the seed head it was resting on from blowing about in high winds.

3052 F

as noted in 3048, a female on the basis of the well developed white markings, and subtle differences in markings between the sexes, based on the illustrations in T&L.