Nickerl's Fritillary (Melitaea aurelia)

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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.

34000_male_Côte-d'Or_18Jul13 34082_male_Côte-d'Or_18Jul13 34028_female_Côte-d'Or_18Jul13
34100_female_Côte-d'Or_18Jul13 37557_male_Côte-d'Or_11Jun15 37546_female_Côte-d'Or_11Jun15

A rather scarce fritillary with a distribution centred in eastern Europe, extending into eastern France where it is highly local. Its flight period is June-July although in the one locality I have seen it, it is usually on the wing from mid-June to early July. However, in the exceptionally late season of 2013, especially the early part, I visited this site on 18 June and none were to be seen. I decided to revisit the location again on 18 July - in a normal year too late for this species - and they were there in good numbers, in varying degrees of wear. Curiously, the males showed less signs of ageing than the females, rather the opposite of what would be expected.


It is characterised by the completeness and regularity of the black markings, in particular on the uph. The male seems to be cleaner and brighter than the female, and those shown here seemed more so than the illustrations in books. The female appeared very much as the book illustrations and more clearly recognisable as aurelia, being more suffused.

Another identifying feature is that the narrow marginal band on the unh is filled yellow and in contrast to the bands adjacent, although this is not entirely convincing in 37546, and even in 37557, which is clearly filled yellow, there is not much contrast to the adjacent bands. Apart from that, the undersides of ex-Mellicta species are generally very similar.

In France, it could perhaps be confused with the Heath Fritillary (M. athalia), the male perhaps more so (on the basis of the individuals shown here), while the female could be confused with the darker form of the female Meadow Fritillary (M. parthenoides). It is perhaps easier to identify in the field as it has a rather weak floppy flight, markedly different from its ex-Mellicta cousins. It is also relatively small, although male athalia can also be quite small.

This species was previously known as Mellicta aurelia. In the new European taxonomy, the erstwhile Mellicta group of fritillaries are now included in the Melitaea genus. The undersides of the Mellicta species were very similar so in some circumstances it is convenient to refer to the ex-Mellicta group.




alt. m



a male, with very well defined black markings, perhaps accentuated by ageing.




a male, remarkably fresh for this time of year, and looking very much like a male athalia. It was seen in courtship with the female just visible behind.




a rather worn female, but typical of the hindwing markings. The uph post-discal band of reddish marks seem rather rounder than athalia.




another female, very close to typical aurelia, from my very limited experience.


37557 M a male underside, the marginal band quite wide and clearly filled yellow. 430
37546 M a female underside, clearly female based on the body shape. My experience of aurelia is very limited, more so of female undersides, but this looks particularly dark in the post-discal region and and strongly contrasted to the white discal band. The marginal band is quite narrow and does not appear to be particularly yellow. However, this is an expanded distance shot, so lacking in any clear level of detail. 430